General Question

zen_'s avatar

Was it a smart (strategic) move to leave Iraq with only non-combatant soldiers?

Asked by zen_ (6235 points ) August 21st, 2010

Politically, Obama has done what few have before him: kept his word. But he is not a military man, which is an understatement. Yes, he’s pulled out the combat troops – I am happy for those returning from war – I’ve been there myself.

But he has left some 50,000 non-combat soldiers, aided by about 7000 highly controversial, and in the middle of a lawsuit (Blackwater) SOF’s in essence.

It’s been bloody; 4400 American Soldiers and over 400, 000 (!) Iraqi civilians.

I hope this is the beginning of the end; I fear it isn’t.

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35 Answers

jerv's avatar

Unlike the Navy and Air Farce, the ground-pounders all have at least some combat training, and even that is more than any opposition they are likely to face has.

I don’t think that it’s as stupid as some people think for that reason. And it isn’t like they won’t have quite a few 0311s and other “bullet sponges” around; they aren’t just leaving only paper-pushers and storekeepers there.

Winters's avatar

Thats actually bullshit, pardon my French. I know several guys who are in the Infantry who are still in Iraq, and no, they are not attached to some non Combat Arms element.

Mephistopheles's avatar

The Iraqi government will survive, probably. But the military wisdom of withdrawing is moot point. Obama had to pull out, at least if he valued his political future. Operation Iraqi Freedom had well and truly run its course, mission accomplished or not.

zen_'s avatar

”... and draw down the U.S. presence to a mere 50,000 troops, who will stay behind to “advise and assist Iraqi security forces.

@Winters That was from Time. What’s your source? Oh, and bullshit isn’t French – and that wasn’t very flutherlike of you.

Winters's avatar

@zen_ Ah sorry bout that, it just ticks me off when people take the “only non combatant soldiers” at face value. I am in the Army, and as I said, have several friends who are over there as combatants. That Stryker Brigade is NOT the last combatant element.

Calstatic's avatar

I believe it was alright strategically, I mean we really do need to start working toward getting the Iraqi government to be independent as to be a true democracy. Getting the combat troops was an alright first step. We have to keep in mind that the government and the country isn’t exactly perfectly stable so pulling completely would leave Iraq almost where it started. So we have to keep a presence in for a while.

Calstatic's avatar

Of course leaving non-combatants would probably make us look less aggressive.

mammal's avatar

comme ci comme ça, but i guarantee Afghanistan will provide a rallying point for every western malcontent that ever lived. look out babe the angels are coming through it’s all over now baby blue :)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Obama can always pull one out of Nixon’s playbook—declare victory and leave. But I don’t think we are going to totally abandon the 3rd or 4th largest oil reserves in the world. Nah. Our corporate masters won’t allow that. We’ve built the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad—a veritable high-tech fortress—and the huge Sather Air Base. We aren’t going anywhere.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Non-combat soldiers. That’s funny.

Winters's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus if you look at the Army, most of the branches are focused on supplying and financing troops. NOT actual combat.

Seaofclouds's avatar

My husband is attached to an infantry unit, they are still there. There are still combat soldiers they are just not doing (leading) combat jobs at the moment. We have soldiers supporting the Iraqi security forces with their work. The drawdown was a good idea. We need to get all of our guys home.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Every mail clerk, every cook, every yeoman, every nurse and every floor sweeper in uniform is a combat soldier at the discretion of their CO. It’s an oxymoron. And the 7,000 psychos from Xe Services? Gimme a break.

Ron_C's avatar

Any soldier that has a gun is a combatant. There are two real problems. The first is that the State Department is hiring 6000 contractors (read mercenaries) for security, the second is that the troops moved from Iraq are likely going to Afghanistan.

Beside, that still leave 50k in Iraq for “training” purposes. That’s a pretty big training program. Well, we have to protect the oil, don’t we?

jerv's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus You are correct that we never actually leave anywhere we’ve been.

