For those who think the answer in Iraq is more U.S. troops rather than fewer, the Washington Post has a sobering assessment of just how many more it might take to win there. Using "troop-to-population ratios used in historical counterinsurgency campaigns, some of which had aspects of civil wars," military experts tell the Post that the United States and its allies would need at least 500,000 and maybe more than 1 million troops in Iraq to bring the country under control.
The United States has between 140,000 and 150,000 troops in Iraq today, and the White House may be thinking about sending 20,000 more. Even if the training of Iraqi troops accelerates dramatically, the Post says, "no one thinks" that 500,000 to 1 million troops or more would be available "anytime soon."
A draft? Last week's elections give a pretty clear signal that the American people wouldn't stand for it. The money? As USA Today reports, appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon top $600 billion, making the double conflict America's most expensive fight since World War II.
So if the president is really considering one last "big push" for Iraq -- a half-measure in which he sends a few more troops in the hopes of getting something he can call victory even if it isn't -- well, you can almost begin to understand why: There just isn't much of a realistic alternative unless you're willing to start bringing the troops home now. That's not the plan John McCain is advocating -- he wants to see a lot more U.S. troops in Iraq now -- but it's hard to argue with what McCain said yesterday about those who are seeking a little more time for time's sake: "As troubling as it is, I can ask a young marine to go back to Iraq. What I cannot do is ask him to return to Iraq, to risk life and limb, so that we might delay our defeat for a few months or a year. That is more to ask than patriotism requires."