Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Government, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 6:32 am

Many conservative commentators, including yours truly, have recently come out in favor of sending more troops to Iraq to deal with the increased levels of sectarian violence as well as the continuing insurgency. Most recently, two high profile hawks have done a 180 degree turn and called for an infusion of troops to get a handle on the security situation in Baghdad. Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol wrote in the Washington Post that their previous stance on the “small footprint” in Iraq was mistaken and that only a substantial increase in our military presence can bring order to the Iraqi capitol and its immediate environs:

The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment. This means the ability to succeed in Iraq is, to some significant degree, within our control. The president should therefore order a substantial surge in overall troop levels in Iraq, with the additional forces focused on securing Baghdad.

There is now no good argument for not sending more troops. The administration often says that it doesn’t want to foster Iraqi dependency. This is a legitimate concern, but it is a second-order and long-term one. Iraq is a young democracy and a weak state facing a vicious insurgency and sectarian violence. The Iraqis are going to be dependent on us for some time. We can worry about weaning Iraq from reliance on our forces after the security crisis in Baghdad has passed.

This is all well and good - if there were indeed additional troops to send. And if this piece in The New Republic is to be believed, the problem isn’t only in the numbers of combat ready personnel that are available for deployment to Iraq (or anywhere else we might need them) but also the quality of those troops and the condition of the equipment they would be using on the battlefield:

Combat-readiness worldwide has deteriorated due to the increased stress on the Army’s and the Marines’ equipment. The equipment in Iraq is wearing out at four to nine times the normal peacetime rate because of combat losses and harsh operating conditions. The total Army–active and reserve–now faces at least a $50 billion equipment shortfall. To ensure that the troops in Iraq have the equipment they need, the services have been compelled to send over equipment from their nondeployed and reserve units, such as National Guard units in Louisiana and Mississippi. Without equipment, it’s extremely difficult for nondeployed units to train for combat. Thus, one of the hidden effects of the Iraq war is that even the troops not currently committed to Iraq are weakened because of it.


But the decline in equipment readiness is nothing compared with the growing manpower crisis. The Army is trying to keep the dam from breaking, but it is running out of fingers and toes. After failing to meet its recruitment target for 2005, the Army raised the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 40 in January–only to find it necessary to raise it to 42 in June. Basic training, which has, for decades, been an important tool for testing the mettle of recruits, has increasingly become a rubber-stamping ritual. Through the first six months of 2006, only 7.6 percent of new recruits failed basic training, down from 18.1 percent in May 2005.

Alarmingly, this drop in boot camp attrition coincides with a lowering of recruitment standards. The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005, and the Army has doubled the number of non-high school graduates it can enlist this year. Even as more allowances are made, the Government Accountability Office reported that allegations and substantiated claims of recruiter wrongdoing have increased by 50 percent. In May, for example, the Army signed up an autistic man to become a cavalry scout.

These are extremely troubling figures, especially boot camp attrition and the lowering of educational standards. Part of this is surely the result of a roaring economy as the military has to compete with private industry for soldiers to fill the ranks. And the good news is that retention is still excellent - especially in theaters of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, those who have served in the war zones feel they have a personal stake in seeing the job through to the end.

But dedication, bravery, and the will to win - something our military has demonstrated time and time again are attributes they have in abundance - get a modern army only so far. And if what Korb et al are reporting is true - and I have no reason to believe otherwise - our military is not ready for the challenges it will almost certainly face in the very near future.

What can be done? Simply throwing money at the problem is not the entire solution. A redirection in spending priorities would help alleviate the material problems in the long term. But a question to be asked is Donald Rumsfeld the man to lead this effort? I have been blunt in my criticism of the Defense Secretary, mostly for his myopic and disingenuous pronouncements on our progress against the insurgency in Iraq. But this kind of criticism goes directly to the heart of Secretary Rumsfeld’s philosophy of a “leaner more agile” military that he brought with him to the office in 2001. This was before Iraq, before Afghanistan, before 9/11 and before the forces of Islamic fascism have been emboldened to regain lost ground in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theater as well as the election of a certified fanatic in Tehran.

