An overstretched military? You bet. Things going
terribly in Iraq? No kidding. Why only yesterday, Jill
Carroll and Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor reminded
us that, with 140,000 troops (and untold numbers of mercenaries) in Iraq, the
Americans can't defend a crucial six-mile stretch of highway between the two
lodestars of the American occupation – Baghdad International Airport, a vast,
fortified military encampment, and the Green Zone in the heart of the capital,
another vast, fortified encampment. Carroll and Murphy write:
"The danger of the airport road also speaks to the wider problem of securing
a country in the face of a dispersed and committed insurgency blended within
the civilian population. Millions of cars traverse Baghdad's roads every day,
and just a handful of them are carrying suicide bombers. For the Iraqi government
and U.S. forces, it's a needle-in-the-haystack problem with few practical solutions.
There is limited U.S. military manpower for adding checkpoints, but even if
it was logistically possible, stopping every car on Baghdad's roads would bring
the city to a grinding halt and make the airport journey even longer than it
is now. … The airport road is a direct link to the U.S. headquarters in the
secured Green Zone. But rather than risk the road, U.S. diplomats fly by helicopter
from the airport to the Green Zone."
As Patrick Cockburn
of the British Independent commented last week, the inability to
stop attacks along this stretch of highway has "become a symbol of the failure
of the U.S. in Iraq. Heavily armored U.S. patrols, prone to open fire unpredictably,
are regarded as being as dangerous as the insurgents." On this highway, in the
last week, five foreign "contractors" and the young aid worker Marla Ruzicka
all died and others were wounded. The Americans undoubtedly dream of bringing
in Iraqi troops, sooner rather than later, to help with the security task. Unfortunately,
these highly touted, newly trained troops have evidently been deserting their
posts in significant numbers in embattled parts of the country. "On the Syrian
border, U.S. troops in the Sunni city of Husaybah report mass desertions," writes
Poole of the British Telegraph.
"An Iraqi unit that had once grown to 400 troops now numbers a few dozen
who are 'holed up' inside a local phosphate plant. Major John Reed, of the 2nd
Marine Regiment, said: 'They will claim that they are ready to come back and
fight, but there are no more than 30 of them on duty on any given day and they
are completely ineffective.'"
In the last months, the Americans (as happened in the latter part of the Vietnam
War) have also hunkered down in their bases, attempting to reduce casualties,
among other things. In response, the insurgents have recently been launching
more sophisticated operations, including,
for the first time, serious attacks on isolated bases.
In the meantime, Baghdad continues to be an occupied city – even at the level
of symbolism. A
report, translated from the Arabic and appearing at Watching
America, an interesting new site featuring pieces about the U.S. from around
the world, states:
"Iraq's new president has said he will not reside in the Presidential Palace,
which for many Iraqis is a symbol of the country's sovereignty. Jalal Talabani
said that the interim government has agreed to rent the palace to the Americans
for two years. The presidential complex on the banks of the Tigris River is
a maze of palaces, green lawns, and orchards. … President Talabani said that
the Americans 'might' evacuate the palace when the lease expires."
Sovereignty anyone? In order to gain legitimacy, the Iraqis who were elected
on Jan. 30 would need to put some real distance between themselves and the American
occupiers. However, as Middle
Eastern expert Robert Dreyfuss comments in a canny piece at TomPaine.com,
"doing so … is impossible, since the newly elected regime wouldn't last a week
without the protection of U.S. forces." In any case, the new government, such
as it is, will be a familiar one. "[V]irtually all of its leading actors," Dreyfuss
comments, "are retreads from the IGC, which was appointed by L. Paul Bremer,
and from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the exile-dominated coalition
that included Chalabi, Talabani, Abdel Aziz Hakim of the Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and other officials and members of the just-elected
To the frustration of the Bush administration, the Iraqis have proved incapable
for almost two months of forming a government, in part because of the nature
of Article 38 of the "interim constitution" that Bush officials so cleverly
imposed upon them, as
Justin Raimondo, columnist for Antiwar.com, pointed out recently. And, of
course, they too must meet inside the Green Zone where, Rory
Carroll of the Guardian observes, "the 10,000 Iraqis who also live
in the zone need passes to enter and must negotiate several checkpoints, as
if they are in quarantine." Even the legislators are not immune from the indignities
of occupation. As Carroll reports:
"Last week an assembly member named Fattah al-Sheikh said he was roughed
up and humiliated by U.S. troops on his way in. One allegedly grabbed him by
the throat, another handcuffed him, and a third kicked his car. 'I was dragged
to the ground,' he told parliament, weeping. 'What happened to me represents
an insult to the whole national assembly that was elected by the Iraqi people.
