Fat Steve's Blatherings

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Easier said than done

      One of the persistent refrains of the critics of the administration and its war fighting policies has been that there aren't enough troops on the ground in Iraq.

      Question: where were these troops supposed to come from?  Consider the following story from the Christian Science Monitor (I think I got this link from Instapundit, but don't remember now):

Army leaders admit that at current levels they must rotate troops into war zones at a rate that is unsustainable in the long run. Warning of a force not yet "broken" but "bent," they are rushing to add 30,000 soldiers to the 482,000-strong active-duty force and increase the number of active brigades - from 33 when the Iraq war began to 43 by 2006, with another five possible by 2007. Only then might the Army hope to shorten tours to about six months every two years, which soldiers say is more bearable for them and their families. . .

On this November morning, General Webster is heading back to Polk as commander of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) to appraise the Army's newest brigade. Cobbled together in just eight months, with scores of recruits arriving to fill out its ranks this summer, the 4th Brigade is undergoing final training before shipping out to Iraq early next month.

For Webster, the visit caps more than a year of frenzied activity since he returned from duty as deputy operations commander in the Iraq invasion to take charge of the 3ID in September 2003.

"In the midst of a war, we knew we had to change in eight to 10 months versus eight to 10 years," he says, drinking black coffee from a Thermos. "The chief [Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker] said, 'I think we can create 15 new brigades. You guys figure out how to do it.' We just had to run through this thing on the fly."

The urgent shift is a matter of strategy and survival for the Army - strategy, because today the Army fights in brigades of 3,000-plus troops rather than divisions of 16,000, a trend underscored by the Iraq war; survival, because only by increasing the pool of brigades by at least 10 can the Army shorten overseas rotations and lengthen time back home.

The change has affected virtually every element of the Georgia-based 3ID. Its ranks have swelled by 3,300 soldiers to a total of 19,000, straining housing. The division has reconfigured each of its three existing combat brigades and built from scratch a new one, the 4th Brigade. Each brigade more tightly integrates infantry, armor, and engineers at lower levels as well as specialized units such as intelligence and reconnaissance troops. . .

Yet to swiftly reinvent the 3ID, Webster has had to wage his own quiet insurrection against a slow-moving military bureaucracy. "It's like guerrilla warfare," he says, describing tactics he's used to skirt the constraints of budgets and regulations to secure vital weaponry, personnel, and equipment. Several times in the past year, Webster has confronted obstacles so severe he called them "war stoppers."

      So, where do we get these soldiers?  Do we strip NATO and S. Korea?  Do we toss untrained troops into action?  Call up more reserves?  Leave Afghanistan?  What?

      How's about being specific there, critics?

      Hmm, I think I hear a cynical voice saying that the critics are mostly not interested in whether we need more troops, just in bashing W.  YOU MAKE THE CALL!



Post a Comment

<< Home