Monday, November 22, 2004

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Read Slate

Slate cites a Washington Post story as follows: "The Washington Post leads with American commanders in Iraq saying they need more troops to continue hunting insurgents." The headline reads "Troops, We Need You Again." Once again, we're short on troops! Doom is right around the corner! On the other hand, Here's the original WaPo article.
Here's the lede:

"[Unnamed s]enior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is increasingly likely they will need a further increase in combat forces to put down remaining areas of resistance in the country."

Note the following:
  1. Unnamed sources
  2. of an unspecified number (more than one).
  3. and an unspecified rank
  4. say it is becoming likely (not certain) that they will (in the future) need further troops.

The Post continues:

Convinced that the recent battle for Fallujah has significantly weakened insurgent ranks, commanders here have devised plans to press the offensive into neighborhoods where rebels have either taken refuge after fleeing Fallujah or were already deeply entrenched.
But the forces available for these intensified operations have become limited by the demands of securing Fallujah and overseeing the massive reconstruction effort there -- demands that senior U.S. military officers say are likely to tie up a substantial number of Marines and Army troops for weeks.

A bit more nuanced than Slate's summary, isn't it? The numbers of troops these officers are talking about is "the equivalent of several battalions, or about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers." The current number of troops there is 138,000, so we are saying that some officers are now saying we need to increase our commitment by two or three percent. The whole thrust of the article is that these unnamed officers have come to this conclusion only in the wake of the battle in Fallujah, not that there has been an underlying lack of personnel that they have been bemoaning. Reading further in the story, different options are being considered. If they need more troops, they should get them, but this is a tactical question, not the sweeping question of war management we might think if we took Slate's summary at face value.
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