Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Case for a Foreign Legion


The fundamental role of a foreign Legion is to suppress sectarian war making.  Thus in Iraq, the Shiite army cannot really tackle the Sunni ISIS without triggering a broader civil war and active  Arab intervention. 

A foreign legion can be formed up even under some form of UN mandate and properly supplied to USA standards in equipment and training.  Better the mission is also clearly defined.  It is to root out sectarian war making regardless who is involved.  Strong states will have no problem while the weak cannot properly interfere.

It certainly worked under imperial forms of governance and worked by immediately confronting the initial threat itself.  effectively the cops show up far earlier than is now happening.  Right now a single active regiment on the ground with the promise of more would serve notice and drag the unwilling to the settlement table .


Why it might have been reasonable for the Iraqis soldiers to desert rather than fight Isis and how a foreign legion could help solve it

September 18, 2014


Before I made the case that a US foreign legion was a pragmatic economic solution for the USA.
Consider now the position of a soldier in Iraqi army.

The final straw was the death of a friend, killed two weeks ago by a sniper’s bullet. The infantryman, Bashar al-Halbousi, deserted, making the same choice as hundreds of other soldiers in his battalion, he said.
“The state is weak,” Mr. Halbousi said. “This will be an endless battle.”

The militants came in waves, sending suicide bombers when their ammunition grew scarce. Mohamed said that eight of his friends had died and that he almost did, too, when a mortar shell struck his Humvee.

After months of grinding conflict against a resurgent militant movement, the Iraqi Army is having its power blunted by a rise in desertions, turning the tide of the war and fragmenting an institution, trained and funded by the United States, that some hoped would provide Iraqis a common sense of citizenship.

In interviews over several days, soldiers and army commanders said the desertions had become widespread, with thousands of men laying down their arms, gutting front-line units across the country. Before the troops dissolved in Mosul, the army was losing as many as 300 soldiers a day, between desertions, deaths and injuries, according to a security analyst who works with the Iraqi government.

Some soldiers said their families begged them to leave the service. One 25-year-old deserter said his mother was so terrified of the fighting that she burned his uniform every time he returned home on leave. Two months ago, he said she raised the stakes, threatening to kill herself if he returned to his unit.

Officers in the Iraqi army were purged of competent leaders and replaced with political cronies of Prime minister Malaki.

You cannot trust there would be a competent leadership and a sustained and resolved campaign to defeat the enemy completely. 

The US pulled out years ago and now has stated they will not send soldiers to fight the enemy in Iraq and Syria.

The army could have Sunni sympathizers to Isis who would inform on your identity so you have to think about protecting your family from later reprisals.

If the USA had a dedicated commitment to a foreign legion

If the USA had a commitment to using a 150,000-500,000 strong foreign legion to keep the peace (pax americana) then how could this be different. This would also be different. If the soldiers knew that they were part of long term commitment to bringing peace, stability and prosperity to the region, they would have belief in the cause that were fighting and dieing.

In the french foreign legion, identities are often hidden. Everyone is Jean Paul. It can become tougher for someone to find out who or where your family is.

If there is a long term US commitment to complete victory then there is less concern about reprisals.

If there is faith in the competence and training of the officers then there is discipline and morale when the fighting gets tough.

The USA would have to ensure that there were competent trained officers.

The USA would have to make a lifelong commitment to foreign legionaires in terms of ability to earn pensions and health benefits even if salaries were in the $1500/month range.

The implicit contract would have to be -

have belief in the justness of the cause
dedicate yourselves to us
we will dedicate ourselves to you
we will try to keep you as safe as possible through consistent policy and strong leadership
you will help keep us safe
we will help keep your family safe

we will raise the necessary force to do what must be done
we will vet who is in here and keep it clear of traitors
trust your political leadership will be steady to the cause
trust your military leaders are competent

This 15 to 50 divisions would then have the morale and commitment and staying power to to grind out a multi-year war to clean out Syria and Iraq. They would also have the full backing and close air support of the US air force. They would thus know they were not have an equal ground fight. They could call in an air strike.

 The United States provided $121 billion in military aid to various foreign countries. $25 billion to train and arm in Iraq and $26 billion to train and arm in Afghanistan. However, the corrupt and incompetent government in Iraq got rid of the well trained officers for loyalists and the degraded US trained Iraqi forces ran away from the fight with ISIL (ISlamic state in Iraq and Levant).

It is now the 13th anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the US is ramping up the fighting and engagement in Iraq and Syria.

There was an academic paper in 2012 that proposed a foreign legion for the United States.

* the US used about 200,000 military contractors at the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars

* federal fiscal years 2002-2010 . . . . the reported value of funds obligated for contingency contracts for equipment, supplies, and support services is at least $ 154 billion for the DoD, $ 11 billion for the Department of State, and $ 7 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).” When one adds the “$ 5 billion in grants and cooperative agreements awarded by State and USAID” the total value becomes $ 177 billion. To put these figures in more comprehensible, concrete terms, the average cost per U.S. household for contractor support of contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in fiscal years 2002-2010 was $ 1,505.

More than $12 billion or more was lost to fraud and more to kickbacks and bribes.

The creation of a formal U.S. Foreign Legion would address many of the issues caused by the current overreliance on PMC (private military contractors) personnel for mission-critical functions described above. Such a military unit would place the use of military-style force squarely back within the proper control of the sovereign U.S. government and would appropriately recognize the efforts of those individuals who are currently serving U.S. interests without commensurate benefits. Lastly, such a force would enhance U.S. security interests abroad–through increases in oversight and control of PMC personnel–and would help reign in fraud and waste at a time when the U.S. government can afford neither.

A low-end annual estimate for the salaries of a 150,000 strong" U.S. Foreign Legion would be anywhere from about $ 2.6 billion to $ 5.1 billion. The 7000 members of the french foreign get about $1500 per month which is the $2.7 billion figure.

A US Legion would remove the middlemen (foreign governments or companies) from the equations. Legionaires would work for the US and would not be as subject to the whims of the client governments.

There would also be continuity of training over the foreign legion. Yes the soldiers who are in it would have new recruits but you could manage it to maintain a large fraction of the officers and soldiers over years.

More background on private military services

Military services are military-specific services - such as research and analysis, technical services, operational support, and armed force - that were once undertaken by military establishments but have been outsourced to private companies.

Blackwater is no more but Dyncorp and Triple Canopy have expanded. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 5,000 specialists have been contracted by the Iraqi government. They are currently working in the country as analysts, military trainers, security guards, translators and even cooks. Some 2,000 of them are Americans.

Private defense companies, such as Triple Canopy and Dyncorp International, have multibillion contracts in Iraq for years to come.

Washington is actively assisting the Iraqi government in fighting terrorism, supplying Baghdad with drones and is considering training some of the country’s elite military forces in neighboring Jordan.

An assault operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a faction of Al-Qaeda currently occupying Fallujah, is promising to be a serious undertaking implying the use of the utmost in firepower, so Baghdad is buying $6 billion worth of military equipment from the US

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