Thursday, June 24, 2004
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Philip Carter weighs in
Philip Carter manages to meld together the theme of my last two posts -- troop levels and the crisis in Sudan. On the first question, Carter has a Slate piece criticizing pretty much everyone inside the Beltway for using fuzzy math on the question of optimal troop levels. The highlights:
In a follow-up blog post, Carter ties the debate about troop levels into the case of Sudan.
Go check it all out.
posted by Dan on 06.24.04 at 10:56 AM
There is some irony in the fact that the Bush administration began with precisely the "soup-to-nuts" reevaluation of the ways the American military could fulfill its missions that Phil Carter calls for. This was the whole point of Sec. Rumsfeld's "Revolution in Military Affairs" reforms, that aimed at radical restructuring of the armed forces to take greatest advantage of the American edge in standoff weaponry and high technology generally.
The missions Rumsfeld had in mind for the military to perform were squarely in the tradition of American popular thinking about threats to national security: you identify them, destroy them, and don't hang around afterward unless there is no alternative. Before 9/11 Rumsfeld did not get a lot of support from the White House for his efforts, and faced bitter and effective opposition from senior military officers, particularly in the Army. And then 9/11 happened, and the missions changed.
So while individual components of Rumsfeld's grand strategy for military reform remain -- and some have even been implemented faster than they would have been otherwise because of Rumsfeld's greater clout in Washington after 9/11 -- the strategy as a whole doesn't fit the missions that either that his administration (sorry. George Bush's administration) has committed the country to or that people like Phil Carter think America should now take on in places like Sudan. And were back to another soup-to-nuts reevaluation, which will be succeeded by another next year, or in the next couple of years anyway.
FWIW, I think our contribution to Sudan should be primarily logistical. We should have enough airlift capacity to put large numbers of German and Canadian troops on the ground in that country, in close enough contact with Arab militias so that some of them are killed.
There is no way American will support creation of a military establishment large enough to do all the things we are being called on to do. Not only will we need allies, we will need allies who are prepared to pay a price in blood to stop bloodshed. We know who was so prepared with respect to Iraq; it's time to find out who is prepared with respect to Sudan. The only way to deal with free riders is to demand that they pay the fare.posted by: Zathras on 06.24.04 at 10:56 AM [permalink]
"Tomorrow's major military deployment might not be for combat at all—it might require the deployment of an expeditionary nation-building force to stave off a humanitarian crisis."
Oh the irony! Was it really just yesterday that the adults were chastising us adolescent liberals for nation building ? Were they really wagging their fingers at us, promising us that they were going to do everything they could to get us out of this business?
If it weren't so tragic, I'd be laughing my frickin' ass off right now.posted by: Hal on 06.24.04 at 10:56 AM [permalink]
As someone who has consistently opposed the mendacity of the Bush Administration and actively worked in a strong reversal for grassroots Democratic campaigning, I still have to say that articles like this make me extremely skeptical of the seriousness of liberals and their capacity to govern the nation.
It's a very simple principle: When the house is burning down, then is not the time to revise the fire and saftey building codes.
This was the very same mistake that Rumsfeld made, thinking he could make long term change happen in the army fast enough to meet short term needs. It's completely insane.
I don't like the bloat, inefficiency, and outdatedness of the military in general. However to do a study like Phil Carter suggests and implement it would easily take a decade.
In the short term we have no such option. Confusing the issue by bringing the topic of longterm reform into the discussion of short term troop deployments is yet another reason to undermine my already shaky confidence in liberal governing competence.
If I wasn't pretty sure that Bush and co. were madmen, I'd still be unsure of handing liberals the keys to the nation.posted by: Oldman on 06.24.04 at 10:56 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure how fair or accurate it is to identify Phil Carter with liberals. I don't actually disagree with the idea that we need to assess how best to match military capabilities to the missions we are asking the military to undertake, especially when the missions have changed as radically as they have since early 2001. Where I most question his prescription is in its assumption that all the things we might like to do with the American military the American public will be willing to pay for.
No one wants to see suffering in places like Darfur, and under different circumstances I would have no problem with America acting alone to stop it. But we are heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, and to be effective in Sudan we would need a lot of help from countries that heretofore have been willing to address civil wars and failed states mostly with lip service and by writing the occasional check. Maybe we can get that help and maybe not, but we won't get it if we don't ask, and ask forcefully.
Also, if I may be forgiven for making a semantic point, I am as a rule inclined to give short shrift to arguments that ascribe insanity to public officials or even Internet commentators. I understand that "insane" is understood by some people as a synonym for "unwise" or "impractical," or even "driven by improper motivations," but none of these things are in fact what the word means. I do not mean to single out anyone in particular for what has become a common practice, and apologize if in these times of heightened passions my raising this matter seems quaint.posted by: Zathras on 06.24.04 at 10:56 AM [permalink]
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