2003 July 06 Sunday
Frederick Kagan Says US Army Too Small

Frederick Kagan joins Stanley Kurtz and a number of other commentators in claiming that the US military is too small for the tasks that have been assigned to it.

The problem is that we cannot maintain such a large force in Iraq for a year without seriously damaging the Army and harming our ability to pursue other critical objectives. Given the normal requirement to have two units at home for every one deployed, the 11-division-equivalent U.S. Army could support a three-and-two-thirds division commitment to Iraq indefinitely--at the cost of having no forces available for operations anywhere else in the world. But the current deployment is the equivalent of more than five divisions (the 101st Airborne, 4th Infantry, and 1st Armored divisions, two brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 2nd and 3rd Armored Cavalry regiments, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and elements of the 1st Infantry and 10th Mountain divisions).

Additional forces are tied down in South Korea, Afghanistan, and an assortment of other places. It is obvious from looking at the numbers that the US military is too small for everything it is doing. One might expect in response to this that there'd either be a push by top leadership to increase the size of the military or to scale back on some US commitments. Instead in response to political pressure Bush is considering sending US troops to war-torn Liberia.

Among those calling for US intervention in Liberia is Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic.

Second, if the Bush administration isn't prepared to save countries like Liberia, perhaps its supporters could at least stop lecturing Europe about our morally superior foreign policy. Explaining his government's intervention in Côte d'Ivoire, France's much-loathed Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said recently, "France accepts its responsibilities." Can the Bush administration look at Liberia, America's brutalized, abandoned West African stepchild, and say the same?

This is the same Peter Beinart whose magazine is complaining about the Bush Administration's handling (or apparently mishandling in TNR's view) of intelligence reports to sell the war on Iraq. Given that the TNR's support for the war in Iraq probably predated the claims the Bush Administration made about Iraq's WMD program the TNR argument about how Bush justified the war seems somehow ungrateful. He did what they wanted. But they were determined (probably because he's a Republican and they are Democrats) not to be happy about it. Now TNR has moved on to calling for US military intervention in some God forsaken place where they can say any imperial administration obviously must be altruistic. Could it be that as liberals they didn't find the US intervention in Iraq to be sufficiently altruistic and that they want to advocate a policy that will let them assuage their guilty feelings over supporting the war even though they really thought the war was necessary?

The calls for US intervention in Liberia strike me as irresponsible. We do not have enough soldiers to deal with problems we already have (you know, little things like the occupation of Iraq and the attempts to intimidate North Korea and Iran out of developing nuclear weapons). The proponents of US intervention in Liberia would be a lot more convincing if they argued for a large increase in funding for the military as a necessary precondition before the military was saddled with any added responsibility. They'd at least then be admitting to the populace that there is a cost to the taxpayers for the US playing global policeman.

Update: Linda Feldmann reports on arguments being made on behalf of US intervention in Liberia.

On the humanitarian front, the war in Liberia has killed more than a quarter-million people and chased out 2 million more as refugees. On the regional front, Liberian President Charles Taylor is seen as a destabilizing presence, having helped launch wars in three neighboring countries. On the energy front, there is an oil dimension to the Liberia story: One-fifth of US oil comes from West Africa.

First of all, Liberia's fighting is not endangering oil production in Nigeria. Also, what sets the United States military apart is the ability to intervene against much more formidable opponents. A military of far lesser ability (e.g. Germany's or France's or Italy's for that matter) could intervene in Liberia and change the regime there. If Western elites are so upset about what is happening in Liberia and at the same time resent US unilateralism then I say to them "have at it". If a foreign military's ships (even leased cruise ships) appeared on the horizon that'd probably be enough to cause a coup. The US faces much bigger problems with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea and can not afford to waste already overstretched resources in Liberia. Others could do the job and if it is to be done then others should do it.

That article repeats the widely made assertion that Liberia was founded by freed slaves. Well, as Mary Kay Ricks reports "Although some freed American slaves did settle there, Liberia was actually founded by the American Colonization Society, a group of white Americans—including some slaveholders".

Update II: The 3rd Infantry Division is stuck in Iraq because the US Army is not big enough to do everything assigned to it.

"The frustration is so great, you just wonder if it's going to cause someone to snap," says Maj. Patrick Ratigan, chaplain for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fallujah. This unit was told that the way home was through Baghdad, and subsequent exit dates have come and gone, as the deployment stretches to 10 months.

Morale is falling in tired Army units in Iraq.

In one Army unit, an officer described the mentality of troops. "They vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and depressed.... We feel like pawns in a game that we have no voice [in]."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 06 01:56 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War


Comments
Patrick said at July 8, 2003 6:24 PM:

So could it be possible that Anti-war groups want to increase US military commitments because they know it might cause something to go terribly wrong? If "another vietnam" is actually the goal, then overcommitment could well be the method to achieve that.

Meanwhile a bill needs to be put before Congress authorizing intervention in Liberia, and paying for another 3 divisions (one to go in, the other two to back up) to do so. Make it clear that intervention has costs.


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