Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Army chief ties the war to shifting to a new era of conflict – assuming the US can win.

CSM: Long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, lately, longer tours of duty, have "unquestionably stressed and stretched" American soldiers, said US Army Chief of Staff George Casey last week. Get used to it, he seemed to say. Beyond these wars, the US will likely face "persistent conflict" overseas.

Long Strains on the volunteer Army are a sign of a military "out of balance," as General Casey put it, with the need for the United States to prepare for new types of military action – and not your grandfather's shorter, conventional wars.

Casey wants to use the current war experience to prepare the Army for long-term threats. These threats include the ease of exporting terror from failing, poor, or overpopulated countries; the competition among nations for dwindling oil supplies; global-warming disasters; and the spread of nuclear weapons. He says there are more than 1,200 terrorist groups in the world.

Casey says the war is winnable. Perhaps what he really means is that the Army can't afford to lose by not rising to the challenges of a war that portends future types of warfare. Retreat is not on his lips. But maybe a cry for more help is.


programmer craig said...

That's a good article! I think the US military would be under a lot less strain if the US Army doubled in size (why do they keep talking about adding a few brigades here and there!?) and if the USMC went to 4 active duty divisions, instead of the current 3 active and 1 reserve.

That's certainly doable, since that would still be smaller than Reagan's military was. The Navy and the Air Force are in pretty good shape, as it is. No changes are required there, other than what is routine.

The US Army also has to become what is known as an "Expeditionary" force. It must become accustomed to rapid and dynamic deployments. The Marine corps always has been. Most Marines have historically spent 9 months out of every 24 deployed in the field. If we can get the Army used to that, and if we can get both the Army and the Marines large enough that individuals are only spending a third of their time in the field, we'll be in pretty good shape, I think. That's not an unmanageable hardship. But I personally know people who've been deployed to Afghanistan 2 times and in Iraq 4 times, in the last 5 years. That's way too much.

SERENDIP said...

What's your opinion on draft?

programmer craig said...

Hi Serendip,

I could only support a draft if another World War started and the US required many millions of troops, fielded very quickly. Reagan had over 5 million troops on active duty during the 1980s, and that was an all volunteer force.

In my opinion the benefits from having a volunteer military far outweigh the disadvantages in sheer numbers that can be attained with a draft. The US military currently excels in professionalism, individual expertise and high morale. If we start drafting, we will have a different military from the one we do today. And it won't be a better one.

We may have to go with a draft eventually. I think the US can increase the number of volunteers by increasing the incentives, though. Better pay, better benefits (especially education) and so forth. We have spent so much in Iraq, if we diverted even a portion of that kind of money towards the troops who staff our military it would be a much more attractive proposition for young people.

That's my opinion, anyway :)

SERENDIP said...

All valid points. I agree, the quality of the army will change by constituting the draft. However, I think everyone needs to do their share even as civilians. The whole country should be involved in some kind of peace corp organization...