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July 14, 2005

Gloom, despair, and agony on me...

Hmmmm. Interesting confluence of stuff here the last two days. The Dems are playing serious ball to get the White House back - and Hillary is in the thick of it (this is the same article I linked to yesterday - stay with me, I'm not suffering from Alzheimer's). They are trying to show they *can* be tough on Defense. (If this *is* a true change in spots, you can thank the GOP for forcing it)

We have Morning Sun commenting on that post:

First thing that came to my mind since the Dems suggest it so often is a Draft.

Odd at a time when quote " recruitment numbers are down " that thinking to increase troop strength is the thing to do.

But don't ask me. I can't make any sense of what polititians do , let alone the most liberal ones.

We aren't just concerned about recruitment. We also have some retention issues, though while they report out well, in some places, there *is* a dark side to it. There are some ugly stories - but that doesn't mean the Army is "trapping" everybody with threats of stop-loss. But I don't doubt this happens:

Lisa from Washington State writes:

My son in law in Iraq said they are being pressured round the clock to re-enlist or face stop loss. They are being offered $30,000 signing bonus, tax free and told if they don't re-enlist, they are going to be stop-lossed and get zero dollars. They are pushing the troops round the clock and Mark only got 3 hours sleep in 48 hours and when they get back, they are faced yet again with re-enlisting. Mark said many guys are scared and signing up and their families at home are very upset. (with good reason) We really need to push our media and congressmen to expose the horrible way our troops are being treated.

The above comes from Cindy Sheehan's portion of Lew Rockwell's site - Ms. Sheehan is the Founder of Gold Star Mother's for Peace - just so you know where her bias lies, however hard-earned it is. H/t, Jim C.

Junior officers are leaving in higher numbers than we'd like.

More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks spawned an era of unprecedented strain on the all-volunteer military, it is scenes like this that keep the Army's senior generals awake at night. With thousands of soldiers currently on their second combat deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and some preparing for their third this fall, evidence is mounting that an exodus of young Army officers may be looming on the horizon.

While always worrisome, it is *also* not unexpected. I went to these seminars as a young officer. The corporate world *wants* these guys and will pay for them. The Army *is* a dangerous place to be a combat arms officer - and family members are weighing in on these decisions, too - even more than when times are relatively quiet. So, the fact that people are deciding they've had enough is not unusual. And there has always been attrition - and, the pyramid narrows, too. But yes, it needs to be watched. The real downside to this is who leaves... many times, it's the best and the brightest/most motivated... leaving behind the slugs like me who couldn't make it on the outside. At least that's what I was told by the trolls last year during the run-up to the election.

Then you've got the Army-funded study that sez... the Army isn't big enough, as related in this Chicago Tribune article by Michael Kilian.

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has consistently rejected any contention that the Army is stretched too thin in fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a new Army study has concluded the service is so strained that the U.S. will soon "need to decide what military capabilities the Army should have and what risks may be prudent to assume."

Numerous critics and outside defense policy groups have warned that the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has taxed the Army so badly that it will have difficulty meeting any new crises elsewhere, but the new assessment comes from an in-house undertaking prepared by the RAND Corp.'s Arroyo Center, the Army's federally funded research institute.

"The challenge the Army faces is profound," senior RAND analyst Lynn Davis, lead author of the report, said in a statement accompanying the study. "Any approach is fraught with risks and uncertainties, along with significant costs and some possible changes in the Army's long-term goals."

If you'd like to read the whole study, rather than Kilian's opinion of it, click here (full disclosure, I haven't read it all yet)

Context is important here - the study compares and contrasts the Army against the two-Major Regional Conflict requirement... which we know at this point, the Army simply can't do. So, we either reshape the forces *or* we redefine what it is we need them to do - and the 2 MRC strategy is a little dated, and not just by events. The Quadrennial Defense Review process is coming up - you can bet things are going to change. Something else about peace-timing 'strategerizing' - what results is almost always, in the final analysis, budget-driven, and we tend to then say what we can afford fits what we need. Wartime *always* provides a focus and spur absent in peacetime planning. And that affects everybody in the process, the DoD, the President, and the Congress - and your willingness to shoulder the tax burden, expressed via the ballot box. Don't fool yourself. We (collectively) are just as responsible, because we're human, and we tend to hear what we want to hear... until what we hear are bullets whistling overhead.

The Army is restructuring to better be able to fight this kind of war - accepting the risk that large-scale conventional combat is unlikely in the short-to-mid-term time frame. The 2nd Infantry Division just completed it's restructure into the new Unit of Employment organization - and did so two years earlier than planned... pressure of operations, and a recognition we had to make changes *now* not later. There will undoubtedly be fallout from doing it that fast. But what the hell - we'll get savaged for doing it, and savaged for not doing it - so you might as well just drive on, because *someone* will always grind your face in it for whatever reason motivates them.