This shows that the democracy we are enjoying is fake.'"
Cole offered the following on this incident: "[It] will seem minor to most
Americans and few will see this Reuters photograph [of the legislator wiping
away his tears] reprinted from al-Hayat. … But such an incident is a
serious affront to national honor, and Iraqi male politicians don't often weep."
Naturally, Brigadier General Karl Horst of the 3rd infantry division "expressed
regret" and promised "a thorough investigation"; but we've just seen, in
the case of kidnapped Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and Nicola Calipari,
the agent who died on the Baghdad Airport road after rescuing her, how such
investigations generally turn out – even when those who have suffered at American
hands are citizens of the administration's second closest ally, Italy, with
its government in desperate shape and its deployment in Iraq at stake.
This seems to be more or less the state of things – impunity and quiet desperation
– as the Bush administration tries to keep the world it dreamed of dominating
under some kind of control; and yet, as Michael Schwartz makes clear in his
latest TomDispatch commentary, it faces a daunting task simply keeping boots
on the ground in Iraq. By the way, General Eric Shinseki's prewar comments –
which more or less got him laughed out of Washington by the neocons – that we
would need "several hundred thousand troops" to succeed in a postwar, occupied
Iraq – have often been quoted by critics, who invariably point out how right
he was. I've never, however, seen anyone explain where exactly those 200,000-300,000
extra troops were going to come from. What we can now see is that, before the
invasion of Iraq ever began, the Pentagon had already traded in those boots-on-the-ground
for its high-tech Army. (This is why, as
the Boston Globe reported recently, ill-prepared Air Force and Navy
personnel find themselves assigned to duties like "protecting supply convoys
traveling along Iraq's violent roadways" – and dying.)
It wasn't simply that Rumsfeld was wrong in his decision. After all, to do
otherwise than he did, he would have had to strip the empire of troops. I suspect,
given the numbers, that he had little choice – of course, he and his cronies
also believed in those strewn flowers and that "cakewalk" – and that Shinseki's
"several hundred thousand" statement was his way of saying exactly what they
didn't want to hear: Don't do it, guys! So much for retrospect. As for the future,
Schwartz ponders what a Bush administration, backed into a military corner,
is likely to think about a draft. Tom
Between Iraq and a Hard Place
by Michael Schwartz
After two years of intensive fighting in Iraq,
the Pentagon is feeling the strain in every military muscle and has been looking
for relief in just about every direction but one – the draft. All across the
United States today, young people are wondering whether, sooner or later, in
its increasingly airless military universe, the Bush administration will open
the window a crack and let the draft in.
A key reason for the ever more evident strain on military resources is that
more than 40 percent of the 150,000 soldiers in Iraq are Army Reserves and National
Guards. As Army historian Renee Hylton told Salon
reporter Jeff Horowitz, use of these forces creates pressure to "win and
get out … there's a definite limit to people's service." When they are called
to active duty, these troops risk their jobs as well as their lives; so, when
their mandatory two-year terms expire, a significant proportion of them, under
the best of circumstances, are likely to refuse further service. And service
in Iraq has already proved something less than the best of circumstances. Little
wonder then that, just past the two year anniversary of our invasion, the military
is under increasing pressure to replenish this crucial element in the recruitment
mix – without much of an idea of how to do so.
In addition, in order to maintain troop strength in Iraq at anything like present
levels, large numbers of active-duty soldiers must return there for more than
one nine-month tour of duty, and this redeployment too generates distrust and
distaste. Sooner or later, sizable numbers of these angry soldiers must nevertheless
be convinced to re-enlist, or else the pressure for new enlistees will escalate
out of control and beyond the bounds of the present system to satisfy.
Add to this a constantly increasing casualty toll, now well
beyond 30,000, which, in a variety of ways, places yet
more pressure on recruitment. Finally, as embittered double-deployment veterans
and angry Reserves, along with wounded and mentally stressed discharges, return
home, they only stiffen the resistance to enlistment among the young in their
None of this was anticipated at the start of the Iraq war by Bush administration
officials; they were confident that the American military could topple Saddam
Hussein's government and pacify any leftover"dead end" loyalists of the old
regime in about three months. Defense Department figures, reported by the Washington
Post on March 19, projected reductions in American troop strength in Iraq
and Afghanistan from just over 200,000 at the time of the invasion to about
125,000 by September 2003; to 50,000 six months later; and – not counting troops
left to garrison the permanent bases – to zero by the end of 2004.
