Saturday, July 3, 2004
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Rethinking the Guard and Reserves
Thom Shanker's story in the Sunday New York Times explores how post-9/11 commitments will require a rethink of the National Guard and National Reserves in defese planning:
Shanker does a good job of delineating the budgetary and training disparities:
Read the whole thing -- and be sure to check out Phil Carter's thoughts on the matter once he reads it.
UPDATE: Here's Phil's partial response. Be sure to read the whole thing, but I thought this was a compelling point:
posted by Dan on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM
It is rather astonishing to see everyone "rethinking" this and "rethinking" that after we've already committed ourselves. One would have thought we should have listened to Shinseki or actually read the reports and analysis sitting on the shelf which would have revealed all this "new thinking" to us in the past when we actually could have done something about it. It's not like people weren't calling attention to this before the war with Iraq.
Instead we had a rush to a war of choice and the browbeating of anyone who dared question whether it was a wise choice or not. People who dared speak up regarding the insufficient troops - not to mention the mix of troops - were ridiculed and forced into early retirement.
I applaud the rethink, but it's a bit like suggesting we think about closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, isn't it?posted by: Hal on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Since when has the US ever entered a war fully prepared in every respect ? Quite frankly, we've done pretty well this time around. What this country does better than just about anyone is adapt and learn VERY quickly. To say that our force structure and the active/reserve mix were unprepared for this war (or rather, it was prepared for a Desert Storm-type war, not a protracted Afghan/Iraqi deployment) is simply to say something that has been true throughout our history - we were unprepared and we're now adapting. It's happened before; it'll happen again.posted by: fingerowner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
What all the "more troops" folks are ignoring is the fact that winning this war with fewer troops meant more troops were available to deal with the other two "Axis of Evil" members, if needed, and as a show of American supremacy.
Sometimes I think the "stupidity" that Bush supposedly suffers from seems to actually end up hampering his critics, many of whom are normally pretty sharp.
Personally, I hope the next several wars coming up soon are fought with even fewer American troops and with more of the "Afghanistan" model than the Iraq model. Less American casualties, and less hostility to an American occupation. Witness the difference in attitude between the Kurdish areas (where the Pesh Merga provided the troops) and the rest of Iraq.
“What this country does better than just about anyone is adapt and learn VERY quickly.”
Fingerowner’s insightful post deserves more than a few minutes of your time. I will go one step further: democracies perhaps inherently wait until the last minute to get themselves together regarding military preparedness. This seems to be the norm---and not the exception. Just look at America’s silliness during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the other Axis powers. World War II was very avoidable. Regretfully, though, the America First movement dominated our nation politics in the mid 1930s. I remain convinced that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have saved Western Civilization. The Republican Party's members did enormous damage. They fought FDR every step of the way. Ironically, it is the dishonest pacifism of the Democrat Party which today threatens our security.posted by: David Thomson on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
There is something else I must add to my previous post. I have just returned from visiting Roger L. Simon's blog. This particular posting jumped out at me. I must have been living under a rock for I previously was unaware that Michael Moore blames Israel for much of our current troubles:
As he was quoted by David Brooks in the NYT on June 26:
Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."
History is repeating itself. The Jews were often blamed before WWII of trying to get the Western powers to oppose the Axis dictators. Today the same holds true concerning our fight to death against Islamic nihilism.posted by: David Thomson on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
The Regular Army has been misusing the Reserves and National Guard so as to minimize change to itself.
And the Bush Administration has been doing the same thing for a different reason - to move the budgetary impact of an avoidable major expansion of active duty ground forces from before the election to after the election.
This can't last and won't.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
The error is in thinking a conscripted army will end up being more professional than NG and reserve units, when chances are it will be the opposite. If it aint broke dont fix it. We seem to have forgotten that our active military's critical duty is to kick the crap out of other armies. Right now we have an incrediably finely honed machine, probably the most remarkable fighting force in history. You cant go tinkering around with a race cars engine and expect it to remain in tip top condition, and these suggestions are tantamount to swapping out an engine. Here's a wild idea, if there are problems with the reserve and guard readiness, how about addressing reserve and guard readiness? The answer is because that would require political courage, which nobody at the moment seems to have. Someone described this war as being the one where absolutely no expense or resource is spared, so long as it in no way affects the average non-military American. Thats a sad commentary.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
It is amusing to see people complaining about the quality of reserves who entered Baghdad just a few weeks after leaving Kuwait.posted by: buck smith on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
It's not clear to me that Rumsfeld truly understands this problem. Bob Novak reported that, as late as May 2003, Rumsfeld wanted to cut the Army by 2 divisions.
