The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Monday, February 07, 2005

              The New Iraqi Army
At a speech at University of Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy demanded to know
"If America can train the best military in the world in 13 weeks, why can't we train the Iraqis in eight or 12 or 15 months to fight and die for their country?"
And by this question he demonstrates either his mendacity and political opportunism, or his complete ignorance of military affairs. W. Thomas Smith describes how difficult it actually is to train an army.
Granted, it takes approximately 13 weeks to transform young civilians into "basically trained" U.S. Marines. Nine weeks for U.S. soldiers.

But that is only the beginning. Newly minted American warriors must then attend advanced training where they learn the finer points of combat. Combined with boot camp, that can take anywhere from six months to a year, and even then, the new warrior is only a private first class in the Army or a Marine lance corporal (a sub-corporal, equivalent in rank to an Army PFC). Training for incredibly complex special operations missions takes longer, as does the amount of time required to develop noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and commissioned officers who can effectively lead small units into battle.

This doesn't even begin to address the years of training and experience it takes to develop seasoned captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels, even more so, full-bird colonels and generals. Fact is, it would take years — perhaps decades — to build a ground combat force like the U.S. Army or Marines.
Undoubtedly, training an Iraqi army is an important goal. However, to expect that it could be done in 18 months is simply absurd. If one looks back at modern Arab military effectiveness, it would be surprising if it would be possible at all to train an effective Iraqi army in the short to medium term.

In every conflict that they have engaged in since the end of World War II, Arab armies have proven themselves to be completely incompetent. Probably the most comprehensive account of their performance is Kenneth Pollack's book Arabs at War. Pollack attributes this ineffectiveness in large part to societal reasons that express themselves in the inability of Arab forces to fight other than from a carefully rehearsed script and to conduct combined arms co-ordination. Norvell B. De Atkine has some similar observations about the societal influence on Arab military ineffectiveness.

It is true that all of those examples raised by Pollack and De Atkine are from armies of totalitarian regimes, as opposed to a now free Iraq. But just changing the political organization of a country does not change its culture. In the long term, if Iraq can become more modern and less tribal it may be possible to create an effective army there. But in the short to medium term, a new Iraqi army, no matter who trains them will still be an Arab army.
|| Nudnik 2:22 PM
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