Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Skelton and the Reason Why Wars Aren't Fought by Committees

I was really hoping that Bush would announce some interim steps to some major announcement to what the action in Iraq will be. The political opinions floating around are pretty much useless. Mainly due to the fact that they don't actually have a say in what will be the actions taken and the political games are doing nothing but confuse the public as to what action is planned. Skelton is a perfect example:
Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, who will become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next month, said he opposes any temporary increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to help secure Baghdad.

"I don't think it will change a thing," Skelton told reporters today in Washington. "It could exacerbate the situation further.''

President George W. Bush is exploring sending more troops to Iraq to help quell violence and train Iraqi security forces, White House spokesman Tony Snow said today.

Skelton said additional U.S. forces deployed in Iraq would have an undefined mission and send the wrong message to the Iraqi government about their role in securing the country.

"The Iraqis need to understand the responsibility for their future is theirs," he said.
Only a couple of problems with this. First, there hasn't been any announcement that there will be additional troops sent. Second, there hasn't been any statement of what said troops would do. Reports regarding discussions seem to point to the Generals not wanting to send more troops or to their desire that troops sent will have a clearly defined mission. That mission at present is vaguely to provide security in Baghdad. I would hope that those military planners are trying to look at just what the mission specifics are and where the deployments would be used. Skelton's statement implies that the troops are going and that they will have no mission. Another case of a politician talking for the press coverage, but not attached to reality.
Skelton called the conflict in Afghanistan "the forgotten war" and said his committee would examine battles with al-Qaeda forces on the Pakistani border and the country's growing drug production.

Additionally, Skelton said the committee would focus on the fight against terrorism in other countries, ensuring that the military has all the resources it needs, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and ensuring that U.S. armed forces are prepared for future threats.

"We always seem to prepare for the last war, and we can't do that now," he said.

Skelton dismissed calls by other Democrats, including Representative Charles Rangel of New York, on the need for a military draft. He said current recruiting levels are sufficient to sustain the armed forces.
Skelton isn't totally wrong about Afghanistan, but the stability there is better than Iraq, and quite frankly will have less of an impact on the region than failure in Iraq.

As for the troop preparedness, I think we can be worried about that. I don't have much confidence that Gates will be one to stand up to the entrenched military leadership and continue the updating of the military that Rumsfeld started. I truly hope he has the muscle to continue forcing the military out of the near peer mind set and make a more agile and responsive military. His statement about being prepared for the last war is humorous, seeing that is a rut the US can't seem to ever break out of. I'd postulate that the political games played with funding are nearly as responsible for the behind-the-times nature of the military as much as the behind the times generals.

Now the question of the House Armed Services Committee's activities in the near term. How will they move toward upgrading the military. It's good to see that Skelton is at least on board with the increase in overall troop levels.
Still, Skelton told reporters that since the mid-1990s he has said that the Army and Marines Corps were too small. He pointed to remarks last week by Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker calling for a gradual increase in the Army's 507,000- person force as an issue the committee will review.

"We are going to have to pay attention to this," Skelton said. "You are stretching and straining the force, and if you want a strong, viable military, you're going to have to make it possible for them to have `predictable' lives."

"I worry that at some point you are going to break these forces," Skelton added. "The first thing we need to do is stop the bleeding. The stretching and the straining of the troops is serious."
"Predictable lives?" What in the hell is he talking about? The nature of the military is that its need is not predictable. If the troops lives are predictable then the military's abilities and actions are predictable, and that is a bad thing. I'm hoping he's not looking to go back to the Reserve and National Guard status where they don't ever get used except for national disasters.

I also wonder what Skelton's stand was when the Clinton administration was "decreasing the size of the government."

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