The cost and technical sophistication of our weapons and equipment were largely designed to meet the Soviet threat of the 1980’s. Most our our primary weapons platforms today - tanks, armored vehicles, air craft - are improved and enhanced versions of systems designed in the 1980’s. Indeed, war planning at that time envisioned a short, violent confrontation with the Red Army where we would use up our pre-positioned stocks of war material in one huge effort to beat back the Soviets. Anything else was unthinkable in that the longer a conflict went on, the more likely one side or the other would go nuclear. Better to quickly and decisively defeat Soviet arms and forestall such an eventuality.

By necessity, we sacrificed durability for sheer technical battlefield dominance. It goes without saying that the more complex a machine, the more chances there are for something to breakdown. This is apparently true in Iraq where weather and overuse may be stretching the design specifications of much of our equipment to the limit.

The equipment problems will not be solved overnight. A $50 billion shortfall cannot be made up in a year or two. And while it is worrisome, the problems with material pale in comparison to the difficulties in attracting the quality and quantity of personnel needed to fight the war effectively. Whether the problems can be rectified with increased incentives and other monetary enticements is not the issue. The issue is that if these problems do indeed exist, precious little has been done to address them to date.

If it’s broke, let’s fix it before these problems become so severe that the military will be unable to respond to the many challenges that hover ominously just over the horizon.


  1. Let’s see, the Bushies have spent half a trillion dollars in five years on two land wars that have cost us thousands of dead and 10s of thousands of wounded, all supposedly in response to the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001.

    Are we winning those 2 wars? No.

    Do those currently in charge have a feasible plan for winning those two wars? No.

    Is our military coping well with the daunting challenges that have been laid at their door by the current civilian leadership? No.

    Have we caught the people respnsible for instigating the attacks that killed 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil 5 years ago? No.

    Failure on a historic level, Rick. And when you consider that the war in Iraq was begun (if we are being charitable) on premises that later turned out to be groundless, then we must start to consider whether those currently running the show might not be up to the task.

    Fire Rumsfeld? Seems a rather light consequence. How about ringing him and a few others up on charges of dereliction of duty and rank incompetence? Certainly the product they have turned out merits at least considering the idea.

    Certainly we as Americans cannot be expected to stand for such lousy service from those we have employed to run our govt.

    Comment by Salty Party Snax — 9/14/2006 @ 9:08 am

  2. Rick

    I could not agree with you more in this post. The military planners should have figured out that the “small foot print” strategy was the wrong way to go a long time ago. Unfortunately they did not. Committing more troops would be the optimal solution, if they are avaliable but they do not seem to be.

    If more troops cannot be found, we should scale back the mission. We could redeploy to Kurdish areas and monitor the situation to make sure the areas we abandon do not fall under the control of terrorists. This is just a suggestion.

    I agree with you that Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced. I suggest Senator Lindsay Graham or General Eric Shinseki, if either of these people would be willing.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/14/2006 @ 9:59 am

  3. I believe two reasons retention is so high are: 1.) very high bonuses and 2.) you’ll get called from IRR and have to fight anyway.

    Now, why the tinge of doubt on the equipment issues? Murtha has pointed that out for some time now. Others before him.

    If you want a bigger footprint, you need a draft. To ramp up that equipment short-fall, you need to increase government spending, or cut programs like Star Wars II. (The Empire Stikes Back)

    Now, why do you think it’s the Stryker Brigade (Vehicles) called on for extended duty. Guess what? They are going back in May. They should have returned to Alaska in August. Now they will be there till January. Then they go back in May. That’s 3 months vacation! Why them? Brand.New.Trucks. The old National Guard trucks that they are using to train (and in Iraq) are collapsing in a month.

