Saturday, September 29, 2007

A very practical reason why declaring war on Iran is a very bad idea

Here's a very good reason why declaring war on Iran any time soon is what the Bush administration calls a "non-starter:" We don't have the military resources to take on another war.

For quite a while now the U.S. military has been stretched way too thin, and that has been well documented. However, a recent development emphasized the point very poignantly. I found out about this develop via a post by David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo. The opening of that post reflects my often-expressed lament of "I can't keep up."
It's remarkable what gets lost some days amid the mounting detritus of the Bush Administration.
Amen, brother. And one reason so much of the bullshit "gets lost" is that Congress spends way too much time and energy on things like non-binding resolutions condemning ads from Now before anyone thinks I am condoning the "General Betray Us" ad, recall that I have already said that that ad was a bad idea, and I will say much more about that in a subsequent post. My point here is that the Congressional condemnation of that ad garnered a great deal of attention, which provided cover for the story discussed by Kurtz. And now, back to that story...

The current Army Chief of Staff is Gen. George Casey. As noted by Kurtz, Casey was Petraeus's predecessor as the top commander in Iraq who was "essentially removed from his position as commander in Iraq because he was insufficiently enthusiastic about the President's proposed surge." This past Wednesday, Casey testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the current status of the Army. Kurtz quoted and linked to an article from the Boston Globe. I cannot improve on how that article presents the facts and analysis, so I will quote liberally from the article, beginning with the opening paragraphs:
The Army's top officer, General George Casey, told Congress yesterday that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict - one of the strongest warnings yet from a military leader that repeated deployments to war zones in the Middle East have hamstrung the military's ability to deter future aggression.

In his first appearance as Army chief of staff, Casey told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is "out of balance" and "the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."
In other words, because of the Iraq war, this country does not have the manpower to take on any other possible major operations.
Officials said Casey, who appeared along with Army Secretary Pete Geren, personally requested the public hearing - a highly unusual move that military analysts said underscores his growing concern about the health of the Army, America's primary fighting force.

Casey, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted a public forum even though he has ample opportunity to speak to lawmakers in closed-door meetings.

Representative John M. McHugh, a New York Republican, said Casey's blunt testimony was "just downright frightening."
Thus, it is frightening that Congress, through the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, is engaging in sabre-rattling on Iran. Back to Casey's testimony...
But Casey, a four-star general who until earlier this year was the top commander in Iraq, made it clear to the House committee that the costs to ongoing military operations is rising, especially in terms of the United States' strategic position in the world.

The strain on the Army has been growing steadily since Bush sent troops into Iraq in 2003 - the longest sustained combat for an all-volunteer American force since the Revolutionary War. The Pentagon and military analysts have documented the signs of the breakdown: serious recruiting problems, an exodus of young officers, and steadily falling readiness rates of nearly every stateside unit.

Casey's testimony yesterday sent a clear message: If President Bush or Congress does not significantly reduce US forces in Iraq soon, the Army will need far more resources - and money - to ensure it is prepared to handle future security threats that the general warned are all but inevitable.
(emphasis added). Part of Casey's concerns involve equipment.
However, they said the units of most concern are the ones returning from Iraq or those preparing to deploy without all the proper equipment.

Stocks of equipment the Army has positioned around the world are also growing low because of the war, they said. Replenishing those stockpiles, Casey told the committee, "will give us back our strategic flexibility."
In other words, our Army does not the physical tools it needs to carry out all of its current missions, and if anything else is added to that list--like invading Iran--there is no way the needed equipment will be available. And it's not like this is a new problem, as our troops have not had adequate equipment during much of the Iraq war. For more on that topic, check the Cosmic Wheel Index, main heading "Iraq," sub headings "Armor for our troops" and "Equipment for our troops."

The Iraq war is also having an impact on the types of missions the Army can carry out now and in the future.
A major risk for the future, however, is that the Army currently spends nearly all of its time training for counterinsurgency operations - "to the detriment of preparedness" for other types of combat, Casey testified. If troops don't continue to train, their skills "will atrophy over time."
Stated differently, if we declare war on Iran in the near future, such an operation would not be a counterinsurgency campaign and the Army will not have had the training for such a mission.

Casey also addressed the use of manpower and how it is being negatively impacted by the Iraq war:
Army units are now deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for 15 months at a time. At current force levels, that allows them 12 months or less back home before being sent overseas again. Casey said yesterday that the cycle allows for "insufficient recovery time."

Compounding the situation, he said, is the fact that part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard - considered the nation's backup forces in the event of a major conflict - "are performing an operational role for which they were neither originally designed nor resourced."
Keep in mind that the Reserve and the National Guard have provided a great deal of the troops for the Iraq war.

There is also more to having an effective Army than troops and their training and equipment, as Casey discussed.
At the same time, he said, the toll on soldiers' families is even greater, raising serious questions about whether the Army will be able to retain its best soldiers.

In the six months he has been Army chief of staff, Casey said that he and his wife have talked extensively with commanders and Army families about the pressures of repeated tours. "It was clear to us the families are affected," he said. "It's cumulative."

But he warned that the Pentagon's current system can not sufficiently support the troops or their families. "Army support systems including health, education, and family support systems are straining under the pressures from six years of war," he said.
And the Bush administration has done precious little in terms of this type of support. See the links in the Cosmic Wheel Index under main heading "Bush Administration," subheadings "Nonsupport for the troops" and "Treatment of disabled veterans." It is not reasonable to think that current Army personnel will remain enlisted or new recruits will sign on if they know their families will not get the support they deserve and need, and it is not reasonable to think about declaring war on Iran under those circumstances.

And here's the bottom line from Casey:
Given enough resources, Casey predicted, it would take at least three to four years to restore the Army to full strength, including replacing damaged or destroyed equipment, adding tens of thousands more soldiers, and increasing health and other benefits for Army families coping with frequent deployments of loved ones.
This is what it will take to restore the Army under current circumstances. How in the world could the Army be able to handle matters if to the current circumstances a war with Iran is added? The answer is that it is not possible. Regardless of all the other issues involving Iran, the status and needs of the Army right now show that declaring war on Iran simply is not a viable logistical option.


Anonymous Ray said...

"In other words, our Army does not the physical tools it needs to carry out all of its current missions, and if anything else is added to that list--like invading Iran--there is no way the needed equipment will be available."

Let's see, we could do as in WWII, convert US factories to building war materiel. Can you see GM and Ford and Chrysler shutting down their factories to build tanks and rockets and stuff? Hey, since much of our manufacturing has been sent over to China, I'm sure they'd be glad to build war supplies for us.

10/01/2007 11:23 AM  

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