Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Accelerated Withdrawal from Iraq is Vital to Success of the Professional Army

Major General Robert H. Scales, formerly head of the Army War College, is quoted on Col. W. Patrick Lang's blog as saying:

The Army's collapse after Vietnam was presaged by a desertion of mid-grade officers (captains) and non-commissioned officers. Many were killed or wounded. Most left because they and their families were tired and didn't want to serve in units unprepared for war.

If we lose our sergeants and captains, the Army breaks again. It's just that simple. That's why these soldiers are still the canaries in the readiness coal-mine. And, again, if you look closely, you will see that these canaries are fleeing their cages in frightening numbers.

The lesson from this sad story is simple: When you fight a long war with a long-service professional Army, the force you begin with will not get any larger or better over the duration of the conflict. For that reason, today's conditions are pretty much irreversible. There's not much that money, goodwill or professed support for the troops can do. Another strange consequence is that the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We're running out of soldiers faster than we're running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.

In the original editorial referred to by Lang, there is also this bit of reality:

Past experience tells us that it takes at least a year to build a first-rate small unit. Like a fine wine, making superb small units cannot be rushed. Commanders stay awake at night worrying that their companies and platoons will go to war as a collection of strangers. Nine months between deployments will guarantee this condition.

The time-between-deployment problem ("dwell time") has become so acute that Army planners, borrowing a phrase from Wal-Mart, are talking about "just-in-time deployment," meaning that units are being rushed through training to arrive in Iraq just in time. In the past, attendance at the Army's superb National Training Centers in California, Germany and Louisiana was supposed to be a finishing exercise where brigades topped off their skills in realistic and demanding maneuvers. Today, these centers are used to do the most basic skill training in order to get units in the best shape possible so as to arrive in combat "just in time."

[Robert H. Scales, The Washington Times]

We can always go back to Iraq, if need be. We can always send more troops to Afghanistan, some years down the road. We need to get out Iraq now, to create the units that will be instrumental if either of these decisions are ever made, or some new threat emerges. First, we would have to rebuild the Army, and that means training troops, and creating and fulfilling recruiting incentives and promises already made, not buying hardware or similarly profitable business motives that continue to inspire Democratic and Republican appropriators (and their lobbyist friends) alike.

Business logic often fails in the business world, lets keep it there, and off of the battlefield. We have a greater responsibility, beyond providing profits to corporate investors, in selecting missions for, and providing real support to, our nation's fighting forces.

Since DARPA and MITRE have failed to pull a fully functioning "Universal Communicator" out of their asses for either the military that has to fight alongside Iraqi, Afghani, or even Polish forces, or the Diplomatic Corps of the State Department, etc. We need to realize that we live in a globalized world defined by the fact that we are capable of reaching out and touching, or being touched by, thousands of alien cultures. Despite the penetration of our cultural exports into the jungles of Africa and Asia, or the dusty markets of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Provinces, we aren't capable of really understanding our potential allies or adversaries, regardless of how well they can parrot one-liners from our films and songs, or their ability to grokk our culture while we remain culturally blind to their languages and ethoses.

If we really are in a long war, a multi-generational battle for survival against the dark plots of a patient enemy, we need to be devoting more resources to properly educating the next generation, not putting evrything on the line with Hail Mary football passes and surges.

If we have to create a new Emergency Supplemental bill to overcome a promised Bush veto, how about putting some real money into teaching foreign languages in public primary and secondary schools? Putting real money into language acquisition but the Defense Laguage Institute at Monterrey? Paying language instructors salaries that would be competitive with salaries they could expect to receive if they applied their linguistic and cultural insights for corporate interests?

I would still oppose that supplemental, unless it initiated immediate withdrawal from Iraq, but it would be better..

Additional Reading: Article meantions deaths of L-3's contract linguists, DARPA effort on Star Trek like "Universal Communicator"

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Blogger skippy said...

more erica campbell.

3:21 PM  
Blogger ImpeccableLiberalCredentials said...

Will do. Give me a few minutes, and I'll see if she has fresh content for me to push up...

3:32 PM  

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