There's A War On
Our big domestic conflict is over whether we're actually in a war against Islamofascism that has to be fought to the finish, or instead overreacting to an unlikely bit of random violence, which the bad guys aren't competent enough to repeat. This isn't just a Republican vs. Democrat issue. There's a division among government professionals, with the CIA and State department staff resisting the war view and trying to preserve the "stability" of the Middle East.
Now it looks like at least part of the US Army may be on the "not a war" side of the argument as well. The LA Times is quoting a "Pentagon official" as saying Iraq "is clearly a one-off. There is certainly no intention to do it again."
This doesn't match very well with the President's goal of spreading freedom through the region. Secretary Rice's declaration that we were in a generational struggle was heard by hawks on the home front, but doesn't seem to have an impact on budget planning. If we're going to meet that goal, we have to be in a position to do regime change and nation building repeatedly. Even if we don't actually do it, we have to be able to threaten it convincingly.
What would the Army look like if we were mobilizing for a long war? We'd be building up our troop strength, at least up to the 580,000 troops Colin Powell wanted as a "Base Force" in 1997.
We're adding some 30k to the current 480,000, but it's still well below the base force plan, let alone the 765,000 we had for Desert Storm.
It's not just that we're short on troops. The Army's covering current needs, the worry on the main force is more that there's not much to spare for a crisis in Iran, Korea, or elsewhere. But we're making the current units do double duty--training and equipping them for large-scale assault operations, then putting them to work on the occupation.
To support Iraq and future nation-building efforts properly, we should have a couple divisions of occupation troops--heavy on MPs, engineers, and civil affairs units, while keeping enough offensive strength to hold the area against invaders or insurgents. The reserves have been covering most of those needs, but a continual permanent need is not something the reserves should be responsible for. If we're doing it full time it should be an active duty force. (Readers of Thomas Barnett may recognize this as the SysAdmin force, just staffed with Americans)
The occupation divisions can rotate on a yearly schedule, but we should also have some people there on long-term assignments (3-5 years). This Atlantic article pointed out that standing up the Iraqi army is handicapped by both the shortage of trainers and their rapid turnover.
If someone's going for years you can justify an intensive Arabic course for him. Guarantee a promotion at the end of the tour and there'll be plenty of volunteers for the job.What!? Compromise the integrity of the promotion system?
Hell, yes. The obsession with promotions is already screwing up the US military system-wide. Bypassing it to support winning the war would be a sign that the Army is taking the war seriously, rather than staying focused on the aspiring careerists. For everyone still trapped in the old career system there should be bonus points for anything focused on the long-term war, such as passing an Arabic proficiency test. The military's culture has to focus on fighting in the middle east the way it used to on fighting in germany, because that's the war for the next generation.
Most of what I've said about the Army also applies to the Marines. The Air Force and Navy aren't the important services in the War Against Islamofascism, but there's still important contributions they can make. Such as voluntary budget cuts to support building up the ground forces. (Did I type that with a straight face? Yes, but it took it a couple of tries) Current Mood: worried