This was at the same time that he was planning to attack Syria, according to UPI.posted by: Carl on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
One of my commentaries of my website is that I believe if we continue with the war policies, we will need some sort of Selective Service. One way of Selective Service is to provide health insurance to all that join the National Guard and report for weekend drills. This will ascertain a better healthy and fit Guard. I believe Senator Clinton and Senator Graham (SC) have introduced a bill similar to my suggestion. Another, is to give amnesty to the ilegal inmigrants to join the guard.posted by: Alicia on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
The issue with a draft is not whether it will produce a more professional military--obviously it won't and the days of mass wars are probably over. But the question is whether a draft creates some sense of connection between the general populace and the policymakers. Clearly, an administration is going to be more reluctant to send draftees to war than volunteers. Now, this might be good or bad depending on the situation but it would presumably create more political accountability.posted by: MWS on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
I'm fine with the idea of a draft as long as only as only those who publicly advocate the draft are eligible.
Seriously, the draft is slavery, and murder to boot.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
To follow up on Fingerowner's comment, there was an excellent book a few years ago, called "America's First Battles." It was a review of the first battles of each of America's wars, from Kasserine Pass to First Bull Run to LZ X-ray and Albany, etc.
As Fingerowner and others have noted, it generally has not gone all that well, and often because of a combination of rapid expansion (i.e., less well-trained troops) and poor peacetime training.
What is striking about Gulf War I and II is that the first battle was often the only battle (in the normal/conventional part of the war) and that it went our way.
What is also worth noting here is that it is now Guardsmen and Reservists who are fighting an insurgency, one of the nastiest, toughest types of wars out there, and they're doing it, not only w/o massive friendly casualties, but also w/o huge numbers of atrocities (reports on Abu Ghreib notwithstanding).
For a citizen army, which is what a Guard/Reserve force at least as much as a conscript army, this is extraordinary.
Something, perhaps, to think about?posted by: Dean on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
I rather like the contribution the Guard and Reserve are making here in Afghanistan - we have logistical and other specialty units here, and they work out just fine, thank you. What gets quite exaggerated is how any reserve combat arms force is going to look less capable than an active one - it is simply a matter of how much you can train. Warrior ethos, ha! It is an old calumny that doesn't hold up over time...posted by: Major John on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Having gone both the active duty and Reserve (Navy) routes, part of the problem with the latter has been the traditionally low expectations of the former. The military commanders' laments about the lack of a "warrior ethos" in reservists are like a once-a- year golfer complaining about his game. The fault ain't in the ball.
Theo whole line of argument that the US rushed to war with too few troops fails to accept the dangers of delay. Had the US waited for greater numbers to be deployed then the time table would have slipped into summer - far more dangerous time. Also, UN and "world" (read French, German, Russian, Chinese etc... entrenched interests in favor of Saddam and Iran as a market not as a risk - he would not attack them - they were vendors!)sentiment was growing for the old "do nothing - business as usual" UN approach to everything. (Note: mass has been going on in the Sudan for years, far greater than anything in the Balkans, yet nothing from the UN.)
The result of delay would most likely have been a continuation of "containment" and increasing resources for Saddam and his -thirsty sons until he lashed out again like in Kuwait with further high casualties and no impact on his core war-making ability. Also, further support for ists and of course the continued brutality to the citizens of Iraq.
Face it: the unspoken result of delay or demand for more troops before attacking Iraq really means not attacking Iraq at all. The result of "containment" would have been more support for , growth of Saddam's power and an eventual lash out by Saddam or his sons and further corruption of the UN and international process.posted by: Stan on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
"Now, this might be good or bad depending on the situation but it would presumably create more political accountability. "
Yes but it isnt the primary role of our military to create political accountability. It is to defeat our enemies as efficiantly as possible.
"go to war with a volunteer force"
with a conscripted force rather.posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
I would maintain that a "thoroughly prepared" military would be less effective. Each time America has gone to war unprepared, it has prevailed. (Possible exception of VietNam, although that involved a peacetime draft and could be considered a "prepared-for" situation.) This has required quickly ramping up and adapting to meet the circumstances it faces. If it had been prepared with a large standing army, thoroughly trained, it would have been prepared for the wrong war: either the last one fought, or the one imagined by the planners who guided the preparation. A reduced military between wars allows for expansion and preparation when the nature of the threat is better understood.posted by: raf on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
I have been working with the active component for well over 24 years. While my exposure to the reserve components was limited to the two week AT training period, a two year stint as an advisor and observing training of NG Bdes at the National Training Center I have developed some opinions on the readiness of the reserve component.
