Saturday, October 16, 2004

Sound off

President Bush gets a vote of confidence in a survey of military members and their families, with a few exceptions:

The poll, by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, found that 62 percent of the military personnel and their families said the administration had underestimated the number of troops needed in Iraq. That sentiment was expressed by 58 percent of the service personnel and 66 percent of the family members.

Reservists had been assigned too large a share of the military effort, according to 59 percent of those who responded to the poll. ...only 38 percent of the sample said the National Guard and Reserve soldiers were properly trained and equipped before deploying to Iraq. The poll found that 42 percent said they had not been adequately trained and equipped, and 7 percent said they had been properly trained but not adequately equipped.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you bring it up, because I've been itching to comment about why so many National Guard and Reserve troops are in Iraq, and why they seem so poorly trained and equipped for the job.

Believe it or not, I'm a very loyal Democrat, but the Clinton years were not good to the military. Part of the "peace dividend" came from savings tied directly to shifting some traditionally front-line duties to the Guard and Reserves.

The idea had merit, and had started during the initial drawdown under GHW Bush, but picked up speed and quickly moved beyond where GHWB wanted to go.

The notion is simple: The pay/benefits, housing and medical care for an increasingly married enlisted workforce plummets when the U.S. is only paying them for one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

With no major wars anticipated, even in the two regional wars (at one time) standard, it made sense to transfer some missions to the reserve. Some of these included air refueling services (see 911 Air Wing), air lift, medical care, quartermaster/supply and NBC units.

Some units performed very well at these behind-the-lines services, including several prominent deployments to Bosnia, Macedonia, etc.

But a great deal of the specialized equipment they needed to fight wars wasn't forthcoming from a divided government (especially refuelers, desert MOPP gear, etc.). You might recall that J F Kerry was a strong proponent of the cost savings that could flow from reducing the size of the active-duty military.

A revolution in military technology was making it easier to win wars with fewer active duty troops, planes, tanks and ships (see the opening weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom), and the IT was even making waging war cheaper (a JDAM, for instance, saves hundreds of thousands of dollars off the cost of equivalent cruise missile technology).

But what to do about winning the peace, especially now that the U.S. is in a two-theatre war AND is the only military in the world that can patrol the high seas for piracy, conduct clandestine ops against terrorists and meet treaty requirements for troop levels in Japan and S Korea?

The problem with reservists and National Guard troops is that they don't like very long-term deployments (something active duty military personnel get used to), and they're often not equipped financially or mentally to deal with that. It's not surprising to me that the recent dereliction of duty by a supply unit in northern Iraq was detected in a reserve unit, just as the Abu Ghraid prison scandal was precipitated by a National Guard MP company.

Don't get me wrong. There are some very, very good Guard and Reserve units out there that have been folded into the active duty component and most have displayed great competence and bravery.

But the breakdowns in this war have come from behind-the-lines "pogue" units that had not deployed, in many cases, since WWII. Rumsfeld is on the record as saying that reforms to the military will include a reappraisal of these units and their place in the force structure.

But you should know that Bush was stuck with them because of decisions made during the Clinton administration. Bush inherited this mess, and while some might fault him for using these units, he really has no other choice.

On the other hand, Kerry has proposed adding 40,000 Army soldiers, and shifting the bulk into "Special Forces." I won't get into now why this infuriates the Pentagon and likely will work against the very efficiency he's trying to create, but I would also like to mention that these additional troops still won't increase the ultimate military numbers to WHAT WE HAD IN 1989!!!!!

Oh, but of course, there's also the draft, which Kerry keeps bringing up. Ironically, we didn't need conscription to give us very robust forces during the Reagan years, when pay was very, very low, and housing terrible.

This isn't "exaggeration" on Kerry's part. It's out-right lying, and he knows it. No one in the professional military wants a draft. No one in the White House wants a draft. In fact, if Rumsfeld's innovations go through, there will be a need for far fewer numbers of servicemen and women, with large cuts especially in the Air Force and Navy.

2:28 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Here is where Bush did have a choice--he could have chosen not to fight an unnecessary war.

2:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, hindsight is 20/20. In February of 2003, based on the intelligence dossiers we have seen in the UK and US Senate, it wasn't such a nutty idea, invading Iraq.

We'll know in several years if the experiment was worth the lives and treasure of our nation. I would like to think that the U.S. can suffer 600 or so combat deaths for a worthy cause. The families and service-men and -women in this poll seem to think so.

7:32 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Your argument might have more validity were it not for the fact that much of the evidence the administration used to justify war was disputed by many inside the goverment and the intelligence community in 1993, and were it not for the fact that the administration sought out evidence that bolstered its case while dismissing evidence that challenged it.

8:26 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Sorry, in 2003.

8:27 PM


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