    If those ideas are unsavory, you need to redeploy over the horizon — like in Kurdistan.

    So, what do you do?

    Comment by Chris — 9/14/2006 @ 11:50 am

  4. Recomend: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/13/AR2006091301575.html

    Comment by Chris — 9/14/2006 @ 12:07 pm

  5. I am actually coming around to the view that the sit/rep in Pakistan-Afghanistan as well as our precarious position in Iraq plus the aggressiveness of the Iranians is going to require some of the prescriptions you offer above.

    Higher taxes? Yes, although why cut a program (missile defense) that is just starting to show promise?

    And I think you’re shortchanging our people by chalking up re-enlistment to the reasons you gave. Anecdotal evidence would indicate the reason that I gave is also a strong inducement.

    The Murtha-Democrat critique in this regard has always been tinged with rank partisanship in that they seek to assign blame not fix the problem. And you are the second person I’ve noticed in the last few days to recommend a redeployment to the north while letting the Sunnis and Shias have at each other.

    I’d rather we up and leave than prolong our stay there if that is going to be our plan.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 9/14/2006 @ 12:08 pm

  6. It matters not a fig what our plan is. The Sunnis and the Shias will fight for dominance in Iraq regardless of what we do. Iran will continue to provide support for their fellow Shias in Iraq and will escalate that support as needed to prevent excessive Sunni control of their next door neighbor.

    “Cut and run” is a cute slogan. “Realizing you have made a severe mistake in judgement and need to drastically change course” doesn’t have the same cuteness and jingoistic appeal, but it is an unmistakable fact that must be faced.

    Iraq is not, has never been, and never will be the central stage for the war on terror. And Rumsfeld’s “lean, mean fightin’ machine” idea was an all-in bet that has been beaten by a jack high hand. Leave the table immediately, sir.

    When the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that your “stay the course” is a refusal to turn the steering wheel when you are clearly headed for a tree is no longer a strength, but sheer stupidity. One last bromide, some problems do not have a fix. A car eventually reaches a place where fixing it is no longer a viable solution. You need a new car. Such is our war in Iraq. Time for a trade-in, she can’t be fixed

    Comment by ed — 9/14/2006 @ 1:55 pm

  7. Rick, thanks for your response. The Kurdistan option was advanced by Galbraith.


    As for my comments on retention, they are a guess. Just as this was a guess:

    “These are extremely troubling figures, especially boot camp attrition and the lowering of educational standards. Part of this is surely the result of a roaring economy as the military has to compete with private industry for soldiers to fill the ranks.”

    Boot camp is easier today than at any point in the all volunteer army.

    But, let’s just say I know people factoring in their deployment schedules with IRR.

    I’d rather we dig down deep or up and leave. The present course is absolutely the worst possible direction.

    Comment by Chris — 9/14/2006 @ 3:07 pm

  8. The problem with sending in more troops is that while we may help in the short-term resolution of terrorist and civil disturbances, the long-term solution will solely depend upon Iraq. These problems will return when we exit regardless of the current situation.

    Adding more troops at this time would mainly solve the political situation at home. Iraq now has between 250,000 and 300,000 troops and policemen trained and to not let them be responsible for their problems would be worse.

    I also believe that Rumsfeld is correct in his view of a more streamlined military. With that philosophy comes the idea that we no longer consider long-term military occupation. This may and in truth seems to be changing by the moment with South America and others becoming so belligerent towards the US. All of these events point to an ever-increasing need for a large military.

    Comment by Deagle — 9/14/2006 @ 3:39 pm

  9. Ed

    Without a larger commitment to Iraq you are right it likely can’t be fixed. Even with a larger deployment, there is no guarantee that this would fix the problem. At this point, I’m not optimistic that more troops would help us much, int he long run. “Stay the course”, while a cute slogan, appears to be a terrible option. Since we aren’t going to commit, the best thing to do would be to withdraw to Kurdish areas. Also, with the increased threats from Russia, China, and South America I don’t think a larger troop commitment to Iraq is in our national security interests.


