Saturday, September 02, 2006

Animated discussion

Over at Lex's place, there is a fascinating arguement discussion going on about the war in Iraq. A British writer, OD , has decided to get in the ring and mix it up with a former fighter pilot. Lots of good issues raised on both sides of the aisle.

There is one piece of though that deserves to be moved out of the comment box to the front page. Its about the collateral damage to the military coming down the road a few years. Even if you disagree it gives you lots to talk about:

‘…if it doesn’t scratch the itch there’s a place for you in journalism. You’re just what they’re looking for.’
Good advice, Lex. As a matter of fact I already make my living that way.
You’re right I’ve wandered off-track a few times. I’ll try to stay on topic.
Your piece at top seems to be saying that there is a risk, if the American people lack the stomach to see Iraq through, that military families and those who might otherwise serve will be turned off a career in uniform.
But that view implicitly assumes that if America does perservere in Iraq, this scenario will be avoided. America will emerge on the other side with a victory it can be proud of, like, say in 1991 when the military seemed to have finally thrown off the baggage of Vietnam.
Unfortunately the tale of history is littered with states that never lost their will to fight but still lost their wars.
I continue to argue that the public’s turning against Iraq is a reaction to the fact that the war is going badly and the US Government’s declared goals in Iraq are unrealisable.
Many people here would probably argue (and MMDeuce did argue) that the perception of failure in Iraq is a matter of media presentation, not reality.
But I am looking at the reality. I’m getting my opinions from places like this:
Terrill and Crane’s War College study of remaining options in Iraq.
Many of the most pessimistic assessments are circulating in the military itself. It’s Republican party activists who radiate optimism about Iraq. If anything, America’s generals are quietly encouraging the diminishment of expectations.
This raises a third possibility - that America stays in Iraq, either with or without public support, and the war itself slowly degrades the American military. That is now happening.
I disagree with Curt that recruiting is doing fine.
The Army, Reserve and Guard fell short of target by 24,000 in the last fiscal year. But that’s not the half of it. It fell short despite increasing standard cash bonuses to $20,000, and despite offering special 15-month enlistments. Worse, the Army had to drop its entry standards to a modern historic low just in order to get that number. They took three times the planned number of people from the lowest aptitude category. They even gave special moral waivers to people with criminal records that would previously have disbarred them. The murderer and child-rapist Pvt Stephen Green got in on one such waiver.
And worst of all, the current troops in Iraq were mostly recruited in peacetime or in the patriotic afterglow of 911. Their replacements must be recruited against the backdrop of an unpopular war, launched for a non-existent reason, winding down to a messy and undignified end. It’s next years’ recruiting that’s the biggest worry. Another year after that is something that recruiting officers don’t even think about.
An increasing number of soldiers in Iraq are there against their will…
Marines Who Served Will Be Ordered Back,0,1165040.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Several hundred Reserve Army officers have been prevented from resigning…
Army Using Policy to Deny Reserve Officer Resignations
Are we going to have a situation where the world’s greatest volunteer Army is, in effect, being led by unwilling conscript officers? That is a recipe for disaster.
Pretty much all of the Army and Marines’ equipment is being worn out way faster than budgeted, according to the Govt Accounting Office. Gen Paul Kern, recently retired as head of Army Materials Command, says it will cost $60-100 billion to replace and repair Army vehicles alone.
Morale is so-so at best, and many officers fear it’s heading for a cliff-edge.
The Pentagon says there is no problem with retention, and that re-enlistments are not down. So far that’s mostly true, but many soldiers are now doing a third tour in Iraq.
In Vietnam, where career officers had to do multiple tours, it was when the third tours rolled around that the “Army began to fall apart”, according to Col. Lance Betros, head of West Point’s history department. “We’re holding our breath in hopes we can steer through this,” he said.
Army Vice Chief of Staff General Richard A. Cody has stated: “What keeps me awake at night is what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?”
He’s not talking about the consequences of leaving Iraq. He’s talking about the consequences of staying.

The last line sums up the dilemna pretty well. In my opinion. But heh, what do I know? I'm just a "lower form of internet life" and a "crazy uncle in the attic"


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