Things look bleak, eh? Welcome to wartime. Things were going swimmingly in October 1944, then came December 16 and suddenly there was a huge hole in Allied lines in the Ardennes. Then in May 1945, the war in Europe was over. Only then the German insurgency started... which lasted until 1947. Then the Russians detonated their own nuke... and then the North Koreans tried to summer in the the South... and, well, you get the idea. Comparing WWII - Korea to Iraq is really *not* a fruitful exercise of direct comparison - what I'm really after here is an illustration that, per our buddy Karl von Clausewitz, "War is the province of uncertainty."

And finally (ya listening Jack?) some senior administration officials are admitting that mistakes were made.

Douglas J. Feith, a top Pentagon official who was deeply involved in planning the Iraq war, said that there were significant missteps in the administration's strategy, including the delayed transfer of power to a new Iraqi government, and that he did not know whether the invading U.S. force was the right size.

All bad news, right? Yep. Disaster? Must run from it? Flee? Build an even larger, more expensive force? Hell, I dunno.

Except we can't run from it. We owe it to the Iraqis to stick it out - but they have to do their part, too. Because if they won't, or can't, then yes, we can leave - honorably, after having afforded them the chance to try a new path. But it may take as long as it's taking in the Balkans, people.

As LTG Petraeus notes in Trudy Rubin's article linked above:

"I believe it is not only possible but imperative that the Iraqis take full ownership of their military and police institutions," Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. But Iraq's fragmentation makes it hard for an army to fight effectively, or its officers to lead well.

"It all comes down to skill and will," I was told by a senior U.S. officer. "Training can develop the skill, but the will must really be inspired by Iraqi leaders.

"In many respects," the officer continued, "the whole endeavor will increasingly rest on the ability of Iraqi leaders in the security forces and government to foster cooperation among factions. It will rest on their ability to convince as many Iraqis as possible - especially Sunni Arabs - to support the new Iraq and oppose the insurgents."

I believe this officer is correct.

Until Iraqi leaders can pull together, their security forces won't jell either. This makes U.S. policy heavily dependent on the uncertain abilities of Iraqis to forge some kind of domestic consensus.

As Maggie Thatcher said to Bush's father: "Don't go all wobbly on me, George."

You either.

Update: Here's a NYT article that lays out much more detail about what the Dems are asking for.

The lawmakers said they would introduce an amendment to the annual Defense Department authorization bill to raise the Army's authorized strength by 20,000 troops annually in each of the next four years, raising the total force to 582,400. Joining Ms. Clinton at a news conference announcing the proposals were three other Democratic senators, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Okay. Kewl. Now, I know how they'll want to fund it - take away the tax cuts. Got that. And, don't mind it, actually, if... if... does this mean that the Democrats actually intend to *use* these troops, to stay the course (in whatever fashion they formulate for a policy)?

In other words, Senators, great idea. Now, are you going to tell me what *your* foreign and defense policy will be that will actually employ these forces - or are we just going to add to the endstrength for a while, then end up firing a bunch of guys later, because, well, we were really just doing it in order to win the White House and stuff. In other words - this may not be a bad idea, but I'd like to see what your plans for 2009 and beyond are where these troops will be needed. Gonna keep 'em in Iraq? Afghanistan? Send 'em to Africa? And where ya gonna base 80K more people back stateside? Or will we bringing guys home from Europe and replacing them in Germany with these guys?

Because, I have some problems with the whole thing (which mirror, I suspect, Rumsfeld's.)

1. If we are trying to build divisions - that's a 2-4 year process that we could probably shorten to mebbe 2-3... but training space to do that is going to be tight. You don't just add 20,000 privates and call it a division. The WWII experience indicates it takes years. You have to train the individuals, then the platoons, the companies, the battalions, the regiments/brigades... *then* you can start organizing divisions.

2. But - we're not fighting as divisions, so we can probably take that down to 1-2 years.

3. Where is the cadre going to come from? Again, 80,000 privates doesn't help. You need Sergeants and Staff Sergeants, Lieutenants and Captains. They don't grow overnight. Then there's the senior guys... we're short Majors, too, and Sergeants First Class. They aren't going to come out of that 80K. Some of the junior officers can be grown from the enlisted ranks - at the expense of the NCO Corps.

4. And if the people won't volunteer... are you ready to draft? Which *still* won't help your junior officer and NCO problem.

5. So, guys - what's your plan? Do you *really* intend to stay the course in the Global War on Terror? Because if you don't - this is just smoke and mirrors, and a horrendous waste of resources.

6. You want to hollow out this Army - this is a *great* way to start. Time to show us the whole integrated plan that makes this a good idea, rather than just good politics.

Just sayin'.

John | Permalink | Comments (16) | Global War on Terror (GWOT) | Observations on things Military
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