Topic: Couldn't be so...
Military Matters: Are Our Leaders Slyly Anti-War?
We have enough troops in Iraq?
Paul Krugman in the New York Times ticked off a lot of Bush supporters with a column on Monday, May 30 - Too few, yet too many - that opened with this:
Oddly enough, having a close family member serving is Mosul (see his photos of Mosul here) one does tend to follow such items in the press.
Krugman cites a CBO (Congressional Budget Office) report from September of 2003 saying we had better start reducing the number of troops in Iraq soon. Why? We need to "maintain training and readiness levels, limit family separation and involuntary mobilization, and retain high-quality personnel." The CBO has this idea that the rule of thumb is this: no more than one third of the full-time forces overseas - except during emergencies.
What we have now?
Yes, and there is, as Krugman notes, the foot-dragging on armoring Humvees and the apparent policy of denying long-term disability payments to as many of the wounded as possible. He suggests these guys "seem almost pathologically determined to nickel-and-dime those who put their lives on the line for their country."
Well, calling the president and his subordinates pathological is not the way to effect change, as we all know. Calling people names just gets them to harden their positions.
So is this just one more liberal Times guy sputtering at the administration?
Tom Lasseter of Knight-Ridder Newspapers reports this two days later - U.S. Army officers in northwest Iraq say they don't have enough troops - and offers these details:
Of course that officer spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said he was concerned he'd be reprimanded for questioning military policy. Yes, Bush?s generals tell him they have enough troops.
Who is going to say different?
For the record, we learn this ?
So? Don?t use the word.
Krugman in the Times sees a pathology ? insisting we have enough troop and punishing those who disagree. Knight-Ridder and the Los Angeles Times try to report from the ground.
Last weekend in Press Notes (see Acknowledging the Dispute) we noted the growing conservative claims that the press was, on the whole, anti-military, and by extension anti-American, and by extension on the side of the enemy, and then by extension treasonous. Is that is what is going on here? Anti-American reporters in the field hunting down unhappy low-level commanders and getting them to say these things? Or just making it all up?
Maybe. Who are you to believe?
But we are facing some real shortages. Note that the Financial Times manages here to get the head of Army recruiting to say that "by the end of April the army had attracted only 35,926 soldiers towards its goal of 80,000 for the year ending in October," and then blame it on low unemployment ? and on the war too.
Something is amiss ? and in the June 2 Washington Post you?ll find what comes next - After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise: Some Youths and Parents Worry Despite Government's Assurances.
Hey, folks aren?t dumb. We have a problem.
But defining the problem is tricky.
And here is one part of it ? we get good people to join and stay ? but not perverts -
Okay, no comments on pathology. The Army Times covered the story earlier here. And we?ve let go of a lot of translators for the same reason, even if they were fluent in Arabic and other useful languages (see this from November of 2002, the first of many such actions).
We may be in trouble ? but if we go down it will be with straight guys, not queers? Okay, no comments on pathology.
But there may be a bigger problem ? a conceptual one. This has to do with Rumsfeld and his efforts to transform our Armed Services into a force of very few actual people and whole lots of whiz-bang technology.
James Wolcott puts in vividly in One-Man Wrecking Crew -
And Wolcott points to this from William Lind on June 2 -
Could it be that bad?
Maybe. Consider this from ABC News -
There?s some explaining to do? Got to put some lipstick on this particular pig ? and note June 10 is a Friday. Releasing bad news late in the day on Friday is an old Washington tradition ? you keep it out of the main news cycles. [See the footnote below for an example.]
Too you could consider this from Defense Tech -
Well, even to some of us on the anti-war left, this all seems like madness. We may not think this war was a good idea, and see that it has damaged the nation severely in too many ways to count. But to destroy the Army and other services in a slow train-wreck of bad decisions, driven by fear of gay men and a lust for high-tech gizmos, and a refusal to listen to the worries of the guys on the ground? No. We used to chant War is Not the Answer ? but we didn?t have this in mind.
Related items of interest ?
We won't solve the military manpower crisis by retaining our worst soldiers.
By Phillip Carter and Owen West - Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 3:54 PM PT
This is a discussion of a new Army directive that attempts to alleviate the personnel crunch by retaining soldiers who are earmarked for early discharge during their first term of enlistment because of alcohol or drug abuse, unsatisfactory performance, or being overweight, among other reasons. "By retaining these soldiers, the Army lowers the quality of its force and places a heavy burden on commanders who have to take the poor performers into harm's way. This is a quick fix that may create more problems than it solves."
It's the Manpower, Stupid
The president's recent speech about "military transformation" makes no sense.
By Fred Kaplan - Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 2:51 PM PT
"? transformation and high-tech weaponry are no substitutes for manpower. In fact, they require more manpower?especially better-educated, more highly skilled manpower. The new synergy between smart bombs, satellite intelligence, and computerized communications worked as well as it did during the first phase of the Iraq war precisely because the American troops were so highly skilled and educated. About 95 percent of the U.S. military's recruits had graduated from high school. They also scored much higher on aptitude tests than their civilian counterparts. The deterioration of these standards is what the military's real crisis is all about. Even if transformation were really the driving force behind Pentagon planning and spending?even if the weapons envisioned actually existed and worked, even if the concept were wise to begin with?none of it would matter unless the manpower crisis, the military's real crisis, were solved first."
The Pentagon on Wednesday postponed by more than a week the release of military recruiting figures for May and said they would release them Friday, June 10. Releasing bad news late in the day on Friday is an old Washington tradition ? you keep it out of the main news cycles.
Case in point ?
Pentagon Confirms Quran Incident at Gitmo
Robert Burns, Associated Press Military Writer
Friday, June 03, 2005 4:20 pm Pacific Time