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October 12, 2005

How Many Battalions Does the Pope Have?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:56 AM *

President’s Radio Address, October 4, 2003:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend in Iraq, 750 Iraqi citizens completed their military training and became the first battalion of the new Iraqi army. For decades, Iraq’s army served the interests of a dictator. Today a new army is serving the Iraqi people. And less than a year from now, Iraq will have a 40,000-member military force, trained and dedicated to protecting their fellow citizens.

Our coalition is helping to train and equip Iraq’s new army, so that Iraqis can take over border protection and other security duties as soon as possible. Soldiers in the new battalion join more than 80,000 other Iraqis who are defending their country’s security. Iraq now has a Civil Defense Corps of nearly 2,500, a border guard force of 4,700, and a facility protection service of over 12,000. And more than half of the Iraqis under arms are police officers, instructed by professionals like New York City’s outstanding former police chief, Bernard Kerik. Iraq’s neighbor, Jordan, has announced that it will help Iraq train additional police officers.

President’s Radio Address, October 1, 2005:

I’m encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces. Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness. In fact, this week coalition forces were able to turn over security responsibility for one of Iraq’s largest cities, Karbala, to Iraqi soldiers. As Iraqi forces show they’re capable of fighting the terrorists, they are earning the trust and confidence of the Iraqi people, which will ensure the success of a free and democratic Iraq.

President’s televised address, October 6, 2005:

At the time of our Falluja operations 11 months ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces.

General George Casey to the Senate Armed Services Committee, September 29, 2005:

The top US commander in Iraq disclosed that only a single Iraqi battalion is capable of independent operations and acknowledged conditions may worsen there even if a constitution is approved.

Senators sharply questioned administration claims of progress in Iraq, zeroing in on General George Casey’s revelation before the Senate Armed Services Committee that only one Iraqi battalion was capable of operating fully independently.

The last time Casey reported to Congress several months ago, he said three battalions were at Level One, a rating for units that are capable of independent operations.

“We fully recognize that Iraqi armed forces will not have an independent capability for some time, because they don’t have an institutional base to support them,” he said. “And so Level One is one battalion.”

“It was three. Now its gone from three to one?” interjected Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.

So how many battalions are there? 100? 80? Three? One? Who are ya gonna believe, baby? Me or your lyin’ eyes?

General Casey, of course, is the senior US commander in Iraq. He informed the Senate that the Iraqis have only one useful battalion on 29 September, two days before Bush told the country that they have 100, and over a week before Bush told the country that they have 80.

On a side note, Bernard Kerik isn’t so much a name to conjure with any more.

Comments on How Many Battalions Does the Pope Have?:
#1 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:20 AM:

what is the next number in this sequence 100,80,3,1.

#2 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:30 AM:

Bryan -- That's the fib-onacchi sequence isn't it?

Is 750 a typical size for a batallion? Because if it is (and US batallions are 300-1000, per wikipedia), then 100 of them are 75000 troops. Is that an accurate number?

#3 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:45 AM:

The pope has about forty swiss guards.

The emperor has no clothes.

Poor bloody Iraq.

#4 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:00 PM:

I'll freely admit to being cynical, but I can't help but wonder just how many of that indeterminate number of US-trained and US-equipped troops have evening jobs on the other side of the fence.

#5 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:33 PM:

And, hey, that's not even counting the fifth column...

#6 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:42 PM:

The Pope has just over 100 Swiss Guards who are of course fully combat trained and equipped but who are not particularly capable of independent operations in the sense of having a full TO to include their own transport and logistics train - they have mess kits but not field kitchens.

Similarly, although the point here is well taken it's worth noticing that capable of independent operations - operating without Allied soldiers filling holes in the TO - is a term of art. Remember that even American forces have internal disputes as to whether only airforce can call for air support and redlegs spot for artillery.

Given that social class distinctions and reluctance to train social inferiors in key skills are said to be a generic weakness in Arab armies (and Kurdish as well though not Turkish) it follows that developing Iraqi units with full integral communications (and maintenance) and other combined arms facilities is very nearly a start from scratch operation - as opposed to integrating light weapons combat infantryment. Even in light weapons say, though first line maintenance of the Kalashnikov is pretty easy see some of the discussion exthread on second line maintenance of the Kalashnikov for instance - some say the gas system is pretty robust but when it breaks you need tooling to fix it. Now add heavy weapons even if only machine guns and mortars and assorted TOW or what have you for hard targets.