However, as a man who wore a uniform for a few years, I can say that you are wrong. See, my firearms training from the military lasted about four hours and was basically limited to, “this is a handgun”. I knew more about guns by age 5 than the Navy ever teaches most of their people. I probably know more about firefighting and dewatering/flood control than most bullet sponges, but my point is that the closest many servicemembers get to combat is shipping them boots and batteries.

zen_'s avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Non-Combat Soldiers – though I know what you mean, there are secretaries, cooks and technicians – as well as unarmed consultants and their aides in the army. Those are the ones who have been left there.

Edit: @ron Did you even bother to read my details? You just wrote exactly what I did, and in my later post I sourced Time. And it’s 7000 but who’s counting. @jerv Did you typo Air Farce or are you calling the Airmen a farce, not a force?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@zen_ The people there are not unarmed. My husband carries his rifle with him every where he goes on the base he is at. There are still people there trained for combat, they are just assisting/supporting the Iraq security forces in their missions instead of leading any missions.

zen_'s avatar

^ Yup. I’m a soldier – and you are married to one; we understand that one can carry a side-arm and not be a COMBAT soldier – but it seems to evade the civillians here. One can work in the diamond industry and carry a sidearm when transferring gems. That doesn’t make him a combat anything. Same in the armed forces. I think we’ve explained enough – one can always google. I’ve lived it for about 27 years now.

jerv's avatar

@zen_ When I was stationed on a carrier, we were all amused by the difficulty their pilots had with carrier landings, especially at night. Now, I am not saying that carrier landings are easy, but Navy and Marine pilots make it look that way whereas the AF guys… well, the SAR (Search And Rescue) guys and the flight deck fire crews were very nervous and the LSO had to wave them off to keep them from making a flaming, greasy smear on our flight deck or a splash off our port bow.

Of course, there is sibling rivalry. There are a few unflattering suggestions about what “Marine” really stands for (our fave was My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment) and the Army was considered a last ditch for those who couldn’t make the cut as a real infantryman. In turn, I was a “fucking squid”.

So there was no typo, merely some razzing that I feel that a bunch of guys who spend days waxing their planes instead of a few hours learning how to fly the damn things really deserve.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I agree that most U. S. Armed Forces personnel never see combat. I don’t deny that there are personnel that get minimal combat training. But I maintain that every armed forces personnel are potentially combat soldiers, at the discretion of the officers in their command—as I stated above.

I’m not sure whose Armed Forces you guys served in, but the one in which I served involved enlistment papers. The terms of enlistment may have change a bit since the Viet Nam era, but one part hasn’t. Everyone serving in Iraq today who wears a uniform of the U. S. Armed Forces has signed a DD Form 4/1 which clearly states the following:

DD Form 4/1, Part C: Partial Statement of United States Laws
Section 9. For All Enlistees or Reenlistees, a. (4).
[You are] Required upon order to serve in combat or other hazardous situations..

It goes on to state that refusal of any lawful order will result in prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Remember that?

Referring to our military personnel as non-combat soldiers while they are in a war zone, is ludicrous This is more about a government soft soaping the public than it is about anything else. I don’t buy it, soldiers in-country who find themselves on non-combat status would be foolish to buy it, civilians under occupation won’t buy it, and the enemy certainly won’t buy it.

zen_'s avatar

@jerv Got it. We have our own stuff like that.

zen_'s avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus The fact that they are required to upon order… well, what if they have no gun?

Besides, I said Combat Soldier. It’s not an oxymoron or play on words; Commercial Pilot (Captain Joe Blow) vs. I got my Cessna license yesterday pilot. Or I have my own Jet, but sometimes fly a Qantas plane for fun kind of pilot: J. Travolta.

Non-Combat Soldier, Combat-soldier (SEAL, Marine, Ranger, SF et al) ,Support, Engineer, Cook, Floor Sweeping guy; what’s the big linguistic dillema here?

LostInParadise's avatar

The objective of the war was to open the oil fields to American and other foreign governments. That objective has been achieved. There is no point in getting overly involved with stability issues unless they threaten the oil wells, so that seems to be the stance being taken. The strategy is to do the bare minimum required to keep the oil flowing.

