FNC
Major Bob Bevelacqua
Why do we have so few troops in Iraq? It seems that this was a huge miscalculation. — Elizabeth (Arlington, VA)

Major Bob: You are correct; it was a huge miscalculation — but not initially. The Chief of Staff of the Army at the time, General Eric Shinseki, testified before congress that several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed in order to create a stable and secure environment after the invasion. This was met with total rejection by the secretary of defense's office. Mr. Wolfowitz, the assistant secretary of defense, said the estimate in congressional testimony by Gen. Eric Shinseki, was "wildly off the mark." He said it was difficult to understand how someone could predict that the occupation would require more troops than the invasion itself.  What the politicians forgot was General Shinseki based his analysis (not prediction) on his 30 years of service of experience in uniform.  The lesson to be learned here is that war fighting should be left to the war fighters...not politicians.

Why didn't we seal the borders first, and then begin operations? — Jason (Boulder, CO)

Major Bob: Sealing the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iran would have required hundreds of thousands of troops. Doing this prior to an invasion was impossible. However, the Iraqi Army could have been used, after the fall of the regime, to accomplish this task. Unfortunately the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer made this impossible by essentially firing the Iraqi military. This move was the most serious tactical blunder in the post-war campaign and continues to plague Coalition efforts daily.

Why don't we deal with the governments whose citizens are flooding across the borders? Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, for example. — Greg (Sayville, NY)

Major Bob: This is the best question I have read. The flow of insurgent forces into Iraq occurred several months prior to the invasion. Syria and Iran began a major build up of insurgent forces in the Al Anbar region of Iraq. Because the borders remain open and cross border infiltrations happen on a daily basis, it really doesn't matter how many bad guys Coalition forces kill — they will be replaced. Making matters worse, the Iranians are providing funds to Iraqis that assist them in providing safe haven for these insurgent groups. The Iraqis accept these funds because the Coalition Provisional Authority, under Paul Bremer disenfranchised the military, Sunni, and former Baath Party members by telling them they have little to no future in Iraq. This creates what I refer to as "the sinking boat effect." The boat is taking on water and the military is authorized to only bail out the water. The problem is the holes in the boat need to be filled and only the White House through the State Department can do that, and to date they haven't.

With all the high-tech materials we have for war, why is there not a knockout gas that could be used to temporarily subdue the resistance and allow troops to easily march in and recover weapons?  — Jim (Denver, CO)

Major Bob: While this seems like a safe course of action that would reduce collateral damage and save American lives, I shudder to think what the world response would be to the U.S. using "chemical weapons" to solve the problems in Iraq when the reason for going to war was based on Saddam having chemical weapons which, we haven't found yet.

What I don't understand is why Major Bob Bevelacqua repeatedly tries to urge restraint in an area where the only thing those people understand and respect is FORCE! — Ed (Orlando, FL)

Major Bob: Good question. The goal of the insurgents is to coax Coalition forces into retaliating in as aggressive a manner as possible in built up areas. Their intent is to create a base of support in Iraq and the Middle East by portraying the U.S. as an occupational army that kills civilians. Up to this point we have been very cautious in our response and several hundred civilians have been killed. Can you imagine how many would have died if we took the gloves off?!

Major Bob Bevelacqua is a former U.S. Army Green Beret with a 17-year history of worldwide military experience, including combat in the Gulf War; riot control during the L.A. riots; a peacekeeping mission in Haiti, security assistance missions in West African countries; and numerous anti-drug missions on the U.S. border with Mexico.