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Right Intention: Military too Small

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Military too Small

This is spot on. We need a larger military. Period.

In each case, Rumsfeld has added that he would support an increase in end-strength if it were needed, but that he saw no need for it. He has argued consistently that it would be better to "rearrange" the active and reserve components of the Army, and he has argued for increasing use of civilian contractors to free up soldiers for combat duties. While claiming that a permanent increase in end-strength would take too long to complete to be useful, he has admitted the obvious--that "rearranging" the Army, active and reserve, is also a process that takes many years. He has not admitted another obvious problem with this approach--that the civilianization of military positions has increased the number of contractors in a combat zone where the enemy specializes in kidnapping and beheading people unable to defend themselves.

Congress has not been the problem here. Nor is it fair to blame Clinton entirely for this problem. Clinton downsized the military excessively, to be sure, and left an Army obviously too small for the missions it faced. But Rumsfeld has been in office for four years. If he had begun to address this problem four years ago, the Army could have been considerably expanded by now.

Neither is it true that more troops would not have helped the situation in Iraq. Victor Davis Hanson, the most eloquent of Rumsfeld's defenders, claims that "offensive action, not troop numbers alone, creates deterrence; mere patrolling and garrison duty will always create an insatiable demand for ever more men and an enormously visible American military bureaucracy." But troop numbers on the ground make offensive action by some of them easier to order. More significantly, the Iraqi insurgency is so weak that the rebels dare not face our troops in open combat. They are not centrally organized. Offensive action in the traditional sense, therefore, is virtually impossible. Patrolling, garrison duty, and training Iraqi military forces alone can win this conflict. This takes boots on the ground.

I think much of the criticism of the Bush administration is misplaced or disingenuous. But the administration's weird refusal to increase the size of the military is infuriating. The Bush administration deserves every ounce of criticism it gets over not reversing the decade long assault on our military from the 90s.


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