They were wrong, of course. Troop levels, after declining according to plan
during the summer of 2003, began climbing again as the resistance grew – in
response to a deepening economic and infrastructural disaster, and to the brutal
nature of the American military occupation. With some fluctuations, since the
beginning of 2004 the numbers of boots on the ground in Iraq have remained at
about the 150,000 level (not counting expensive private "security contractors"
hired by the Pentagon and private firms) – almost double the number that the
U.S. could hope to sustain in the long run, given the force levels of the present
Several recent reports have documented the depth of the impending crisis, including
a detailed analysis of troop strengths by Ann
Tyson in the Washington Post. So far, over one million U.S. military
personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some 341,000 already doing
the dreaded double-deployments (and many now entering triple-deployment territory).
The military has moved troops into Iraq from all over the world, including previously
untouchable Cold War detachments in Korea, Germany, and Alaska, and it's still
"scrambling" to keep 17 battalions regularly in Iraq, many severely undermanned.
These shortages have led to an increasing dependence on expensive private security
contractors, who themselves add to the Pentagon's recruitment problems by hiring
away otherwise re-uppable military personnel for four times the wages paid in
To make matters worse, the Defense Department (to protect against a crisis
elsewhere) has decided, with Congressional authorization, to increase the overall
size of active-duty forces by 30,000, which can only amplify the retention/recruitment
Recruitment: Entering Freefall
Last fall the military embarked on a Herculean set of efforts to meet these
daunting demands. It manufactured a 40 percent increase in the pool of candidates
for the Guard and Reserve by relaxing entry standards and raising the enlistment
age to 40 years. It added thousands of new recruiters (1,400 for the National
Guard alone) and equipped them with an array of new inducements, including
signing bonuses as high as $20,000 (for those with previous experience)
and up to $70,000 in college credits for new enlistees. Re-enlistment bonuses,
depending on specialty, can now reach $100,000. The Defense Department also
launched a new $180 million recruitment campaign that includes "sponsorship
of a rodeo cowboy, ads on ESPN, and a 24 hour Web site that allows users to
chat with recruiters … 24 hours a day." In a special effort to help the most
stressed service, the military is offering $6 million of recruitment money in
exchange for the right to
name the home of the new Washington Nationals baseball team National Guard
The most dramatic of the new measures were aimed at inducing (or coercing)
personnel to remain in the military beyond their enlistment contracts. Tom
Reeves, author of The End of the Draft and longtime observer of draft
policy, reports that 40,000 soldiers have already been retained by using the
notorious "stop-loss" system, which allows the Army unilaterally to keep soldiers
for up to 18 months beyond the date their enlistment is scheduled to terminate.
This is essentially a more bureaucratic and politer form of the old British
method of "impressment," also known as Shanghaiing. There is now a
Congressional investigation into persistent reports that short-timers –
those with less then a year or so left on their enlistment contracts – are being
told that re-enlistment will guarantee a non-combat assignment, while refusal
to re-enlist will lead to an Iraqi deployment during the remainder of their
service. While the Defense Department denies that such blackmail-style practices
are taking place, they do admit that station "stabilization" – a pre-agreed
upon duty station away from Iraq – has become a major incentive for re-enlistment.
Such military efforts were augmented by what may be the ultimate sign of military
desperation: the call-up of 5,500 members of the "Individual Ready Reserves."
As Reeves notes, these are "older men and women whose regular reserve duty has
ended – including grandmothers and grandfathers edging toward retirement … who
have no idea they would be recalled to duty." It is hardly surprising that nearly
one-third of these superannuated reserves have refused to report. Nor is it
surprising that modest signs of rebellion are appearing inside what was, until
recently, a volunteer military. The
Los Angeles Times, for instance, has documented cases of National
Guard soldiers protesting inadequate equipment, and 60
Minutes, among other places, has reported at least 5,500 desertions
among the troops, largely to avoid deployment or redeployment to Iraq.