    It’s interesting you mentioned South America. I’ve noticed the same thing. I think this is part of what our Iraq policy has wrought. While focusing on Iraq, we may have taken our eyes off of South America. This has allowed Russia and China to establish a Communist beach head. Russia and China are far greater threats than Iraq or terrorists ever have been.


    I agree. We either dig down deep or leave. It will probably be latter. At this time, I’m unsure we have the troops to commit or the will to commit them, if we did. I’m not even sure a greater troop commitment serves American security interests. If we leave, it should be done now without delay. In the final analysis, it was going to be up the Iraqis whether or not they could achieve a Democratic form of government but I don’t think we ever commited the appropiate resources to give this a reasonable chance of success.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/14/2006 @ 4:00 pm

  10. Chris

    Thanks for the NY Times article!! I think the ambassador nails it. He expressed my thoughts, only he expressed them more articulately than I could.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/14/2006 @ 4:15 pm

  11. Poster,

    Well, I took the NY Times article with a large grain of salt (too many presumptions and opinions of the author). If you agree with him that we must remove ourselves from Iraq, then what are the consequences?

    More terrorism - we are seen much weaker in the Mideast and elsewhere.

    South America along with Russia and China see us weaker and advance their efforts to undermine us.

    So the position that you agree with would leave us much weaker and open to increased terrorism.

    I’m not sure there is a better solution, but to withdraw from Iraq may be flawed. Tis a tough situation in todays world.

    Comment by Deagle — 9/14/2006 @ 4:28 pm

  12. Deagle

    Thanks for the reply to my post. I also take those articles with a grain of salt. The article is from an “op-ed contributor.” As such, it is an opinion article.

    As I see it we have basiclly three options. 1.) We “stay the course.” With this scenario we don’t have enough troops to actually secure the country and disarm the militias. Dan Senor who is formerly of the Coalition Provisional Authourity recently admitted this. If this is going to be what we choose, we hope the Iraqis we train will be up to the task of defending their country. We hope the the now liberated Iraq will not become greater Iran and we hope the liberated Iraq will be allied with the US, in the GWOT. Allot of this is based on hope. I don’t like policies based on hope. In any event, the “stay the course” policy does not seem to be working very well right now. 2.)We commit more troops. This gives us the opportunity to get security under control and it gives the Democratic process a greater chance of succeeding. This will result in more American casualties. Also, in the final analysis, whether or not Iraq can achieve a stable Democracy will be up to the Iraqis, however, without someone to provide security the chances of Democracy succeeding are slim and nill. I would go for this option but I don’t think we have the troops or the equipment right now to do it. Also, I don’t think the American people are going to go for it. Finally, any additional troop commitments to Iraq should be in a manner that is consistent with American national security interests. I’m not sure additional troop contributions to Iraq are consistent with American national security interests. We need to be flexible enough to handle other situations. We need to be focusing more on Russia and China. Those are the two greatest threats to American national security. 3.) Since we don’t seem willing or able to commit the troop levels that would be necessary to defeat the insurgents and the militias decisively, right now our best option seems to be to redeploy to Kurdish areas. We will need to closely monitor the situation to ensure that terrorist bases are not established. In any event, the redeployment eliminates the so called “recruiting tool” of us being in Iraq. I think the redeployment may give us the opportunity to focus on what we need to be focusing on, which is containing the Communist threat from Russia and China and fighting terrorists.

    Russia and China are currently undermining us becuase we don’t seem to have the resources to focus on them. By redeploying to Kurdistan, we can scale back our presecense in Iraq. This frees up resources to focus on Russia and China and puts us in a better position to prevent them from undermining us.

