Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point

This is not good. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and
Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the Army's condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.

US soldiers inspect the site of a roadside bomb which exploded near a US patrol in Kirkuk, 255 north of Baghdad. Five US troops were killed Monday in separate incidents across Iraq.(AFP/Marwan Ibrahim)

You have to wonder about the current state of the Army, when a Pentagon study comes out saying that the Army is close to a breaking point. This is what happens when you have a military that is used up by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the neocons in enacting their Project for a New American Century as a new US foreign policy. The neocons have pretty much used up the military in their quest for American imperialism. And now, it is coming back to haunt them.

The Bush administration has two stark choices here--pull out of Iraq, or add more troops. So far, Bush has refused to pull any troops out--countering that pulling the troops out would amount to a US surrender to the insurgents. Unfortunately, they can't keep current operations going on indefinitely--especially with a growing American apprehension and public disapproval to the war. Any type of US pullout would taint the Bush White House as enacting a "Vietnamization" strategy, similar to the US pullout of Vietnam and the subsequent US loss during the Vietnam War. The Pentagon has been hinting towards a partial pullout of US troops (A mini Vietnamization anyone?). But even a partial pullout of troops could embolden the insurgents to increase their attacks on US forces. The second option is to increase the number of US troops in Iraq as a means to put down the insurgency. But the military won't be able to increase their manpower through volunteer recruitment, considering that they've already added greater enlistment bonuses and incentives to attract recruits. The Pentagon can continue adding more bonuses and incentives, but I wonder how many more young Americans are going to take advantage of such incentives, as the war continues to sour the American public. So we come to the draft. The draft is certainly one way for the military to increase their manpower, and to add more troops in Iraq. But the political and social costs of a draft could be high. Is the Bush White House willing to accept the possible costs of large-scale student, and young American protests against the draft as we've seen with the anti-war movement during Vietnam? Forcing a draft on young Americans could also force an empowerment of those young Americans to the voting booths--perhaps evicting the Republicans in Congress, and possibly the presidency in 2008? A third cost could also be the baby boomers, as they would be witnessing the drafting of young Americans to fight an unpopular war--forcing their children to experience what they had to go through during the Vietnam era? Is the Bush administration willing to go down this path? I can't say yet.

But here is the Bush administration's response to this Pentagon report:

Krepinevich's analysis, while consistent with the conclusions of some outside the Bush administration, is in stark contrast with the public statements of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior Army officials.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey, for example, opened a Pentagon news conference last week by denying the Army was in trouble. "Today's Army is the most capable, best-trained, best-equipped and most experienced force our nation has fielded in well over a decade," he said, adding that recruiting has picked up.

Rumsfeld has argued that the experience of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the Army stronger, not weaker.

"The Army is probably as strong and capable as it ever has been in the history of this country," he said in an appearance at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington on Dec. 5. "They are more experienced, more capable, better equipped than ever before."

Krepinevich said in the interview that he understands why Pentagon officials do not state publicly that they are being forced to reduce troop levels in Iraq because of stress on the Army. "That gives too much encouragement to the enemy," he said, even if a number of signs, such as a recruiting slump, point in that direction.

So far, the administration is playing a wait-and-see attitude regarding the current state of Army's condition. The Pentagon will continue to increase their enlistment incentives, and push more stop-loss orders for soldiers whose enlistment contracts are about to expire. The Bush White House will continue these delaying tactics, as they also increase their campaigning on the "war on terrorism," and national security issues, in hopes of maintaining the Republican control of Congress during the 2006 midterm elections. The big question is, how long will it take before the Army does break down? Will the Army be able to maintain its operations until after the midterm elections? The Pentagon may announce some small troop withdrawals before the midterm elections, as a White House political move to keep the Republicans in control of Congress. But such withrawals could be temporary--especially if the insurgents step up their own attacks on US forces as the midterm elections get closer.

There are so many variables here, with each variable showing a situation in Iraq going from bad to worst.


nightshift66 said...

Many variables, but one constant: that this administration resolutely refuses to pay for its choices. From the budget to FEMA to Iraq/war on terra to tax cuts to... well, frankly, every decision it has made, these people pass the bill to others, whether the cost is political, opportunity cost, or monetary. And these claim to be the responsible ones?? Insane.

Of course, there is a historic precedent for a national leader who continually directed hollowed out or long-gone divisions from his bunker without regard for reality, but... eh, why go there, right?

Eric A Hopp said...

Nightshift: You're right that there is only one constant here--the Bush administration refuses to pay for any of these costs, while forcing our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to pay for them in either higher taxes or higher interest rates. And while the federal government is swimming in red ink, the Bush White House is cutting taxes to their rich elites. It is incredible. What is more, Bush may never have to pay any political, opportunity, or economic costs for the disasterous decisions he's made over the last five years--but the next president, if that president is a Democrat--will. And the Republican political establishment will blame the said unnamed Democratic president for the US economic collapse, while spouting the same old, tired, supply-sided, trickle-down economic programs that have gotten our country in trouble in the first place.

I haven't heard of the analogy between Bush, and that "national leader who continually directed hollowed out or long-gone divisions from his bunker withough regard for reality," but I sort of wonder if such an analogy might come up again on many other websites over the next couple of years.