Thursday, January 06, 2005

The army you have

More evidence that Bush, Rumsfeld and company have been trying to fight the war in Iraq on the cheap: the head of the Army reserves says that his troops have been pushed to the breaking point.

In the memo, dated Dec. 20, Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly lashed out at what he said were outdated and "dysfunctional" policies on mobilizing and managing the force. He complained that his repeated requests to adjust the policies to current realities have been rebuffed by Pentagon authorities.

The three-star general, who has a reputation for speaking bluntly, said the situation has reached a point at which the Army Reserve is "in grave danger of being unable to meet" its operational requirements if other national emergencies arise. Insistence on restrictive policies, he continued, "threatens to unhinge an already precariously balanced situation in which we are losing as many soldiers through no use as we are through the fear of overuse."

We knew before the war that the uniformed brass were skeptical of going to war in Iraq; but one of the foundations of our system of government is that civilians control the military, which means the military doesn't and shouldn't get to choose which wars to fight and which to avoid. But the evidence appears to be mounting that when it comes to how to fight, a matter on which the military should have the greatest say, they are being routinely ignored. One wonders if the ongoing violence in Iraq is the result.

UPDATE: My favorite anonymous commentator tells me there's more to the story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you didn't know, Helmly asked WAPO for a correction. Slate discusses this at

It's not that he blames Bush for having "pushed to the breaking point" the reserve system. Rather, Helmly simply has asked for more flexibility in maneuvering around the force structure regulations given to him.

A more complete story can be found at the NY Times. Part of the problem was that Tom Ricks, WAPO's military beat reporter, didn't draft the A-1 crap about the "breaking point."

I'm not suggesting that Bush didn't try to fight the war (actually, the occupation) on the cheap. Rather, I would rather you didn't use a WAPO story that's a bit less than fair to make a point Helmly won't make for you.

6:32 PM


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