The Iraqi motor pool may indeed be entirely full Sergeant Bilko's and likely is with all that implies for waste, fraud and corruption but training a soldier to be a mechanic or training a mechanic to be a soldier isn't easy - like the proverbial produce a baby in three months by working with 3 mothers some things just aren't possible - now figure the motor pool may be helicopters and remember the difference between a Hind and an Apache in transitioning crew chiefs.

Does seem to me that close attention to terms of art as here helps. Better to acknowledge ignorance than to draw unwarrented inferences.

The point that there are lies, damned lies and statistics and that we just don't know and aren't told the facts let alone the truth is of course perfectly valid.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:43 PM:

The chocolate ration has been increased to 80 batallions.

#8 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:46 PM:

I thought the 3-batallions-to-1 was a matter of the new Iraqi military being tested and found wanting. .. they had a severe restructuring.

As for the 100 or 80. . . rumor has it George is drinking heavily. Which is understandable if not acceptable.

#9 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Clark E Myers: The Pope has just over 100 Swiss Guards who are of course fully combat trained and equipped but who are not particularly capable of independent operations... they have mess kits but not field kitchens.

Ja, but zey are eqvipped to kill vis a veel of chees und are pre-forgiffen by ze Holy Fater himzelf.

#10 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Does this make anyone else think of the Monty Python 'camel spotting' sketch?

Interviewer: Good. And how many camels have you spotted so far?
Spotter: Oh, well so far Peter, up to the present moment, I've spotted nearly, ooh, nearly one.
Interviewer: Nearly one?
Spotter: Er, call it none.
Interviewer: Fine. And er how long have you been here?
Spotter: Three years.

Maybe they should be taking up Yeti spotting...

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 01:20 PM:

I think Clark sums up the problems of definition pretty well, but I'd say that the key question is whether the unit needs American troops at senior NCO level in combat; leadership rather than technical skills.

#12 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 01:47 PM:

I think the President is using Maxwell Smart for his intelligence.

"Rumors of WMDs" (that we made up) becomes "proof of WMDs" and then of course one battalion becomes one hundred, or eighty.

Our President--a C student, and proud of it! One can easily imagine him in high school looking at a math textbook, saying, "I'll never use this when I grow up," and being a man of his word, he's done exactly that.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Those of us who weren't wasted on cocaine and booze during the '60s and '70s recall how well the "Vietnamization" program worked.

#14 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 03:30 PM:

And how many memebrs of the combat ready brigade are Sunni? As fot the Shia members, how many of them have 'good friends' from Iran? The US Army won't even trust Iraqis with KP duty. We hire Philipinos for that.

#15 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 03:52 PM:

750, for what sort of Bn?

For MPs, that's ok. For MI, that's a trifle large, for Infantry, that's a tad light.

And when I hear tell of X Bns, I wonder at the mix. Are they a balanced Division, capable of independant action, or do they lack support elements, and so exist only as local units, incapable of doing anything substantial?

Then again, I look at who is talking about them.

#16 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 04:00 PM:

Re: the comparison to the Pope's 40 or 100 Swiss Guards -
it had occured to me that the US Capitol Police force is (at 1200) somewhat larger than the Iraqi Army. (I refuse to war-game the match-up.)

Back under Bush the Greater, the propaganda run-up to the Gulf War made much of the fact that Saddam's army was "the fourth largest in the world." Which implies that Iraqis have a military tradition - they just lack enthusiasm for being seen in association with Bush the Lesser.

More remarkably, we've trained one reliable battalion in two-and-a-half years. At this rate, we may have an entire division of reliable Iraqi allies in about twenty years.

And as Bush has said, "As they stand up, we will stand down." Which means at this rate, we won't see the handoff before the end of the century.

#17 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Vietnamization - we do so often learn the wrong lessons all too well and also forget what our objective might be. Competent Empire, Incompetent Empire or Republic to borrow a phrase from another discussion -

Competent Empire has advantages over Incompetent Empire every time.

As I understand it Giap's forces (Dung's at the end) could be called cannon fodder with their logistics tail running back to China and the USSR. That is of course how it happened that Vietnam could be called the War that Bled the Evil Empire dry.

With Vietnamization 4/5 of the Army of South Vietnam was tail and 1/5 combat troops. See above on the impact of social class distinctions on Arab armies and imagine an army where - like Vietnam - the officers put family/clan ahead of their men, their command.

Despite many officials who did their jobs well, there were far too many high-ranking people who were not only corrupt but incompetent. It was not a government to inspire its people to fight to the last, but it was the government to which the United States had obligations. Walter J. Boyne speaking of the Saigon regime in Airforce Magazine. Sound a lot like tales out of Iraq? Consider the equipping of the Iraqi army?

