Thursday, December 21, 2006

Commentary on a Larger Military

Periodically I run across Arkin's column, and usually I'm confronted with this guys complete lack of a clue. You'd think the discussion on increasing the size of the military would be something that he'd have an easy time discussing, but he wanders off topic immediately.
Five years after Sept. 11, barely five weeks after a losing election, the President of the United States decides America needs a larger military?

These guys can't see past today's events to craft a strategy for tomorrow.

They say that the Army and Marine Corps has been stretched to a breaking point, that more troops are needed to fight the "long war" against global terrorism.

I might be convinced that America might need a larger (or different) military to address the challenges it will face in the future. But what it needs FIRST is to get out of the Iraq, a move that would instantly alleviate the pressures on today's military.

What does leaving Iraq have to do with correcting the manning of the military? If you argue that it will solve the manning issue, you neglect the security problem with failing to finish the Iraq war correctly. Alleviating pressure on the military won't happen if Iraq gets worse. It may even cause more pressure. At this time most of the fight against terrorists is occurring in Iraq. I know there are many who say that they wouldn't be fighting us if we weren't there, but that argument is superfluous. We are in Iraq, and if we leave the terrorists will follow. Don't forget the lesson learned from Afghanistan. (Remember what happened to the Jihadis when the Russians left? Yeah, they started attacking the west.)

The point of increasing manning is that the US has shrunk the size of the military too far to be effective in multiple theaters. Iraq is a sizable theater, and the manning necessary has required the command to dip into the reserves and National Guard. The whining thereof has been deafening. But, does Arkin discuss the changes to make a more effective military? Nope, he wants a larger non-military.
And America needs a larger non-military. Whether it's Iraq, drugs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, hurricane Katrina, or the increase in domestic crime it is so clear only Washington can't see that our tendency to see a military solution to everything is not only wrong but has had profound negative effects.
There is a slight problem with this logic. Who is going to do the war on terror if not the military? What civilian agency is going to provide large numbers of personnel to work unarmed in a zone of conflict? It's not that the US sees a military solution in every problem, it's that the military solution generally is there first. The conflict in Afghanistan would not have found any solution in any non-military method. That should be clear. I understand Arkin obviously must think Saddam should still be in power, but that was a military solution that, like all insurgencies, requires more than just military solution. But to put forward that a solely non-military solution is possible in Iraq is blindly stupid.

Of course, he then goes on to denounce the Generals.

News also came yesterday that Gen. John Abizaid, the overall commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, plans to retire in March. The Arabic speaking Abizaid was once seen as a soothing tonic after the bumbling Gen. Tommy Franks skedaddled from the scene less than a month after "victory" in Iraq in 2003. Culturally aware, politically sensitive, polished, he has reportedly been offered higher posts in the government.

Some in the Pentagon view Abizaid's departure as part of a bigger plan for a "new" strategy in Iraq, as if he is responsible for putting us in the losing column. The conventional wisdom is that Abizaid has "resisted" efforts to increase troop levels. As I wrote on Monday, the truth is far more complicated.

But the truth is that if the Pentagon indeed is intent on doing something really different in Iraq, then it is a repudiation of what has already been done. Confirmation of this theory would mean that Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has to be the next to go, along with Gen. Peter Pace, who has turned out as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to be a visionless yes-man.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a leading candidate to replace Abizaid is Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, an even more polished, media-friendly, soldier intellectual, which commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the 2003 war. Petraeus later deployed to northern Iraq, where he led the early "training" effort of Iraq forces, and has since driven Army counter-insurgency doctrine from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Maybe Petraeus is the Godsend everyone says he is: I guess I see him instead as captain of two losing teams, the stand up/stand down strategy, which these same guys thought was working, and the now abandoned effort to defeat the insurgency and provide security for the population, a strategy that never was and a play book that is not even being eyed as the plan for the future.

Abizaid has been the CentCom commander longer than any other general. His moving out is pretty much the norm, though it does open up changes in the command structure. Not sure why he seems to dislike Petraeus. His experience with counter-insurgency is exactly what is needed for the military component and providing security. Especially if he goes along the historical successful doctrine of establishing government controlled militias which allow the Iraqis to provide their own security. Arkin seems to think that defeating the insurgency and providing security are not inclusive. In fact, they are, and all insurgencies that have succeeded have required both.

Unfortunately, Arkin is another of the talking heads that has little concept that insurgencies require complicated and multifaceted solutions. And since the overall solution hasn't been working, then it must be that it can't succeed. This continued defeatism in the press gets us no where and soon will ensure that the Iraq conflict ends with the public running away from another conflict.

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