I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I am sick and tired of hearing the BS phrase "rush to war"posted by: Lord Whorfin on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
The RA loves to have a whipping boy. Airborne picks on Light Infantry. Light Infantry picks on Mech. Mech rags on the "poges" in Transpo and Quartermaster. Everyone dogs the Reserve and Guard.
The mental picture of the RA brigade commander hazing the reservists brings a smile to my face. I was once like him.
Only a few American commanders have understood how to use the militia in combat like Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens.
Reserve and Guard units are last in getting paid on time, getting repair parts, getting the latest equipment, and getting new equipment training. For an RA officer or NCO to get assigned as a Reserve advisor or trainer is considered to be the kiss of death; most of the ones I knew ended up getting passed over to LTC. Is it any wonder why Reserve and Guard units perform worse than RA units?
In all of my time reading military journals and literature, I've never found any evidence that the Army as an institution has studied the problem in an honest, introspective fashion.
When I was in various military schools, I was taught that the worst leadership technique possible was to "blame the commander." In other words, if the next higher commander makes an unpopular decision, one never says, "I don't think this is a good idea, but COL Bagogas ordered us to do it, so..."
I would argue that the second worst leadership technique is "blame the REMF," i.e. setting up support and Reserve troops as a strawman whipping boy so as to instill a false sense of pride and elitism in your own troops. The Army won't fix its problem with its own CSS troops and with the Guard and Reserve until it understands this. The Marines do undertand this. Every Marine is a Marine regardless of his position or duty status. That's why they were able to fight a USMC Reserve regiment across Iraq in the front lines with minimal casualties while Army Colonels spend their spare time yelling at reservists.posted by: 11A5S on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
I seriously disagree with your assessment of a prepared military. Prepare for the next war is what professionals do. They have the time / experience and means to study the past and evaluate the effects on recent developments. Amatures do not have the luxury of doing much more than studying the past.
Yes, we have prevailed mostly in the past - but the cost in men and material - not to mention territory and prestige - were enormous. One of a previous Army Chief of Staff motto was 'No more Task Force Smiths' a task force committed to the Korean theater with ineffective ammunition, low training levels and inadequate logistical support. No American Soldier will ever be sacrificed again on my watch just to save a few dollars.
The US did not quickly 'ramp up' during the Civil War, WW I nor WW II. It took us years to put those regts and divisions in the field. In the mean time the active components were holding on by their fingernails on various islands in the pacific due to inadequate manning and equipment.
As many difficulties as the reserve components face, they are light years ahead of a 'ramping' force you seem to desire.
The debate about US force structure is really a debate about three related questions:
1) What are the strategic goals of the War on Terror?
A little historical context is useful. In World War II, our strategic goal was the unconditional surrender or complete destruction of the three Axis Powers. To achieve this goal, we mobilized over 14 million troops or about 10 percent of our population in the early 1940s. To achieve total victory, virtually every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 35 served in the military or the Merchant Marine and millions of women joined the work force. We also paid high taxes across all income categories. And we waged the war absolutely ruthlessly, and matched every savagery of our enemies with equal or greater savagery of our own.
If we're serious about winning the War on Terror, which is really the War on militant Islam and its state supporters, we're going to have to put a lot more people in uniform. Conquering and occupying Iran and North Korea could easily require another one to two million troops. Meanwhile, Syria and Lebanon provide havens and support to tens of thousands of jihadis, Saudi Arabia provides large amounts of money and recruits, and Pakistan is one assassination away from Islamic fundamentalist rule.
I don't know what this translates to in terms of required force structure. However, it's clear that the 1.5 million active-duty force is not big enough to achieve total victory. A couple of final points for context:
1) The 1.5 million men and women on active duty represent only 1/2 of 1 percent of the current US population of approximately 300 million. Doubling the active duty force to 3 million would only represent 1 percent of the US population.
As a 27-veteran of the Army Reserve, I offer few observations:
With James on this one. Ramp up the forces - this war is serious.posted by: John Bigboote on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
James has the right idea, we just havent had the debate over exactly what this war needs to entail and what that means to the average American. It borders on the obscene that we have asked so very much of our military and their families while asking absolutely nothing of the average American. If the point of a draft would be to make this war real for real Americans, how about we start by a simple war tax, or something of the kind? How about the president going on national televosion and asking every American to donate to Spirit of America or the like? How about calling on American industry to start cranking out materials to help rebuild Iraq, as clearly we have struggled to do?