It's probably useful to distinguish Army and Constabulary and all the rest (and one of the obvious things about the Falklands was that the Argentines combined many different forces to achieve numbers but not unity of force).

Notice that at the end the 18th Division and at least elements of the 23rd deserve some memorial. See Tolkien on getting just deserts. It wasn't the NCO's who failed in combat there.

#18 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 04:06 PM:

"Those of us who weren't wasted on cocaine and booze during the '60s and '70s recall how well the "Vietnamization" program worked."

The sad thing is there are lot of people who *were* wasted on cocaine and booze all through the 60's and 70's, yet who still manage to recall how well the "Vietnamization" program worked.

Our ruling clique is even more mendacious, malevolent, incompetent and stupid that we imagine— even after we take into account that they are more mendacious, malevolent, incompetent and stupid than we imagine.

p.s. Props to shrillblog for the beatz.

#19 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 04:40 PM:

Re: the comparison to the Pope's 40 or 100 Swiss Guards -
it had occured to me that the US Capitol Police force is (at 1200) somewhat larger than the Iraqi Army. (I refuse to war-game the match-up.)

Notice the (nominal 110) Swiss Guards are not the Vatican Police force who enforce things like no smoking. There is at least an historical distinction between the military and the civil enforcement even in this very small setting.

And I think part of the point is a distinction between an army for breaking things and killing people and a constabulary for enforcing order and a peace officer for enforcing the peace.

#20 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 07:02 PM:

Maybe the number of people in each batallion varies. At one point, it's eighty people in one batallion. Another day, it's eighty batallions of one guy each.

#21 ::: Dave Klecha ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 07:05 PM:

Someone to whom I'm rather close works in acquisitions for the US Army and recently helped shepherd through a couple of buys specifically for the Iraqi Army. More than a couple battalions' worth of gear has been bought and delivered. Quite a bit more, actually, much closer to Bush's numbers than Casey's.

In the Marine Corps, there are about 35 numbered battalions of infantry. At any given time, a non-zero number of them are way, way below combat effectiveness as Marines shuffle around from unit to unit. They are not, in effect, "Level One."

Saying "Five Marine Infantry Battalions Combat Ineffective!", while true, does not really allow for context, or anything else that gives the number meaning.

But as has been said, there's lies, damn lies, and statistics.

#22 ::: RooK ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 07:11 PM:

The Daily Show did an amusing video segment on the fluctuating numbers of Iraqi battalions. Helps make you laugh while you cry.

#23 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 08:31 PM:

Dave, what do you think it really means that gear has been bought? This war may have had other motivations (even the real ones, not the government taradiddles) originally, but right now a lot of the supporters are in it for the contracts (cf Halliburton). And without forces that will use that equipment as ordered (from all the way up the line) instead of to settle personal, tribal, or cultural grudges, the equipment could just make matters worse.

#24 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 08:56 PM:

So now they're going to figure out how to spin military casualties to their families...

sigh. so much bull hockey.

#25 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 10:10 PM:

Some of us /born/ during the early 70s (well, ok, 1973) remember how well "Vietnamization" went.

And thought that the same thing might well happen in this case. Four goddam years ago.

Not that I'm bitter. Goddamit.

#26 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 10:37 PM:

Protected Static: Re: Python Sketch - That's a good one, but I think I had the Manchurian Candidate spring to mind:

MARCO: Senator! Senator Iselin... I'd like to verify that number, sir.


MARCO: How many Communists did you say?

SENATOR ISELIN: Oh, er... I said, there was, uh,
exactly, uh, I have absolutely proof that there are ...

The senator looks over at Mrs. Iselin who mouths "one hundred and four."

SENATOR ISELIN: ...a hundred and four card-carrying Communists in the Defense Department
at this time.

MARCO: How many, sir?

Mrs. Iselin mouths "two hundred and seventy-five."

SENATOR ISELIN: Uh, ahem, two hundred and seventy-five and that's absolutely all I have to say on the subject at this time.

#27 ::: Dave Klecha ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 10:43 PM:


Friends of mine are going back to Iraq next year to help train the Iraqis and make sure they do use the equipment properly.

But that's sort of the underlying point of the difference in numbers. One battalion has been deemed trustworthy and capable. The rest have not. There's a lot more going on over there than troops driving up and down waiting to get blown up. They are actually working to shape the new Iraqi Army. Whether or not this is successful, whether or not it's a repeat of the effort to make the South Vietnamese forces capable of handling their own defense and counter-insurgency, remains to be seen.

My point was that Bush's numbers were accurate, as far as actual personnel are concerned, though obviously those numbers do not tell the whole story, as Casey's statements indicate. Just offering corroboration, to give the numbers more context.

