Monday, January 30, 2006

Get Real

I understand that the size of our ground forces is a debatable issue. It is separate from the debate over how many troops we need in Iraq to win.

So I am not too shocked that some analysts argue for more troops. But Krepinevich really has me scratching my head when he argues for more troops to handle these missions:

To Krepinevich, that difficult task serves as a warning about the types of challenges US forces could face in future conflicts. In countries prone to Islamic radicalism - such as Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia - any military venture would probably involve a lengthy peacekeeping after the war is won. Moreover, since these countries are far larger than Iraq in both size and population, it would take a far larger force to control them.

If a country such as Pakistan collapses, he says, there is the possibility that Muslim radicals could seize a state with nuclear weapons - something the United States would not tolerate. Unless the US could get major help from its allies, it is unprepared for such a scenario, he adds.

We're supposed to size our Army to occupy these countries?

Iran? With about 80 million people? Call it 1.6 million troops to pacify. Or maybe only 800,000 if we assume only the Persian half really resists. At a 2:1 ratio for rotating troops, say 2.4 million to 4.8 million troops. And we'd need another 100,000 uncommitted to deter others, right?

Or maybe Pakistan with what? 150 million people? There's a good 3 million troops, or 9 million with a rotation base. Plus extras.

Or how about Indonesia? With, say, 230 million people, we'd need 4.6 million troops to occupy them and pacify them. With a rotation base, call it 13.8 million troops. Plus whatever we'd need to deter anybody else on the ground. Make it a round 14 million just for fun.

Can anybody really be arguing for an Army of 1945 size to pacify these large countries? Are they seriously thinking these are the reasons we need a larger military?

Look, I am sympathetic to the idea that we need more combat units. I just figure we can, at least for the time being, build those combat units within our slightly elevated end strength authorized by using existing forces more efficiently:

The Pentagon disagrees. Defense officials insist that the size of the force in Iraq is what the generals want, and as the Army transforms, the process will free more soldiers to fight - creating the more-agile Brigade Combat Teams, moving troops out of jobs that can be done by civilians, and rebalancing Army and reserve duties.

I don't know, but I don't think that planning for an occupation of Indonesia is the wisest planning yardstick. You'll need a better reason than that to convince me that we should increase our Army end strength significantly.