Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Enlarge the Army

Mr. Webb is concerned that we could be in Iraq for thirty years and that we would be unable to respond to other threats, such as China.

What a bizarre argument. And I don’t think it is possible to have drawn a more wrong conclusion.

The German and Japanese occupation forces he spoke of were not combat formations initially. They were really constabulary forces ill-suited to large-scale combat. The poor initial showing of these American forces as they were rushed to Korea to stem the North Korean invasion clearly shows this. As for Germany-based troops, they did not become heavy combat forces until the post-North Korean invasion military build up by the United States. The forces in Japan never did become a potent combat force like the German-based military force. The difference lies in the external threat. No land threat against Japan, so the force was a logistics and air power-based force. A major land threat against West Germany, so the Army was beefed up considerably with large Air Force support. Within ten years of winning the Second World War, Japan and Germany were our allies. Mr. Webb takes the course of saying since it did work out, it was easy. Was it really easy to turn fanatical enemies who only succumbed to Atomic bombs or bunker-to-bunker combat in Berlin into friends? I dare say there will be few fanatics in Iraq who will fight to preserve Saddam’s regime.

What of external threats that could keep us in Iraq in significant strength for more than a decade? Certainly, external threats could do that. The external threat of Iraq has kept us in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, annoying bin Laden in the process. So first of all, occupying Iraq will end our need to deploy in Saudi Arabia. So let’s not just talk about the additional duties. Second, what external threats are there? Kuwait? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Syria? Turkey? There is Iran, but a revolution in that component of the axis of evil will likely end that threat. So, we will have to occupy Iraq with significant land power, gradually drawing down as in Bosnia over the course of the last seven years. Our allies should help too. Without an external threat, we could be down to a token force in a decade.

But what if an occupation really does hurt our ability to fight the Chinese? Or somebody else? Such is the folly of having only enough force to fight and beat one regional threat (a major theater war: MTW) such as North Korea or Iraq. The last quadrennial review in 2001 ended the much-mocked “two-MTW” standard. We never had an actual two war strategy since most people forgot the “nearly simultaneous” caveat in the pre-2001 post-Cold War strategy. The old theoretical standard at least stopped ridiculous arguments as Mr. Webb makes. With the ability to fight more than one MTW, we were not deterred from fighting one out of fear it was not the really threatening one! Just how secure did the South Koreans feel knowing they were under the lesser threat compared to Kuwait? If North Korea had invaded, we would have been hard pressed with the so-called two-war standard military to fight in Korea and still have enough to defeat Iraq. Now what would we do with a military judged so small that we count on only our most pressing potential enemy attacking us?

If we are deterred from going into Iraq, a state that is undoubtedly a threat to us, the proper response is to enlarge our military. Modernization is no substitute for numbers after a certain point. If we don’t have enough Army troops to occupy Iraq and still be prepared to fight another enemy on the ground, we’d better enlarge our Army. That is the correct conclusion to reach. Not that we should be frozen into inaction at anything larger than Grenada. And I guess I might as well pile on. If Mr. Webb’s contention is that by avoiding all combat we have enough land power to fight China now, he is sadly mistaken.

And further, is he seriously saying defeating Iraq would benefit China? I’d stack up our record in the Moslem world against China’s any day. Mr. Webb’s examples of Chinese success in courting the Islamic world are perplexing (Just what religious group is rebelling against China in the western part of that country?) First, who does Pakistan look to now? And what exactly has China gotten out of Libya? And finally, just how is sponsoring a failed coup against Moslem Indonesia considered courting the Moslem world? Honestly, hand wringers see any foe’s actions as part of an intricate long-term plan that will overwhelm us; and any action on our part as falling into their hands.

Expand the Army.

Take Baghdad.

[NOTE: This is from the former Defense Issues category from my original blog. Also, the link from the original post is dead so I didn't try to enable it.]