Incidentally, most of the contractors who won bids for the program were not American. In fact, only one was, and they are not Halliburton, or any other big military supplier. One contractor is from Ukraine, while another is China.

#28 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:57 PM:

Shouldn't it be that the Pope (as earthly representative, of course, and local figurehead) has "hosts" rather than battalions. Of course, I don't recall ever seeing the TO for a Host of Angels, but maybe it was in one of the books that got cut from the bible.

And, of course, if that is true, and given the proclivity of the current regime to deal in arcane biblical matters whenever possible (rather than actually dealing with the reality the rest of the world experiences), and given their demonstrated lack of mastery over the english language, perhaps they just figured a "host" was enough people to throw a party (meybe 2 or 3?, unless they can subcontract it out to Halliburton, in which case the number is one thing on paper (for billing purposes) and another smaller number of actual bodies), and that there were 100, or 80, or maybe 3 battalions to a host.

Or maybe not.

#29 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 02:10 AM:

I think even this Pope would have enough sense not to want his bodyguard confused with God's.

#30 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 05:24 AM:

I reflect that the last C-in-C of an effective war-winning Iraqi army was the Prophet Mohammed. And, as far as I remember (not my war, so a little hazy on the subject) the only problem with Vietnamisation was that the Vietnamese troops weren't very effective at fighting. At least they stayed on the same side all the time. In Iraq, not so much.

As for Dave Klecha's point on procurement: I'm sure there are lots of Iraqi battalions with lots of equipment (much of which has probably not been sold off, stolen, or given away to the muj). Casey's point is that there are not very many of these that are effective.

Anecdote: in 'Eastern Approaches' by Fitzroy Maclean, he describes a conversation with Churchill. Maclean had just returned from occupied Yugoslavia, where he was military liaison between the Allies and Tito's communist Partisans. He reports that the Partisans are doing extremely well against the Germans, and that it is very likely that the Partisans, rather than Mihailovic's royalist Cetniks, will form the government of post-war Yugoslavia. Does Churchill want Maclean to do anything about this - work, perhaps, to ensure royalists or liberals get into government rather than the communists?

"Mr Churchill asked me "Do you intend to make your home in Jugoslavia after the war?"
"No, Sir," I replied.
"Neither do I," he said. "And, that being so, the less we concern ourselves with their form of government the better."

Me, I don't even plan on holidaying in postwar Iraq. Let the chips fall where they may. Whatever they end up with, it won't be worse than civil war - and the majority of Iraqis are reasonably content with a secure dictatorship, as the majority of any people would be. If they want democracy, well, let them come and take it. They've shown they're willing to fight and die for a cause - if they're not willing to fight and die for democracy, it probably means it's not much of a priority for them.

#31 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 06:40 AM:

Apples and Granny Smith's -- you're measuring related but different things. A Level 1 battalion is one rated as capable of completely independent operation -- not in need of US military support for combat operations at all. A Level 2 needs some fairly small support; a Level 3, more support -- possibly a lot more.

Level 1-3 battalions are all engaged in combat in Iraq.

It's still possible to argue that none of the Level 2&3 battalions are militarily effective, of course. Have at it; enjoy.

#32 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 03:29 PM:

Monty Python and Manchurian Candidate are fine choices, to be sure (patronizing tone for that part) but I think it's just a pity that Don Adams didn't live to deliver this news.

"Would you believe me if I said, at this very moment, one hundred batallions of crack Iraqi regulars are surrounding the last gasp of the insurgency."

"I find that very hard to believe."

"Well, would you believe three batallions?"

(doubter says nothing, just keeps staring)

"How about five Iraqi Boy Scouts and an usher?"

Good night, Barbara Feldon, wherever you are!

#33 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 04:40 PM:

I'm idly curious about the people who have replied with actual estimates of the size of the Pope's Swiss Guard contingent. Does no one but me recognize the quotation?


#34 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 04:45 PM:

I know that it is a quotation, and relatively recent, but my brain is not providing the source. It thinks it's either Napoleon or Hitler, at a guess.

#35 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 04:47 PM:

Wikipedia is specific about the count of Swiss Guards at the Vatican.
"The force is specifically limited to one hundred soldiers and currently consists of 4 officers, 23 NCOs, 70 halberdiers, 2 drummers, and a chaplain, all with an equivalent Italian army rank. "

#36 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 04:59 PM:

IIRC it's Stalin, on being told that the Pope had weighed in for the Allied side in WW II.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 05:51 PM:

Anybody knows why Don Adams would mention boy scouts AND an usher? I know, I know, it's non-sensical to have them both in the same sentence, which is funny enough for me. But I'd like to make sure that this isn't some obscure Americana reference. There might some out there I'm not aware of even after years of MST3K and Gary Larson cartoons.