Worse yet, from the Pentagon's point of view, even its most far-reaching and
draconian efforts seem to be failing. Re-enlistment levels in both the Army
and the Guard have now slipped below quota, and Reuters reports that this shortfall
can be expected to get dramatically worse once larger numbers of soldiers reach
that 18-month stop-loss limit. New recruitment appears to be entering freefall,
with the most drastic declines among
African-Americans, who traditionally make up 25 percent of the volunteer
Army. January and February recorded the first Marine recruitment shortfalls
in a decade; while the Army is running 6 percent below targets for the year.
Hardest hit have been the Reserves, with a 10 percent decline, and the Army
National Guard at 26 percent. These units are in full crisis, with the Guard
already announcing it will not reach full strength in 2005, and Reserve
Commander General James Helmly stating that "overuse" is making his units
into "a broken force." Reeves reports that even the military academies have
suffered 15-25 percent declines in applications for admission. To make matters
USA Today has reported, the antiwar movement has begun (with at least
some success) targeting the recruitment process. (A meticulous account by activist
Peter Charaek of one successful protest in Oregon can be found here.)
Major General Michael D. Rochelle, the man in charge of Army recruiting, told
New York Times
reporter Damien Cave that the recruitment crisis constituted the "toughest
challenge to the all-volunteer Army" since its inception in 1973.
The Iraqi Armed Forces: Replacement Killers?
Optimistic reports that our local military allies will soon begin to replace
American troops follow a familiar pattern of miraculous overstatement (first
established in Vietnam decades ago), as
reporter Timothy Phelps documented in a March 21 article in Newsday
that reviewed the history of American attempts to build Iraqi military forces.
In the spring of 2004, official (and unofficial) Bush administration reports
claimed the existence of 206,000 fully trained Iraqi troops. To the surprise
of those who had accepted these claims, none of them fought successfully in
the major battles that April (in Fallujah, Najaf, or Sadr City). Most deserted
beforehand, refused to fight, or fled under fire. A measurable minority, however,
did fight ferociously – for the resistance, using American-supplied weapons
By fall 2004, though the U.S. was publicly claiming 135,000 "combat ready"
Iraqi troops, one military official told New York Times reporter John
Burns that as few as 1,500 Iraqi troops were actually fully trained. This was
vividly demonstrated in the second battle of Fallujah, when only Kurdish militia
units imported from the north fought successfully alongside the Americans. The
official Iraqi army units resisted, either through mutiny or desertion, or by
defecting to the other side. Kalev Sepp, a counterinsurgency expert at the Naval
Postgraduate School, told Newsday's Phelps that the second battle of
Fallujah was largely fought against Iraqis who had been "trained and equipped
Then came Rear Admiral William Sullivan's report to Congress in spring 2005,
which spoke of 145,000 "combat capable," "new" Iraqi armed forces. This claim
was disputed – by of all people – Sabah Hadhum, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry
of the Interior. He told the
British Telegraph reporter Anton La Guardia, "We are paying about
135,000 [members of the security services], but that does not necessarily mean
that 135,000 are actually working." As many as 50,000 of these may actually
be what he termed "ghost soldiers"– men not on duty but whose paychecks were
being pocketed either by their officers or themselves.
Newsday's investigative report confirms Hadhum's negative assertion.
Just under 40,000 of the reported 145,000 armed forces turn out to be holdovers
from the old Iraqi National Guard. According to Army experts, they had received
the same "haphazard training" as their predecessors (who refused to fight) and
could be relied upon to do nothing except receive their paychecks.
Another 55,000 were Iraqi police whose unwillingness to confront the guerrillas
has become legendary. The deputy governor of Nineveh province – where the Iraqi
"northern capital," Mosul, is located – accused the 14,000 police there of being
"in league" with the resistance. He assured reporter
Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent that his bodyguards "don't
tell them our movements," since he suspects them of trying to assassinate him.
Military expert Kalev Sepp told Newsday the U.S. military had concluded
that "70 percent of the police in Anwar province are insurgents or sympathizers,"
with substantial infiltration elsewhere as well. (According to Sepp, even "one
infiltrator with access to intelligence" could give the enemy "forewarning,"
so imagine what a 20-70 percent infiltration rate might do.)
