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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

War Strain to be Resolved by Surge

This post is based on an e-mail regarding the December 26th Washington Post article, "Military considers recruiting foreigners" written by Bryan Bender.

The well written article discusses the vital issue of citizenship and foreigners fighting in our military. I recommend the article, as it spells a controversial new direction that the US is taking in efforts to build troop strength. The article is available here.

At the bottom of this post I comment on the troop strength issue resolving itself in the corridors of the White House, beyond public scrutiny. The reality of a military collapse is being imposed over the need for more troops. The new reliance on non-US citizens is not only shocking, but clear proof of the scale of the troop deficiency and suggestive of an effort to mask the number of US war dead.

The e-mail, sent 12-27, follows. [This content has been revised from the original by the composer]

:::Start E-Mail:::
I thought your article "Military considers recruiting foreigners" explained the changing military recruitment environment and touched on the sensitive topic of whether Americans should use foreigners to fight their wars. [Link]

Alarm bells did go off though, when I read the following statement:
"Both President Bush and Robert M. Gates, his new defense secretary, have acknowledged that the total size of the military must be expanded to help alleviate the strain on ground troops, many of whom have been deployed repeatedly in combat theaters."

In your article you assert that Bush is seeking to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. This is not contested. You assume that the troop increases are the result of inadequate force in Iraq by attributing the increase to the need to "alleviate the strain on ground troops."

You infer that a troop strength buildup has come in response to recognition of Iraq policy failures by the Administration.

In assuming more troops are in response to the need for more troops, you give Bush credit for admitting error when he hasn't. You also establish the premise that troop strength increases are a product of a change in policy. Neither condition has been proven, nor has the troop increase in Iraq been linked to current strength inadequacy there by policymakers.

By attributing changes in policy to Bush and Gates, you are making their Iraq policy appear responsive and reasonable when it is fact static and irrational.

Apparently you aren't the only one presuming a correction in Iraq policy. In his article--also published on The Boston Globe--"Bush seeks to expand strained military," Washington Post's Peter Baker makes a similiar leap of logic, echoing the premise that Bush seeks more troops in response to the strain placed on the troops already there.

Recognizing the need for a troop increase has nothing to do with the failure of current troop levels in Iraq to achieve goals; recently the military expressed the need for better articulated goals from the Executive.

The troop level increases may be coming in direct response to the failure of Rumsfeld-era policies advocating a smaller military. However, Bush's call for increasing troop strength cannot be directly attributed at this point to any realization that troops strength in Iraq is too weak or an admission that a change in levels is needed.

In other words, Bush and Gates have not publicly admitted they are understrength. Nor do they admit that we need more troops, as such an admission would be tantamount to admitting error.

Bush is incapable--or at least extremely reluctant--to admit error. Unfortunately for our foreign policy, this means previous errors of judgement have been made permanent.

Bush is willing to expend any number of lives in his quest for vindication. Obviously the more obsessed he is with "winning"--or proving he's right--the less willing he is to admit he made a mistake. And if you think Bush doesn't maintain an obsession of being perfect and an almost childish aversion to correction, just ask his Yale professor (his comments here.) or look at Bush's prior responses when asked if he made mistakes...

I do like the fact you are bringing in the de facto changes to our military's make-up which have resulted from Iraq's drain on troop strength. Yet in the public narrative it's only coincidental--or made to appear so by Washingtonian spin--that the increase is tied to strain on our troops in Iraq. Orwellian, the War on Terror fixates not on the specific details of how we will fighting in this "long war" but rather progress is assumed and victory presumed.

Troop strength is being spun as a matter of manpower needs, not policy choices but rather broader goals. This may be an effort to masquerade manpower deficiencies in Iraq and Afghanistan as future needs in the War on Terror.
Reuters references the Washington Post on this issue:
"{Bush} tied the need for more soldiers to a broader fight against Islamic extremists around the world rather than specifically for the conflict in Iraq, the Post said." [Link]

Are they strained? Yes. It's incredible that we can call our Army an all-volunteer force when so many are brought back involuntarily. The effect on morale of forcing 2+ tours is unknown, especially combined with an increased likelihood of PTSD in returning soldiers forcibly sequestered. Just last week, in a tragic incident one Iraq veteran called back to service barricaded himself and was killed by police [Link].