#38 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 07:05 PM:

FWIW I recognized the source immediately - though I have missed some of the quotations in French around here to my eternal shame - I knew that one in English (Winston S. Churchill). I doubt it was said in French, though to a Frenchman? According to Winston S. Churchill it was said in 1935 and it's not obvious the then Pope ever weighed in for the Allied side in WWII.

Likely it was a simultaneous translation session - anybody know AKICIF?

That's one of the reasons I didn't originally give the count and TO but did want to suggest that 40 is a low figure. If we want to get picky then we can start arguing about how to count the Chaplain for the Swiss Guards who is a Lt. Colonel equivalent but not a Lt. Colonel in the Guard. Of the Guard but not in the Guard cf Juan Rico. Notice that the Swiss Guard food service is provided by a women's order and so it goes.

Both the Vatican which has its own top level domain, VA and the Swiss Guards have their own web sites for authoritative information.

#39 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 07:08 PM:

I reflect that the last C-in-C of an effective war-winning Iraqi army was the Prophet Mohammed.

I don't know if it was difficult enough to conquer Kuwait to count as a war, but the Iraqi army did manage it.

#40 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 07:44 PM:

I hasten to add that it was indeed Stalin who said it (no idea if he was the first or if Stalin picked it up someplace) - to Laval in 1935 in response to something about Godless Communism could show a little more deference to Catholicism IIRC - but Winston S. Churchill helped make it famous by quoting it - likely enough as witty saying it's since been repeated often. The answer has of course varied over time - the Swiss Guards are coming up on their 500th Anniversary but they were never very numerous.

#41 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 08:49 PM:

Maj. Gen. Bashar M. Ayoub, Commander, 9th Mechanized Division, Iraqi Army, and Col. David J. Bishop, Commander, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, will brief live from Iraq at 9 a.m. ET, Oct. 14, in the DoD Briefing Studio, Pentagon 2E579, to provide an overview of their units activities in the ongoing security operations in Iraq.

At a guess these 2 units operate together and so it likely goes.

#42 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 11:26 PM:

After the President's Spontaneous Unrehearsed Conversation with Actual Real Genuine US Soldiers:
Scott McClellan's Briefing Notes

Question 1. Yes, it is a nice day, isn't it? Are you not happy that your President has brought you this nice day? After this question, Katherine Harris will sing "Who Will Buy?" from Oliver Twist (note modified lyrics featuring unbid contracts, Attachment 1)

Question 2. The "Tehran" that the President referred to "invading" is actually an all-American suburb-like camp being constructed in New Mexico for the housing of some survivors of some disaster somewhere. "Tehran" is KBR's code name for this project [laugh here] and "invading" is their ha-ha funny euphemism for crossing the electrified wire surrounding the gated community. The Halliburton Glee Club and Perimeter Gunnery Unit will then perform "Upon These Stones" from Les Misérables (new lyrics, Attachment 2).

Question 3. There is no question 3. There never was a Question 3. There never will be a Question 3. Questions numbered "3" are from this day prohibited by His Presidency's Will in all US educational institutions or government questionnaires.

Question 4. Lance Corporal Phil Spitalny's reference to his appearance in "La Cage aux Folles" is obviously a reference to a secret insurgency-de-insurgencicatifying operation, and cannot possibly refer to anything he might have done during some nonexistent Off-Broadway career.

Question 5. Paul Lynde to block.

Question 6. At this point Mr. McClellan will lead the White House Press Corps in a spontaneous and unrehearsed performance of "The Jet Song" from West Side Story (new lyrics, Attachment 3) followed by Mr. McClellan's heartfelt and moving solo of "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line (new lyrics, Attachment 4).

Question 7. Yes, the White House Press Corps will indeed be touring major US cities following a tryout at the Guantanamo Harrah's Matthew Hopkins Room.

Question 8. Unrehearsed and spontaneous adulation, follwed by a brief prayer and the Doxology (new lyrics, Attachment 5).

#43 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 04:15 AM:

the Chaplain for the Swiss Guards who is a Lt. Colonel equivalent but not a Lt. Colonel in the Guard. Of the Guard but not in the Guard cf Juan Rico.

There's a clash of imagery...

"Join the Swiss Guard! Service guarantees salvation! Do you want to know more?"

Ditch the TFCT Rodger Young for the TFCT St. Ignatius Loyola (piloted by nuns*! Their reactions are faster!), recall beacon music by Palestrina or Hildegard von Bingen, and powered armour designed by Michaelangelo... I want to see those concept drawings.