According to Rear Admiral Sullivan, only a meager 14,000 troops were fully
trained units in the "new Iraqi army," the first beneficiaries of what Burns
of the Times called a "$5 billion American-financed effort." These
troops had not, however, yet endured a major battle, and some of the American
troops who worked with them evidently considered them worthless. As one trooper
Times reporter Anthony Loyd, "I'm more scared of going out with these
guys than clashing with the insurgents." According to Los
Angeles Times reporter David Zuccino, even the 205th Iraqi Army Brigade,
"considered the country's best unit by many U.S. trainers," had been infiltrated
by insurgents. And Army Staff Sergeant Craig Patrick, one of the advisers in
charge of training the Iraqis, told Washington
Post reporter Steve Fainaru, "It's all about perception, to convince
the American public that everything is going as planned and we're right on schedule
to be out of here. I mean, they can [mislead] the American people, but they
can't [mislead] us. These guys are not ready."
Nevertheless, in mid-February, Burns reported that two brigades of this new
force "became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for
any combat zone in Iraq," the restive Haifa neighborhood in Baghdad.
The remaining 30,000 troops in Sullivan's count were vaguely defined military
personnel commanded by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. In the long run,
U.S. military leadership hopes that these will become the Iraqi equivalent of
the U.S. Special Forces, and will constitute a new secret police or other sinister
entities. In the meantime, they are, it seems, largely incapable of confronting
the resistance. In their first solo effort, reported in the
New York Times, between 500 and 700 members of the First Police Commando
Battalion, with air support from the American military, could not capture a
training camp containing under 100 guerrillas. Eventually, U.S. ground forces
were needed, and even then, the
guerrillas might have escaped.
In a recent report to the
Carnegie Endowment, military expert Jeffrey Miller concluded that the "gap"
between the forces needed to handle the security situation in Iraq and the actual
strength of the Iraqi military had doubled in the past year, raising "grave
doubts about the … hope for success" of the strategy of transferring responsibility
to the Iraqi military. Certainly, no such transfer can succeed in time to allow
for a comfortable transition before the onset of the recruitment crisis now
facing the American military.
Does Anyone Feel a Draft Coming In?
As the strain on the U.S. military continues to build, so does the pressure
on policy. The only option that does not imply the sacrifice of many more American
lives and magnitudes more Iraqi lives may be the withdrawal of American troops,
but this option is "unthinkable" to the Bush administration – and to its loyal
Democratic opposition, not to speak of the bulk of the mainstream media. Only
the American people (according to the
most recent Marist Poll) – and the rest of the world – consider it "thinkable."
According to former
National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, avoiding this unthinkable
option would require "500,000 troops, $500 billion, and the resumption of the
military draft." The need for a draft has been seconded by a wide range of military
experts, including then-presidential
candidate General Wesley Clark, who, in 2004, said the U.S. needed to start
"thinking about the draft"; frequent
Pentagon advisor Colonel David Hackworth, who called the draft a "no-brainer
in '05 and '06"; and Charles
Moskos, adviser to four presidents on military manpower, who declared that
"we cannot achieve the number of troops we need in Iraq without a draft." Washington
Monthly editor Paul Glastris and national security analyst Philip Carter
articulated what might be the most comprehensive argument, calling for a "21st
century draft" that would "create a cascading series of benefits," including
turning the tide in Iraq.
Despite this crescendo of advocacy by friends and foes of administration policy,
government insiders continue to tread very lightly on the issue. The Project
for a New American Century, the policy planning group that developed significant
aspects of current foreign policy, has
called for several years of 25,000 troop increments to the military, but
they have not indicated how this could be done. Secretary
of the Army Francis J. Harvey, after "bursting into laughter" when asked
about the draft, stated, "The D-word is the farthest thing from my thoughts."
And President Bush has repeatedly reasserted his commitment to keeping the volunteer
The deal-breaker for the administration may be exactly what they have repeatedly
said since talk of the draft burst onto the scene during the 2004 election campaign
– the experience of Vietnam gave a conscripted Army a bad name. The current
volunteer Army (even if its recruitment involves large elements of coercion
and manipulation) is better suited for the sorts of wars the U.S. is fighting,
they believe, and any move toward the draft would severely undermine commitment
to such wars, both inside and outside the Army. Even such partisan advocates
as Glastris and Carter concede this problem, though they offer what they feel
are viable ways of getting around it.
But if the draft advocates eventually persuade the administration that a conscripted
Army is viable, I believe they would still have to overcome a second layer of
reluctance among decision-makers in charge of military policy: a fear that the
draft will specifically alienate those who currently endorse the war in Iraq.
Pro-war partisans rest much of their support of administration foreign policy
on the expectation that the Jan. 30 election was a turning point, that the battle
of Fallujah disabled the resistance, that Iraqi troops will be ready to handle
the guerrillas in the not-too-distant future – and that American troops will
soon be brought home at least reasonably victorious. The reinstitution of a
draft would constitute an admission that these beliefs are so many illusions.