Does the military need more, simply to sustain the effort? Yes. Your article on foreign troops is evidence of these truths. Yet recognizing the inadequacy of the course we're on must be clear and a change in policy obvious. It's not enough to presuppose a correction of policy when policymakers fail to admit fault with the current formula.

However bad the current situation, the Bush Administration persists in the notion victory is possible. Yet no substantive changes of policy are forthcoming; they are simply assumed to the logical offshoot of a sane policy when in fact the idea that more troops are needed simply clarifies the insanity of the current policy.

Instead the idea of bringing troop strength is being framed as a surge strategy, which avoids any defense of previous policy errors. CNN quotes Bush:
"Let me wait and gather all the recommendations from Bob Gates, from our military, from diplomats on the ground interested in the Iraqis' point of view and then I'll report back to you as to whether or not I support a surge or not." [Link]

I was shocked to hear that initial plans for a troop surge involved not bringing in new troops, but simply extending tours of duty among soldiers on their 2nd or 3rd tour!

Whatever the spin, troop strength issues are very real, and your article's correlation to historical trends is well done and demonstrates the scale of need. If anything, the troop shortage must be made clear to the American people. If the disproportionate price paid by our troops and their families in war goes unnoticed, the consequences of launching wars of aggression go unrecognized.

I would implore the Media to be less presumptive of Bush's capacity to change course and formulate sound policy in Iraq, and I remain highly skeptical of the MSM's ability to hold the Administration to account for its failed policies.

-JB Peebles

P.S. I maintain a blog at jbpeebles.blogspot.com, where I would very much like to post this letter at some point, as it has the makings of a good post.
:::End E-mail:::

My Comments

I appreciate the chance to recognize a policy schism within the Bush Administration on troop strength. The Mainstream Media is capable of blowing the issue into huge proportions but won't.

I made mention in this letter of a sister article written by Peter Baker of the Washington Post, entitled "Bush seeks to expand strained military," available here. The Boston Globe and WaPo must share resources, and most notably editorial discretion in assuming the strain is the reason for the troop buildup.

The second article reinforces the point made in Bender's article, that Bush has in fact recognized the inadequacy of his Iraq policy based on the strain it's caused. Such an admission would give false hope to the premise that a meaningful change of policy is upcoming, something not altogether different from the brief ray of hope fanned by the Media in the run-up to the Iraq Studies Group report.

Is the idea of building troop strength a sign that editors in the Mainstream want the strain acknowledged? The scope of the problem is undeniable and Bender hits on the vital issue of whether Americans should fight their own wars.

I guess those responsible for our defense failed to anticipate the possibility that the conflict would drag on as long as it has. The Selective Service recently a trial run of the system responsible for drafting young Americans.

The war is being transformed into something more sustainable. Yet, as I write in my blog, jbpeebles.blogspot.com, Iraq has boxed in the President. The conflagration worsens, and the limits on military force strain the policy. Global US credibility has been damaged; support from our allies has never been so strained in coming.

Without credible non-military solutions, the response framework to international crisis appears starved of diplomatic alternatives. In an odd twist of coincidence, Islamic radicals and proponents of military action in the Bush Administration share a twisted vision of conflict ever closer to reality. Rather than let the consequences dictate our future circumstances, the US must attack now, some would say, justifying preemption on the inevitable certainty that a Muslim nation will get the bomb. In our stalwart effort to defend the empire, we only engender more violence and hate, increasing the desire to possess WMD as a strategic equalizer to US and Israeli hegemony. Theoretically, the presence of future WMD justifies intervention now.

Turks, in the massacre of Armenians during WW1, were asked why they killed little Armernians, children. They answered, "because they will become big Armenians one day."

The cycle of violence and retaliation is inevitable if the possibility of future violence justifies the certainty of murder now. By this classification, anyone who could possibly hurt you must perish regardless of final arbitration. Unless we are somehow capable of managing such a horrific strategy ourselves, we can never exert enough preemption. We can only sow more violence.

The shortfall in soldiers is a symptom. Yet in trying to control Iraq, we can only send in more and strain our manpower ever more. In this sense we can't quench the fire by adding more tinder.




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