US Military Tied down by Afghanistan, Iraq
The US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq pretty much exhaust the conventional army capacity of the US military (and then some– the reserves are being over-used). This according to Gen. Richard Myers. Washington spinmeisters scrambled to attempt to cover up the contradiction with President Bush’s recent assertion that the US military is not over-stretched and can handle new challenges. Apparently the contradiction can be resolved if we leave out the army and remember that the navy and air force are still fairly freed up for action. I suppose you could ask, “What if the challenge required a response by the army?” But why be a spoilsport.
The fact is that there is currently no conventional threat to the United States anyway, aside from the asymmetrical menace of al-Qaeda– for which a big army would not be that useful. I suppose what might be being said is that the US army could not respond very easily to a North Korean attack on South Korea or Japan. But then why wouldn’t it be the air force and navy that responded to that sort of thing?
The LA Times makes it more clear than the NYT that the army being tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan has made it impossible for the Bush administration to get up any more wars, against, say, Iran or Syria. Given the perfect mess they have made of Iraq (and Afghanistan has its problems, too), I’d say it is better for everyone that Bush not have an army to dispose of. And maybe his successor will be less of a war mongerer.
Some reports suggest that the US military hopes to begin a significant draw-down of forces in Iraq by December. They appear to hope that by then, the new Iraqi military will be able to play a major role in curbing the guerrillas.
On the evidence of the past week, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
One problem, correctly identified by Martin Sieff, is that the Iraqi police and Army in the Sunni Arab areas are heavily penetrated by the guerrillas. Sieff errs, however, in giving so much of the credit to Abu Musab Zarqawi and his radical Salafis. They and other foreigners probably make up only 6 percent of the guerrillas. This guerrilla war is largely a Sunni Arab Iraqi affair.