In all likelihood, therefore, any relaxation of the unequivocal opposition to
the draft in the administration would indeed precipitate a sharp erosion of
the war's already eroding base. Opposition might then reach the critical mass
needed to make withdrawal "thinkable."
But this reluctance to embrace the draft leaves the Bush administration in
a knot of a dilemma. Without rejuvenating the armed forces, the situation in
Iraq is likely to remain at best undecided, and even a stalemated situation
would constitute a mighty blow against the administration's larger foreign policy
goals. The goal of unilateral American dominance in global politics and in global
markets depends on the image and reality of American military invincibility,
so that – with each passing day – the lack of victory in Iraq undermines the
credibility of Washington's threats to force regime change wherever "rogue states"
resist its diplomatic will. As Carter and Glastris wrote in their Washington
Monthly article, "America has a choice. It can be the world's superpower,
or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't
For many Americans, the de-escalation of American imperial ambition is an attractive
alternative to further war and a conscripted Army. But for the Bush administration,
this alternative is just as unthinkable as the draft. They are stuck, therefore,
between Iraq and a hard place.
The solution thus far has involved a contradictory and unstable set of pronouncements
and policies. Rhetorically, the administration has continued to reaffirm its
commitment to a no-draft military and its promise to pursue "preventive wars"
of all sorts. At the same time, its officials have taken specific steps meant
to give them added flexibility. As Reeves has documented, they have been quietly
erecting the Selective Service System (SSS) needed for a future draft. In March,
the SSS issued
a report assuring the president that "it would be ready to implement a draft
within 75 days" after congressional authorization. Richard Flahavan, a spokesman
for the Selective Service System, told reporter Eric
Rosenberg of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the SSS already
has in place "a special system to register and draft health care personnel"
and that they were undertaking active planning for "a special skills draft"
aimed at computer programmers and language specialists. These programs would
be ready for implementation any time the need arose.
News of this high level of preparedness has added to already widespread rumors
of a renewed draft, and has fed speculation that the government was perhaps
waiting for a dramatic event which would justify the draft without jeopardizing
support for the war – perhaps an internal terrorist attack, or an authentic
(or U.S.-precipitated) crisis elsewhere.
Fitted together with this posture of waiting is a shift in military tactics
in Iraq. General Richard Cody, the Army's second ranking general, told New
York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that "a shift from combat operations" to
American "leadership" over Iraqi troops has been underway since the Jan. 30
election. Babakr Badarkhan Ziabri, the Iraqi commanding general, told the
Arabic language paper al-Zaman that American troops would withdraw
into bases within six months, emerging only when Iraqi troops needed support,
but avoiding offensive operations.
While this military strategy could slow or halt the disintegration of the forces
stationed there (and lessen the wear and tear on their dangerously fraying equipment),
it has already proven quite detrimental for the "pacification" effort. In early
April, for example, the
Washington Post quoted U.S. officials conceding that "many attacks
have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated
by insurgents." At the same time, the
Shia resistance, led by young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's forces, has reemerged
as a major force in many cities of the south.
These new strategies, therefore, are likely in the long run to further erode
the U.S. military position and strengthen the resistance, and so may lead –
as Nixon's Vietnamization program did decades ago – to the increased use of
American air power against resistance strongholds. Such a strategy would promise
an intolerable rate of civilian casualties, as well as the devastation of homes
and neighborhoods wherever the resistance is strong. This, in turn, would, of
course, only heighten support for the guerrillas and increase pressure on American
The Bush administration is likely to find itself increasingly trapped between
Iraq and a hard place, wound in an ever-tightening knot of failing policy and
falling support, at the heart of which lies a decision about reconstituting
a draft. How this will resolve itself will be one of the complex dramas of our
Michael Schwartz, professor of sociology at the State University of New
York at Stony Brook, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency,
and on American business and government dynamics. His work on Iraq has appeared
on the Internet at numerous sites, including TomDispatch, Asia Times, MotherJones.com,
and ZNet; and in print at Contexts and Z Magazine. His books include
Radical Politics and Social Structure, The Power Structure
of American Business (with Beth Mintz), and Social Policy and the Conservative
Agenda (edited, with Clarence Lo). His e-mail address is Ms42@firstname.lastname@example.org.