2003 September 15 Monday
Robert Kagan: Situation In Iraq Dire, US Military Too Small
Robert Kagan has a very gloomy view of what is going on in Iraq.
There are good reasons why the administration is not sending more troops to Iraq, of course. But they are not the reasons outlined by U.S. commanders. Those generals are saying we have enough troops in Iraq chiefly because they know full well they dare not ask for more. The price of putting another division or more of American troops into Iraq will be high. It means mobilizing more reserves and using more National Guard forces. It either means pushing the Army to the breaking point or making the very expensive but necessary decision to increase the overall size of the American military, and fast. Right now administration officials don't want to think the unthinkable. Unfortunately, they may be forced to in a month or two. And, unfortunately, by then it may be too late.
Many opponents of the war are now crowing "I told you so" in light of the continuing attacks in Iraq. Well, the anti-war camp seems not to notice this but not all us hawks expected Iraq to be easy to handle post-war. While Kagan was an advocate of the war it is worth noting that back in July 2002 he cleared showed that he saw the post-war challenge of ruling Iraq as difficult.
But Iraq is no "window." It is a historical pivot. Whether a post-Hussein Iraq succeeds or fails will shape the course of Middle Eastern politics, and therefore world politics, both now and for the remainder of this century.
Europeans worry about that, and they're right to do so. If it's true that an invasion may be only six months off, this would be a good time to start thinking about D-Day plus 1. Not only Europeans but Americans, too, ought to know the kind of task they're about to undertake. For if the Bush administration is serious, then the United States is on the verge of making a huge commitment in Iraq and the Middle East, not unlike the commitment it made in Japan more than a half-century ago.
These are not the words of a triumphalist.
I'm firmly in the ranks of those who are pessimists on Muslim democracy and back in October 2002 was already arguing a pessimistic post-war view on Iraq in the post Hardest Part Of Iraq War Is Reconstruction.
Has anyone asked the obvious?
If the military thinks it needs more troops, why did they let the marines go home?
The more troops meme is has no rational basis. What would they do with more troops? Don't tell me seal the borders, another division (which is what most "more troopers" are calling for) can't patrol a border the size of Texas effectively. Another question, what do the logistics guys say? They are the ones who have to supply the troops. During the short war everyone but the field commander was calling for more troops. Why didn't he want them? It just increased his supply problems.
The more troops guys are the same guys who need more money for any other problem. The problem is not numbers, it is how they are used.
Even without further deterioration in Iraq, the US needs more troops. We are engaged in a major war, with Iraq just the current (but crucial) battle. Furthermore, there are a number of potentialities that could require a much larger army. These include invasion of Iran (or war with Iran) to stop their nuclear proliferation; occupation of North Korea (which appears to have indoctrinated its citizens better than the Japanese did theirs in WW-II); intervention in Pakistan in case of an Islamist coup (although India might feel forced to do that themselves, after a short, extremely bloody nuclear war); occupation of Saudi Arabia in case of collapse there; and the ability to maintain some reserves for pressuring, if required, Syria, Libya, China (re: Taiwan) and other unfriendlies.
In other words, we have significant strategic needs for forces and will try to meet them with our already overstretched army. I am afraid that the "War on Terror" is like the "War on Poverty" when it should really be "World War IV!" The administration is not taking the downside seriously enough for a war between western civilization (with only the Anglosphere helping) and tens of millions of barbarians.
One minor but useful step be would be to pull our forces out of the Balkans and let the Europeans deal with it themselves, or at least use the threat of that to get a decent UNSC resolution. Throughout the '90s we abused our forces (especially the reserves), intervening where we had little national interest. Now that we really need them, we don't have enough, and they are tired. The all volunteer military may lose too many folks as a result, hurting our military capability for many years to come.