"What's the matter? You apes wanna live forever?"

*Armalite nuns, naturally. Ah ha ha ha...

#44 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 04:49 AM:

Joel Rosenberg: Where are you getting those categorizations?

Levels of readiness have nothing to do with the support required of a battalion. No battalion is an independent force (at least not on a battlefield, in police operations, maybe).

Bns don't have the organic support units required. Lets take small arms repair. At the Bn level (at least in the US Army, which; we presume, is some form of the parent system the US is attempting to impose) small arms can be repaired in the field, for simple things. Lost firing pins, damaged handguards, some of the lower receiver's parts, and the like can all be repaired, or replaced by the unit armorer.

But the Bn. doesn't stock those parts, the OMS does, some at the OMS level, some (new barrels, and the funky sear which makes an A2 capable of burst, or the Z-sear which makes an A1 fully automatic) are above the OMS and at the Depot Level.

Things like ammo, food, POL, intel (other than local, and not very solid; though with good analysts in the 2 Shop, and some solid stuff from above some of the local picture will be clearer to the Bn than to the Brigade, and decidely moreso than at Division).

Cat 1 units are ready to deploy, but not capable of working as independent units. They have tails, and those tails can be fairly long.

A division is the unit the US sees as in independant operator (a regiment, mostly, for the British).


#45 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 05:54 AM:

A division is the unit the US sees as an independent operator (a regiment, mostly, for the British).

You mean a brigade.
A regiment's just a cap badge, a name, a tradition and sometimes a recruiting area, and most of the infantry regiments are only a battalion strong. Brigade's the operational unit (generally three battalions plus extras). And given the Iraqi army's role at present, talking about numbers of battalions makes more sense - they're not going to be doing divisional ops any time soon.
Frankly I'd question the utility of setting up Bde and Div level units - they won't need big logistics tails, divisional artillery, and so on, because they're garrison/police units, and having a divisional maintenance unit would be silly - with nine battalions spread all over the country, where do you put it?
But that probably won't stop them trying. This is an army who announced that they had nothing to learn from the British in Iraq, because the Brits had no experience with IEDs.

#46 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 06:32 AM:

Anybody knows why Don Adams would mention boy scouts AND an usher? I know, I know, it's non-sensical to have them both in the same sentence, which is funny enough for me.

i would assume, because they both wear uniforms.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 06:59 AM:

Of course, miriam. Thanks. (Uniforms... So obvious.)

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 12:09 PM:

But that probably won't stop them trying. This is an army who announced that they had nothing to learn from the British in Iraq, because the Brits had no experience with IEDs.


I do recall reading that the USN really didn't grok mine warfare during Gulf I, and were all proud of how their battleships got so close to the enemy, without ever mentioning the RN minehunters who had swept their post of heroism.

Next Friday, isn't it?

Isn't it odd how nobody seems to be mentioning Guy Fawkes.

#49 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Truth. Depressing. Eric Alterman at Altercation posts regular reports from a Major Rob Bateman, who said as much in one and was unchallenged by Alterman - as a result of which I stopped reading Altercation.

His exact words:

"Suggestions such as that I read in the New York Times recently (that we ought to follow the example of the British, who have such extensive Northern Ireland experience) are bollocks. Our British allies never faced IEDs in Northern Ireland. Or anywhere. We, more than any other force, actually do have the most experience in this particular issue."

Now I found this particularly irritating for two reasons: first, according to this clown, apparently several of the buildings in central London I pass on my way to work every day were simply damaged by sudden subsidence, while a personal friend of mine was hurled ten feet through the air (without, fortunately, serious injury) in County Antrim by unexpected seismic activity.

Second, because this goon is actually commanding troops in Iraq, and if he is as ignorant and incurious as this sounds, he is getting them killed unnecessarily.

#50 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2005, 10:52 AM:

The point, needless to say, is that if the US forces had learned from British experience they might not now be facing the threat from IEDs.

#51 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2005, 11:18 AM:

To define the terms some say:
Level One->"fully independent"
="need no Coalition assistance whatsoever" [emphasis mine]
Level Two-> "in the lead"
="doing independent operations"
Level Three-> "fighting alongside"
All "in the fight"

Application is another matter. Given what we know about Iraqi procurement I'd expect 750 troop level units at Level 1 to fall to at least Level 2 after any significant or prolonged action but I'd hope some Level 2 would rise to Level 1 in the interval.

I didn't then and I never will understand the Americans who celebrated the fall of Saigon. Quite possible to be a VC sympathizer and still foresee the results of a NVA conquest. Possibly I learned the wrong lessons from the Vietnam era and people today won't celebrate disasters for so many people? Yet that again seems to me to be what so many are hoping for.

