I got news today that another friend is going to Iraq. She's going for six months. This makes three.
They're now taking people from commands (afloat staffs) where gaps would normally be inconceivable.
As a communications and networks specialist she'll probably make it out of the green zone more than average. Several people in the Navy aggressively pursued trying to get me to convert to be an "Information Professional" rather than leaving the Navy in 2003. Apparently, all the junior IP officers are being forced to go if they can't get volunteers.
And then I read Farni Fassahi's letter describing conditions for journalists in Iraq. If Germany or France was doing this to a country, we'd scream bloody murder.
The military made a serious strategic blunder in the 1980s. After the loss of the Soviet threat, the need for skill and technology in reconstruction should have been clear. Instead it became a career-ending backwater. Imagine, if instead of ships filled with prepositioned tanks, they were filled with transformers and electrical generators. Imagine if civil engineering/reconstruction was studied and planned with the same respect as tank warfare. Dedicate research and development to border controls, prisons, and election systems instead of ballistic missile defense.
Instead they remained locked in the Clausewitz mindset, that once the "seat" of government is destroyed, the elements of civil society will reconstitute in support of the aims of the invaders (see Vichy France). Awfully convenient if you're in the elite of the military (fighter jets, submarines, tanks).
The civilian leadership made a serious strategic error in 2002. They refused to respect the domain expertise of the military leadership. The purpose of a large number of troops in modern warfare isn't to win the war, its to win the aftermath. The greatest example of the military operational art since World War II was quickly overshadowed by a strategic blunder worse than Vietnam (since we picked the time and place this time). Step by step, the civilian leadership tried to underfund, underdeploy, and undercommit to Iraq. The defective business processes that gum up the works and raise costs in peacetime, paralyzed us in the harsh security and operational environment of Iraq.
Solutions? Start using money intelligently. Pay people to vote. Its the only way to ensure a high turnout. Pay several times the world price for guns and weapons. Then track the excessive flows to their source. Pay people to identify IED locations. Place "bounties" on schools, roads, and the like (see above). Build massive depression-style public works projects to soak up all labor. Pull massive numbers of people out of the country for military and police training. Start sending the brightest Iraqis to American schools on scholarship.
But don't pretend everything is OK. The government of America should have a higher standard of truth than Enron.