blogenlust
12.03.2004

We need more troops? Really?


Q: What do you get when you invade and occupy two large countries with organized and effective insurgencies? A: Quagmires? Q: Yes, of course, but what else? A: A dangerously overextended military??
With nearly all of the Army's 10 divisions serving in Iraq, preparing for deployment there or refitting from a combat tour in that country, there are few forces available to deal with a new major threat or emergency, military experts say. As Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, said at a congressional hearing last month, "I'm committed to providing the troops that are requested [for Iraq]. But I can't promise more than I've got." The Army is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) and maintaining a military presence in the Balkans, Germany, South Korea (news - web sites) and other foreign countries with a total force of just under 500,000. It had more than 800,000 under arms when it waged the brief Persian Gulf war in 1991. "You need a bigger Army if you're going to carry out the Bush national security strategy," said Lawrence Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. "Right now, you're really using the reserves at an unsustainable pace, and you're violating the norms that you have for deploying people overseas that you've established not only for equity but for retention." The U.S. has more troops in all branches serving abroad than it averaged from 1950 to 2003, and three times as many overseas as it had in December 2001, according to a study by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. "If you look at the world--and what we're likely to see in the future in terms of potential threats and areas where we need to be involved, either to deter or actually conduct operations--I think it's clear that we need a larger force than what we have," said Michelle Flournoy, a former deputy assistant defense secretary now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Yet Rumsfeld continues to hawk his lean, mean fighting machine transformation of the military, even in spite of the fact that our military has turned into an occupying force, and not a fighting force. Why he still has a job is beyond me. And what happened to the people who accurately predicted the number of troops we'd need to occupy a country twice the size of Idaho? Belittled, fired, and/or resigned. So we're now left with few options: the first is to dramatically increase the size of our military. We can do this by draft or we can do this by raising military pay and lowering qualifying standards. I would hope we went with the latter before we reinstate the draft, even though raising military pay will cost a lot of money that we don't really have (not that that should stop us). We could also take our troops out of Korea, Germany, the Balkans, and Columbia and re-distribute them to the US and the Middle East. In addition to being a huge sign of desperation, it would also leave us extremely vulnerable in parts of the world we need to remain stable. So this is probably unlikely in the short term. Finally, we could just pick up camp in Iraq, cut the number of troops we have there by half or more, and leave. Critics of this option often argue that our presence is so badly needed that if we left all hell would break loose. Clearly, these people aren't paying attention. We're there, and hell has been raining down on us so much we can't even secure the road to the Baghdad Airport. My guess is that we'll do option 1B (increase the military with pay incentives and lowered qualifying standards) until we find the right moment to declare Iraq a "Beacon of Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East. " Lastly, all of this should illustrate just how stupid it was for the press and the Right to collectively laugh at Kerry for wanting to restore our alliances. If this Administration had ever taken diplomacy serious, we might have had more non-US troops to help us out. Now, we're stuck with a dwindling coalition, and a situation in Iraq that couldn't be more uninviting to anyone crazy enough to flirt with the idea of sending their troops into the shit storm. I'm in a great mood this morning.