It may well be that we - all the Allies - should bring all our troops home now - there's an interesting contrast between When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye but no real need to pick one only and push it to absurdity - but I see few better off and therefore little to celebrate in a failure of good intentions here.

#52 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2005, 09:31 PM:

The reason the British never faced IEDs in Northern Ireland is because, back in the day, no one was bandying about this trendy new acronym that we never heard before the current war, they were just calling the things bombs and having done with it.

It's a rather cheap and transparent bit of propaganda: Soldiers have bombs, but only insurgents/terrorists/what-have-you are using cheap home-made IEDs, nevermind the fact that the Oklahoma Bombing bomb was an explosive devise improvised from some fertilizer and a rental truck.

I'm waiting to hear about Guy Fawkes and his IED.

#53 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2005, 09:39 PM:

but I see few better off and therefore little to celebrate in a failure of good intentions here.

Clark -- what good intentions? The invasion of Iraq was based on a series of blatant forgeries; the intention was a client state, not freedom. (And not-freedom is what they're getting, cf the constitution enshrining Islam.)

#54 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2005, 02:35 AM:

Traditionally, the lowest military formation capable of full self-support was in fact the division. The British have sometimes attempted to give that ability to brigades, calling such formations "brigade groups", but the distinction is rather academic. They ended up being sorta like small divisions, with a full division's tail, but with fewer up front. This was reasonable in the case of specialised, highly mechanised or armoured formations, but when it comes right down to a major unpleasantness, there's nothing like boots on the ground.

Independent batallions are really only useful for police operations. Which is, of course, what is wanted in Iraq, but which is not what will be forthcoming. Just about any Iraqi armed formation of any kind will really be a de-facto factional militia, not a real police force with a loyalty to an actual government.

#55 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 09:22 AM:

Dave - I know; I was just correcting his terminology.
Clark - I think the main difference between Iraq and the case you cite is that, whatever you say about Vietnam, the US at least had a coherent war aim there. When the first advisers went in in the 1950s, the objective was "defend South Vietnam against Communist aggression" and it stayed that way right up until the last troops left in the 1970s. There was less clarity about how to get there from here; different methods were tried - some were laudable, some were criminal - and the ultimate result was failure, but at least there was an end in view. Put it this way: when the war ended, there was no doubt who had won - there were tanks at the gate of the palace in Saigon.

I will not labour the dissimilarity with Iraq. But does anyone know what the aim is? How will we know when we've lost or won? Who's the enemy and what do they want?

#56 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 11:13 AM:

Re Vietnam - could have fooled me - I have no idea what the objective was under Eisenhower. I was in Europe when I started paying attention - though I remember a sort of you've got to be kidding response to the notion of a nuclear defense at Dien Bien Phu.

I think of it in terms of 3 friends of mine over the years as time passed (though the plural of anecdote is not data this is how I saw it illustrated by at least one example of each period YMMV and this is an underview not an overview)- it went from hearts and minds - I remember first an Army Captain who had the heart of a medical missionary - join the army and see the world - married a nice German girl and tended to identify with indigenous populations everywhere he went - prototypical Ugly American in the original sense - build a South Vietnam on the American model. Think perhaps GinMar in Vietnam.

Then I remember a few years later a Marine Reaction Force Company commander who was happy to just track down and kill people who did things like that to nuns and other innocents. Breaking things and killing people who deserved it. Good at what he did.

Then in a natural progression a Bosun on a RAG boat who - correctly - saw himself as tasked to be sure the locals were more afraid of Americans than they were of the VC. Not saying the tasking was correct but the perception was.

Truth is, as has been noted again and again, defending against the NVA was easy and beating the VC once wasn't hard. Hackworth's point - as I understand it - was that the VC kept coming like the Energizer Bunny which sort of invalidated "defend South Vietnam" as a war aim. First define your "South Vietnam" as in define your Iraq - a nation state or a confederation or ....?

Quite possible to be VC sympathizer and still figure lots of people needed killing. Sort of we both hate the corrupt decadent what have you - but see some sidebar here for the problems of identification on the "just because" model. Remember obs sf David Drake's White Mice are named for the Mickey Mouse folks and their white gloves - consider daily life in that society.

I am in complete agreement with MacNamara's belatedly expressed view that once Kennedy decided the death of Diem supported US war aims we had invalidated any meaningful war aim and might have recognized that going in was pointless.

Notice that MacNamara at the World Bank was able to display the humanitarian impulses that I believe motivated him all along - stupid but well intentioned throughout.

