Sunday, October 15, 2006

Military's Short On Equipment, Too

Britain's short on helicopters in Afghanistan, and we don't have any to lend them:
Britain is so short of helicopters in Afghanistan that military chiefs are being forced to scour the world for civilian aircraft to support its troops after the US rejected a plea to help plug the shortfall.

An ageing fleet of just eight Chinooks is working around the clock to supply and reinforce soldiers in remote outposts facing waves of Taliban attacks. The only Chinook in the Falklands was taken away for use in the campaign.
The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that reconnaissance and intelligence missions in Afghanistan are being affected by the lack of smaller and more flexible helicopters. But senior military officials said that when UK commanders asked for temporary deployment of US helicopters in Afghanistan, they were told there were none to spare.

Instead, the MoD has been forced to seek out commercial operators for non-combat operations, to free more military craft for use at the front line. So urgent is the need that Britain is understood to be asking other nations that have ordered Merlin helicopters from Westland to allow the MoD to requisition them.

While Afghanistan is much more a joint U.S.-NATO operation than Iraq, invading Afghanistan was still our idea, in response to an attack on our country. I'd think it would be our responsibility to make sure there's enough materiel for the allied troops to do the work of securing the country.

Oh yeah, and enough troops, too. But that isn't gonna happen; we don't have any of them to spare either.

Meanwhile, if we needed to go to war in Korea, we'd be doing it with a shortage of bombing guidance systems, surveillance aircraft, and unmanned drones, because they're tied up in Iraq:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military's top officer said Thursday that the Pentagon would have sufficient forces to win if called on to fight a war in North Korea, but the conflict would be more difficult without the intelligence and guidance systems devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pace said a conflict with North Korea, which both he and President Bush have said is highly unlikely, would rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force because of the significant deployment of land forces in Iraq. In addition, such an attack would not be "as clean as we would like," he said, because guidance systems used to aim bombs were in use in the Middle East.

"You wouldn't have the precision in combat going to a second theater of war that you would if you were only going to the first theater of war," Pace told a group of military reporters. "You end up dropping more bombs potentially to get the job done, and it would mean more brute force."

Although Pace did not name specific guidance and intelligence systems, Air Force officers have said they do not have surveillance aircraft such as Global Hawk and Predator reconnaissance drones available for East Asia because of their heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unmanned aircraft are used to spy on enemy territory.

As Josh Marshall's weekend pinch-hitter DK over at TPM more or less said this morning, WTF are we doing, doing a lot of bombing in Iraq anyway? You can't beat an insurgency like that, because "collateral damage," i.e. people killed and wounded who had nothing to do with the insurgency, motivates a lot more people to join the insurgency.

But the Bush Administration has been oblivious to this throughout. No surprises here.
Pace said a war in Asia would further strain U.S. troop rotations.
No shit, Sherlock. We already don't have nearly enough troops for the war we're fighting, and Bush isn't planning to increase the size of the army. And (from the first link)
The Pentagon is planning to maintain US troop levels in Iraq at about 140,000 for at least four more years.

That'll strain troop rotations a bit, too.

If we haven't already evacuated the Green Zone by helicopter, that is.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bush: Dishonestly Avoiding a Draft by Destroying the Army

There's a certain political advantage to a President in being able to prosecute a war with an all-volunteer military. What it means for most Americans is that their kid (or their spouse, or parent) isn't at risk of being killed or wounded. And those that are undertaking that risk on our behalf, well, they signed up for it; they knew it came with the territory. The war can be at arms' length for most of us: something they report about, but that we're not connected to.

But a draft would be a whole 'nother thing. All of a sudden, the risk would be widely distributed. If it wasn't our friends and loved ones in Iraq before, it could be now. People would ratchet up the attention they paid to what's going on over there.

It's pretty clear that our military has exceeded its design specs some time ago in this war. There may or may not be actual military doctrine on the subject, but there's no question that there's a quantifiability to it somewhere: that our army is capable of providing X boots on the ground indefinitely in the context of a self-sustaining military. And whatever X is, we've exceeded it. We've typically had 138,000 troops in Iraq, plus another 20,000 or so in Afghanistan, and lesser commitments elsewhere. And it's tearing the army apart; we're having to do all sorts of tricks to keep up with it.

Tricks like this: we've made liberal use of stop-loss orders, routinely extended our troops' tours of duty, worn out the National Guard, sent our elite training unit to Iraq, called up the Individual Ready Reserve, we've shifted troops from South Korea to Iraq, we've put nearly 12,000 sailors from the Navy on the ground in Iraq, along with a lesser number of Air Force troops. Enlarging the volunteer army is out: we've allowed violent criminals, gangbangers, skinheads and neo-Nazis, high school dropouts and persons of low I.Q. into the Army, as well as raising the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 42, just to keep our troop strength where it is. He wouldn't have to use these tricks if our military was big enough for the job. Which it clearly isn't: it still isn't enough troops to reduce the violence, lawlessness and chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan's slipping away, and every month, our army's stretched thinner and more worn-out than it was the previous month.

It's put-up-or-shut-up time: if we're serious about staying in Iraq, we need a bigger military, which means we need a draft. If we're not willing to institute a draft, it's time to stop fooling ourselves and work our way towards the exit.

Bush claims that Iraq is the central front in that great existential conflict, the War on Terror. He says we can't leave until the job's done, and we won't be leaving while he's President. And his term has another two years and three months to run.

If he means what he says, then he's got to institute a draft. He doesn't have enough troops there to accomplish his goals. If he doesn't institute a draft, then he's saying that he's unwilling to run the political risk of getting the troops he needs to win, but he insists on sending our troops off to die in an exercise in futility, presumably because he doesn't want to have to admit failure.

How many of our men and women in uniform should have to die because Bush is afraid to ask the country for enough troops to win, and is equally afraid of admitting defeat? There is only one morally right answer: none.