Ron_C's avatar

@zen_ I did read your piece from Time and is is a short history lesson. The idea that we wrote essentially the same reply only means that we agree. I am pretty sure that I just skimmed the answers before I wrote mine. I did not plagiarize your answer.

@jerv you got 4 hours training in hand guns! Wow you made out. I had an hour on the shooting range at Great Lakes for my two week boot camp, followed by two years of electronics training. Boy was I surprised when I ended up on the rivers in Vietnam with people that were shooting at me. My hand gun training was when they handed me a .45 and said, here is where the bullets go, here’s the safety, and hold on because the gun has a hell of a kick! It took about three minutes then I shot off a clip into the river.

Everybody had survival training and other specialized weapon training, I learned about different radar and sonar equipment and never felt really military.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@zen_ My point exactly. Semantics. When I posted the term “Non-combatant Soldier” was funny, I meant it in the context of my previous post above it. At a time when the president is under pressure to live up to his campaign promise to get our people out of Iraq and I hear him call 50,000 soldiers in a theater of war “non-combatants,” I read it as obfuscation.

I’m sure there are military staff at computers, in comms, in admin or in the quartermaster’s office doing inventory, safely tucked away in the Emerald City or deep inside Camp Sather that may have never seen combat, but at any time they can be given arms and sent to the wire. They would be fooling themselves otherwise. Nothing can more quickly bring a wry smile to a lifer NCO with combat experience than when an enlisted man buys into this—and that’s funny.

I believe this term, in this instance, is being used prematurely for purely political reasons 2½ months before major elections and does not represent the reality of he situation on the ground in-country. The administration can’t get them out without risking another scene like Saigon in April ‘75, so they simply change their status to nice, fuzzy non-combatants. Soccer moms might buy that, but It’s bullshit. It’s Obama’s “Mission Accomplished.”

Ron_C's avatar

A noncombatant army is an oxymoron like military intelligence, or honest politician, or pro-choice and Pro-life.

Those terms no way describe what they pretend to mean. I like the way that they left, without fanfare and without a rear guard. Of course since the State Department is upping the mercenary force and the soldiers moved to Kuwait instead of the U.S., nothing has really changed, has it?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Ron_C Yeah. My older brother was a Riverine in the Mekong. Fucking nightmare. Plastic boats up against 12.7mm Soviet DShKs. Glad you made it back.

Ron_C's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus One of my jobs was fixing the electronics on those boats. I often had to wait for the blood to be cleaned out before I started. It got so bad that they stopped sending Electronics Technicians on the shake down runs of the boats because many of my fellow technicians were coming back in pieces.

jerv's avatar

“Combat trained” is a relative term. Part of the reason I have the firefighting and dewatering training I do is in case the ship is attacked. However, there is a huge difference between being trained in damage control to keep a ship afloat and operational in combat conditions and being trained in how to use weapons and tactics effectively. With the exception of the MA rate (Master at Arms), our training in internal security in the event we are boarded is pretty much, “let the Marines do their damn job!”.

I believe that transitting the Straits of Hormuz qualifies as ”... other hazardous conditions” and my first ship actually did hit a mine at one point (before I was stationed there) which is basically a harm inflicted by an enemy combatant. I guess it really boils down to a semantic argument over the definition of “combat trained”.

@Ron_C One question I remember from the E4 advancement exam was “How long do you have to boil a rat before it is safe to eat?”. (Ten minutes.)

@Espiritus_Corvus Isn’t every statement coming out of DC “for political reasons”?

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv I don’t remember that question on my test. What were you trying to be a E4 cook?

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C Electricians Mate

zen_'s avatar

Lurve this thread.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I’ve changed my mind. It was a horrible idea. This really doesn’t make it seem like they really thought about properly protecting the people the left behind with the drawdown. I hate this so much. (Sorry I’m very upset right now and can’t really discuss it. I could just be being overly emotional and irrational at the moment.)

Ron_C's avatar

@jerv I took the ET tests, there weren’t questions like that no my test.

jerv's avatar

@Ron_C Generic PO3 question, and there are different versions of each test. Kind of keeps you from getting answers from the twidget next to you since he may have a different test book than you do.

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