2008 March 27 Thursday
60% Of US Military Officers See US Weaker Than 5 Years Ago

Foreign Policy and the Center for a New American Security did a survey of active and retired officers and found most see the US weakened by the war in Iraq.

In all, more than 3,400 officers holding the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above were surveyed from across the services, active duty and retired, general officers and field-grade officers. About 35 percent of the participants hailed from the Army, 33 percent from the Air Force, 23 percent from the Navy, and 8 percent from the Marine Corps. Several hundred are flag officers, elite generals and admirals who have served at the highest levels of command. Approximately one third are colonels or captains—officers commanding thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—and 37 percent hold the rank of lieutenant colonel or commander. Eighty-one percent have more than 20 years of service in the military. Twelve percent graduated from one of America’s exclusive military academies. And more than two thirds have combat experience, with roughly 10 percent having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.

We've certainly worn out a lot of equipment, built up huge future costs (e.g. taking care of permanently injured soldiers), and distracted ourselves from more important issues.

The US military can afford to fight in Iraq only because it doesn't have something really important on the table. The drain that is Iraq weakens the US military and leaves it less able to act in other theaters should the need arise.

These officers see a military apparatus severely strained by the grinding demands of war. Sixty percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago. Asked why, more than half cite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the pace of troop deployments those conflicts require. More than half the officers say the military is weaker than it was either 10 or 15 years ago. But asked whether “the demands of the war in Iraq have broken the U.S. military,” 56 percent of the officers say they disagree. That is not to say, however, that they are without concern. Nearly 90 percent say that they believe the demands of the war in Iraq have “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.”

The war in Iraq also contributes nothing to US security while costing a few trillion dollars in the long run. If we wanted to reduce our risk for terrorism the best thing to do is to reduce the number of Muslims in the United States. We could make visas hard to get for Muslims and do much better border and interior enforcement of immigration laws. Doing that would cost a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq war.

The active duty officers who responded weren't as pessimistic as the retired officers.

In presenting survey results at a public event on February 19, we noted several areas where retired and active duty officers surveyed seemed to have significant differences. For example, 44 percent of active duty officers and those retired for a year or less believed the military was weaker than it was five years ago, compared to 60 percent of respondents overall. On the other hand, for many questions, the results for officers who were either active duty or retired within the last year were similar to those of the overall group surveyed.

That 44% of active duty officers who see the US weakened is still a quite substantial number of the total.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 March 27 08:34 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs


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