Max Boot as Oracle

Max “Case for American Empire” Boot’s latest LA Times column walks us through a seminal text in counterinsurgency, David Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, in the course of describing the “Keys to a Successful Surge.”

Since the ideas are mostly Galula’s and not Boot’s, the column is decent, but this seems as good an occasion as any to recall that Boot was arguing that victory in Iraq would be quite easy as recently as 2003.  This was his take then:

Formal empire is passe, and Americans have little enthusiasm for it. Promoting liberal democracies with U.S. security guarantees is more our style. In Iraq, that means purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government…

This means using American troops to secure all of Iraq. It will be insufficient to set up a peacekeeping force whose authority extends only to the capital. It will be unacceptable to say that peacekeeping is not a job for the U.S. military. Since the United States is committed to a “unitary” Iraq, it will have to commit sufficient force to make this a reality. This probably will not require the 200,000 troops suggested by Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, but it will require a long-term commitment of at least 60,000 to 75,000 soldiers, the number estimated by Joint Staff planners. (emphasis added)

So in 2003, Max Boot was arguing that 60-75,000 U.S. troops could provide security all across Iraq, while simultaneously “purging the Baathists, providing humanitarian relief, starting to rebuild, and then setting up a process to produce a representative local government.”

Why should anyone be listening to him now?