    You are right it is a tough situation. I’m not sure what the best course is but it does seem abundantly clear to me that we either need to, as Rick once put it, quit or commit. Since we are not likely to commit, redeployment to Kurdistan seems to be the best option.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/14/2006 @ 5:26 pm

  13. I see no mention of trained Iraqi troops controling more of their country thus freeing American troops for redeployment elsewhere. Also B.Poster writes that Iraq has focused our attention from South America. As a reminder it was during the Clinton administration that China signed deals with Panama and effectively took control of both ends of the Panama Canal. It is hardly just to blame this administration for the decline in the southern hemisphere.

    Comment by rockdalian — 9/14/2006 @ 6:22 pm

  14. Might I point out that all this is occuring with a Repiblican president and control of both houses of congress by his party.

    And further, let me take this opporunity as a vet to say I told you so.

    There aren’t enough troops and all that is happening is the Army I love is being ground down. He’s the leader of your party, notmine so perhaps you can find out what he plans to do as the macaca seems to be hitting the fan.

    Oh yeah, and we are losing Afghanistan as well. A country we should totally dominate by now.

    Short of a draft where will these troops come from. Now that the age of enlistment is 41 perhaps Rich Lowery can spare couple of years.

    And for the record,two years ago at 49 I tried to reenlist. Too old unfortunately. Who knows they might even take me now.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/14/2006 @ 8:09 pm

  15. Richard

    Thank you for your service to our country!! You are right we need to more troops. To me this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is an issue that affects all of us. The candidate, regardless of which party he or she is from, who gets out in front and requests more troops for Iraq and elsewhere in the GWOT will get my vote. In regards to Afghanistan, NATO troops have fought bravely but it seems clear that the governments of NATO members are not going to honor their full commitments. The US will need to step up and make a greater commitment.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/14/2006 @ 11:09 pm

  16. >The US will need to step up and make a greater >commitment.

    And that means a draft.

    Another,we told you so comming soon.

    If we are fighting this generation’s version of Hitler how can we not fully mobilize for war? What rationale is there for not raising the tax on the commodity that enriches our enemies, oil? Why doesn’t the CINC outright ask young people to join up and send his own offspring off as an example of the sacrifices to be made?

    Hell, even Prince Harry will go do his bit as a service to his country.

    Why are we asking so much less here?

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/15/2006 @ 11:58 am

  17. Richard

    You are quite right. We should fully mobilize for war. Also, we should work immediately to end our dependence on foreign oil and to use as little oil as possible, period. I thought we should have mobilized for war immediately after 911. Its not to late to do it now. Both Republicans and Democrats will have to go before the American people and explain the stakes and ask for sacrifices.

    Perhaps Iraq is not the best battlefield for the GWOT and perhaps it should not have been fought at all. Even if we withdraw from Iraq, we need to substantially increase the size and strength of the military. If those troops are not used for Iraq, they will be needed elsewhere. If we are unwilling to make the commitment, we should withdraw immediately. In this case, we can make our stand at fortress America.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/15/2006 @ 4:28 pm

  18. Richard

    You ask: “Why are we asking so much less here?” I’m not sure but here is what I think. The bottom line is both Republicans and Democrats are fundamentally unserious about this. They know, at this time, the American people will not support more troops. To ask for more troops would require the Republicans to admit that mistakes were made. CYA seems more important than winning the GWOT is to them. Also, both Democrats and Republicans seem to be more interested in trying to assign blame than they are in actually trying to fix problems.

    A good place to begin would be by firing Don Rumsfeld. The Democrats are spot on to point this out. The Democrats should follow up by suggesting a replacement for him. I think they should suggest either Senator Lindsay Graham or General Eric Shinseki. The Repbulicans have shown they are unserious by trying to run interference for Rumsfeld. They can go a long toward rectifying this situation by stopping this practice and suggesting a replacement. Lindsay Graham and General Eric Shinseki seem to have great military credentials and they seem to be non Bush partisians.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/15/2006 @ 4:38 pm

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