Finally in defeat we achieved the perfect puppet state in South Vietnam. -

(that perfect puppet state we are accused of seeking in Iraq and which I don't believe is our present or past aim in Iraq though it may yet become our aim - see the progression above)

In which our perfect puppet seems to have believed our assurances that if he was just a good enough puppet we would defend coastal enclaves with Naval gunfire that didn't exist any more. We had perfect puppets and perfect refugees.

As to who won - I'll stand by characterizing Vietnam as the War that Bled the Evil Empire Dry - and see the quote from a returning soldier as part of a U.S. Trade Mission - "Why didn't you just let us win?" As to who lost two words - boat people.

To sum up my previous point with another quote:What's that quote that ended up on, I think it was blacksnail's page, not too long ago? About how "I don't like Bush, and I hope that he fails" has turned into "I hate the man, and I hope enough of you die to make him look bad, but not you in specific because I support you in some indefinable but suitably vague way that lets me feel good about myself"? soldiergrrrl

#57 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 11:32 AM:

I'd like to edit the above - MacNamara was far from stupid - crazy is the mot juste. Reminds me of the joke whose punchline is I'm crazy not stupid.

Arguably everybody who participates comes crazy out of a war.(see MacNamara on the life expectancy of a Whiz Kid at Ford)

Crazy at least in the 12 Step sense of adaptive behavior learned under extreme conditions may not fit future circumstances. Certainly MacNamara, among others, was slow to think and slow to learn while redoubling efforts in a "this time for sure" sense of fanaticism. Useful to both rethink objectives and to give credit for good intentions.

#58 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 01:18 PM:

ajay: dave was much closer to what I meant that you were.

A Bridage is a maneuver unit, and the one the Brits (or so they tell me when we work together) the primary maneuber unit in the British Army.

For the US this is the Bn. We gave up regiments, save as units of history (outside, sort of, the Rangers) between World Wars one and two.

The smallest unit capable of self-sustained operations is a Division, and (again, from those British troops with which I've worked) British regiments are organizational structures capable of self-sustainment; at least for a time long enough to make them more akin to a light divison than to a heavy brigade.

#59 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 01:52 PM:

IIRC A Brigadier was once upon a time a General Officer with the Brits but of course long since no longer.

Typo supra aside I'd say a British regiment is a political subdivision associated with traditional recruiting rather than an army unit of any particular size or purpose see e.g.:
The KOSB [King's Own Scottish Borderers] and the Royal Scots are to merge and join four infantry regiments as part of a new Scottish super-regiment.

The merged KOSB and Royal Scots would be combined with the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Highlanders in a new Royal Regiment of Scotland., BBC The Black Watch have a fine tradition of policing the downtrodden that may be useful (smiley - see it worked until Sean Connery came along to rouse the rabble).

Also:The KOSB were founded after an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1689. Veterans are litigating over control even as we bicker with each other. And more to the point the The MoD and army chiefs said the changes were needed to the structure of the infantry to ensure commitments could be met in the 21st century. so we can all argue as was, as is and as should be. Pentomic Army anyone?

I'll try to use the terms for Levels here as the responsible parties on the ground there define and claim to be using them.

#60 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 03:17 PM:

Structure of the British Army

(Well, it saves on typing.)

#61 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 03:26 PM:

Just to confuse matters, one of the regiments is nominally a brigade, and several battalions are nominally regiments...

#62 ::: Joel Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2005, 11:03 PM:

Terry Karney: see, among other places, .

#63 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2005, 08:47 AM:

Terry, the info I have is that the British Army, if it's actually fighting a war rather than occupying a country, rearranges the infantry battalions and armoured regiments of a brigade into battlegroups, each about battalion-strength but containing a mix of infantry and armour.

For instance, two companies of infantry, a squadron of tanks, and some support sub-units from two two parent formations and brigade assets.

It's usually named for the major contributor. This is why you may have heard references to the "Black Watch battlegroup" as the British force which moved up near Fallujah, earlier this year.

These battlegroups are the smallest units likely to be dealt with at an operational level. The next step down, company or squadron, is getting short of resilience in combat, partly because losing one fighting vehicle is enough to be noticed.

#64 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Larry: Ja, but zey are eqvipped to kill vis a veel of chees und are pre-forgiffen by ze Holy Fater himzelf.

Or, to quote Robin Williams:

Many of you men have never opened Chardonnay under fire before.

#65 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2005, 04:46 PM:

"As to who won - I'll stand by characterizing Vietnam as the War that Bled the Evil Empire Dry"

People usually mean "evil empire" like Reagan did, to mean the USSR. When you use it to mean the USA it's likely to confuse people.

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