Discussing the lack of preparedness and seriousness of the reserves and guards is obviously important, in so much as we are at war and intend to win it and should debate the best way how. But be wary of 'analysts' - such as commentator Hal - who pose, as so many left wing Democrats do, as thoughtful and concerned observers of our military. They are not. They were against the liberation of Iraq and most were against the liberation of Afghanistan. They do not believe there are Islamofascists out to kill and destroy us and our institutions, nor do they believe that the UN is corrupt. They do not believe the tax cuts rescued the economy, and they are convinced (at heart) of a Cheney/Haliburton/neocon cabal. When such people pose to analyze our military, it is in the context of an ideological fraud. Fraudulent concern for optimal military efficiency, when the real concern is eliminating the current administration. The purported honest critiques of military force structure are merely veiled attacks on Bush, and thus their value to the actual military force structure debate is suspect.posted by: Sergio on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Good discussion here regarding Army force structure - but should Kerry win in November it will have as much utility as discussing how many Roman Legions are necessary to defeat the Visigoths...posted by: Tim on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Simple idea, not mine: DOUBLE THE PAY of the troops.posted by: Alex on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Going to Iraq with little training or even a basic understanding of what my "mission" was, I nonetheless struggled daily to adapt, improvise, and overcome. By the end of my tour, I was able to go into a village like Abu Hassan and, yes, take off my Interceptor and Kevlar. With all due respect to AD Hooah Brigade Commanders (whose aggressive and hard-chargin' screaming eagles tear-a## down Tampa looking for Hajis to mow down) ordinary Iraqis just seem to get along better with reservists who have real jobs back home and aren't living out some West Point fantasy.posted by: Eric on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
We have our force structured bass ackward. The National Guard is under Governor's control and set up for domestic emergencies, i.e. floods, hurricanes, etc. They do not know how to fight. Whereas the Reserves are under Federal control by the Army, AF, Navy and Marines. The Reserve's are more in line with what is expected from professional soldiers. While in Bosnia, I was under a Nat'l Guard Battalion in which the Btn Commander's Command Sgt. Major was his boss in the civilian world. Needless to say, the Btn Cmd had to approve everything through the Cmd Sgt Major. The Reserve's should be the "round-out" units that backfill the regular Army. Currently, the Nat'l Guard fulfills that roll. My brother trained a LA Guard armor "round-out" unit for Desert Storm. He said, after 3-4 months of training at Ft. Hood, TX, they couldn't qualify on the tank tables (couldn't hit targets with their Bradley's). One night some of the enlisted hijacked a bus and took it into Killeen to party. The Reserve and Guard rolls were reversed under the Clinton administration. Clinton aligned the Reserves with the FEMA regional districts which really dicked things up. No longer were the ARCOMS responsible for their troops (a peace dividend I'm certain). Giving the Guards the High profile combat missions (one they cannot perform) was a big payoff to the Governors.posted by: Ted on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
After I left active duty I was a company commander in the USAR for almost three years. This was the early '70s. My observation then was that the reserve and guard structure had been nearly ruined by Johnson's (and then Nixon's) policy of war on the cheap -- not mobilizing the reserves and depending on a draft. The reserves became a haven for many who wanted to avoid military service. In fact, the most severe punishment we could offer to get people to attend meetings was to send them to active duty. It was quite a challenge (not impossible)to achieve anything like real readiness with troops who actively resisted training. The current system of volunteer active forces and reserves which WILL be activated is, I think, far superior to that. I agree with the above post that assignment to a reserve advisor posting can be a kiss of death for an RA officer. I knew a medal of honor winner who actually volunteered for such a post with us because he believed Washington when they proclaimed renewed emphasis on Reserve readiness. He was non-selected for Major out of the early consideration zone. The entanglement of full-time civilian employees and part-time officers also undermined any real authority for commanders. It might have been better to have full-time active commanders and key NCOs, if the stigma could have been removed.
In spite of all this, some of the highest motivated officers and NCOs I knew were Reservists. It takes a lot of effort to excel in a reserve component, in addition to doing your day job.posted by: raf on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]
Our advantage has always been in material and technology. To maintain superiority, we have to overcome the entrenched bureaucratic structure that always develops in large organizations. (Look at what it took to get good torpedoes in WW2, or what it is taking now to get agreement to restructure for lighter and less-conventional forces.) I think the demobilization between the WWs ultimately was in our favor. Yes, it was difficult and dangerous. Yes, it required heroic sacrifices. But it would have anyway, and the existance of a very large force structure would have inhibited development along the lines which were required.
Will there be time in future conflicts to do this again? Certainly it will be more difficult. To me, though, the answer is more likely to be in shortening the cycle for reinventing force structures and developing/deploying advanced technologies than in building a large force structure around our best guess for what will be required in 20 years.
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