More Troops? From Where?

Kevin Drum actually defends Donald Rumsfeld from charges leveled against him by The Weekly Standard — which has to be a first. However, Drum is exactly right when he notes:

Of course, no one seriously suggests that we should strip every last soldier from Europe, North Korea, and our other overseas deployments. Realistically, then, the maximum number of troops available for use in Iraq is probably pretty close to the number we have now: 300,000 rotated annually, for a presence of about 150,000 at any given time.

The only way to appreciably increase this is to raise the Army’s end strength by several divisions, and this is exactly what Kagan and Sullivan think Rumsfeld has been too stubborn about opposing. But as they acknowledge, doing this would take a couple of years — and as they don’t acknowledge, it would have made the war politically impossible. The invasion of Iraq almost certainly would never have happened if Rumsfeld had told Congress in 2002 that he wanted them to approve three or four (or more) new divisions in preparation for a war in 2004 or 2005.

In other words, when Rumsfeld commented that you go to war “with the army you have,” he was exactly right. Kagan and Sullivan both supported the Iraq war, but it never would have happened if Rumsfeld had acknowledged that we needed 100,000 more troops than we had available at the time.

For that reason, conservative critiques of Rumsfeld on these grounds strike me as hypocritical. Would Kagan and Sullivan have supported delaying the Iraq war a couple of years in order to raise the troops they now believe are necessary? If not, isn’t it a little late to start complaining now?

While I think we most certainly need to bring the Army (and the rest of the military) up in force levels, that’s going to take time. This isn’t World War II where you can create a bunch of “90-day wonders” who would be effective on the modern battlefield. Modern combat takes an appreciable amount of training and knowledge, which is why we have a professional military and why we have the most adept and best-trained military on the planet. We need more boots on the ground, but those boots have to be trained by people who are well-trained in the art of 21st Century warfare.

I supported the war in Iraq and support it today because the Hussein regime had already proven itself to be a major drain on our resources. If we’re serious about winning the war on terror, we couldn’t simultaneously keep the pressure on Saddam and still have freedom of action. We couldn’t keep the pressure on the northern and southern no-fly zones and engage in a major military operation elsewhere. Thanks to this war, we may not have to engage in more military operations in the Middle East for a while. (And don’t even get me started on the red herrings of arguing for an invasion of Iran or Saudi Arabia.)

What Sullivan and Kristol have to realize is that building up a larger army takes time and money. Attacking Rumsfeld when he’s been one of the leaders of the charge for a more efficient and adept army is cutting off our nose to spite our face. Yes, Rumsfeld has made some mistakes, the auto-pen incident was politically idiotic, and we should have had more troops on the ground in Iraq. However, Rumsfeld is also right in pointing out that we have to get those troops from somewhere, and we have to take action with the army we have, not the army we’d like.

6 thoughts on “More Troops? From Where?

  1. i guess troups will be sent by countries such as Germany, France or Sweden. At least, it wont be that bad for the Peace. Not that bad as if a well-trained in the 21st warefare army is sent there. My problem is that i read today, but is was clearly not a surprise, that Bush invited new Palestinian’s prime minister Abbas in order to work toward security, economy and democracy, and peace. I wont criticize this, but what i am sure of is that the US can t make the Peace. Not even because of themselves, but because of the people of those countries. Bush, and Sharon, and Abbas can try whatever they wan t, the problem is that Peace wont be accepted by the populations as long as the US will be involved military, and politicaly in the area. Then, accept to be the first power in many area, but as the strongest, the US have to understand they cant play the third party role. The third party, the mediator, must first be a non intersted player, and a player that will not use his coercitive power. Agrements have to be accpeted by the parties. It is so easy to understand that i am wondering why some people still think this kind of conflict can be resolved with a military intervention. At least, the acceptation of a long term conflict as been admitted. What a happy future in the area.
    Sincerly, ..

  2. If we’re gonna see this disaster in Iraq through to any sort of identifiable resolution, it will take many years of large-scale occupation. Perhaps the military will continue to find enough poor kids from the trailer parks of red states desperate enough or naive enough to sign on the Uncle Sam’s dotted line, but ultimately the longevity of this quagmire is likely to deter recruitment even among the most “patriotic” of young people. At some point, even a Wal-Mart job or a methamphetamines addiction will be viewed as more appealing to rural would-be soldiers than joining their older brothers and sisters who’ve already returned home in flag-draped coffins.

    Assuming my theory about declining recruitment holds, and assuming our “coalition” continues to hemorrhage members, the military is left with two options. Continue recycling soldiers through stop-loss and destroy morale among those being repeatedly lied to, or reinstitute a draft. Neither will be politically popular, and the latter is likely to provoke a quick pullout. Barring a miracle in the Iraqi elections, the continued (and likely heightened) mayhem should plunge public opinion about Iraq into the high 30’s. Only the stalwart Bush apologists and radical Christian crazies who believe we’re embroiled in a holy war will continue giving our Iraq policy the thumbs-up. Frighteningly, these combined factions ensure a solid 38-42 percent level of support for even the most disastrous of foreign policy decisions.

    Here’s a wild idea. When you guys begin your next war based on highly questionable intelligence, perhaps you should discuss the issue of long-term military readiness BEFORE you launch your first air strike. I know it’s a radical concept that stands virtually no chance of being realized in a nation where questions about an impending war are branded as treasonous, but you never know how helpful it may prove to be two years after the war begins and we’re out of warm bodies to put in front of insurgents’ rifles.

  3. The old quagmire argument. We’ve all heard it before.

    In a few weeks, Iraq will have a legimate and duly elected government. The head of Iraqi Intelligence has said that he believes that the insurgency is dying out and the military has noted that the majority of insurgent attacks are becoming less sophisticated. More importantly, the number of people reporting terrorist activity in Iraq is increasing as the population turns away from terrorism.

    Yup, Iraq’s going to be a bloody quagmire, just like the economy is going to crash and Bush is going to lose the election… another bit of breathless Chicken Little hyperbole that will be as embarrassing as a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker in a few years.

  4. “In a few weeks, Iraq will have a legitimate and duly-elected government.”

    Seems about as likely as the suddenly single Jennifer Aniston sleeping in my bed in a few weeks.

    It really is remarkable how your second-hand reports of conditions in Iraq manage to constantly improve even as everybody else’s first-hand reports of conditions in Iraq consistently worsen. Even more remarkable is that you seem to take yourself seriously.

  5. The comments are quite interesting from the lovable left. As usual, its carefully crafted and arranged in seemingly logical order. Logical, if all you have to offer is redundant complaining.

    Let’s try coming up with responsible plans other than turning your back on humanity and saying we should never have gone in to end the terrorism. How pathetic the whining has became.

    Oozing glop like I have seen here goes against the business-like rule that says if you done have a solution then just shut up until you have one.

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