The insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost fewer U.S. lives than the Filipino insurgency of 1899-1902. Yet Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker warned Congress last week the U.S. Army "will break" without more troops.
We started this war "flat-footed," with 500,000 fewer soldiers than we had before the Gulf War, says the general, who wants 7,000 soldiers added yearly to the 507,000 on active duty.
The Army is "about broken," agrees Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Powell believes we "are losing the war" in Iraq, but opposes any "surge" of 15,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops, as urged by Sen. John McCain.
"There are no additional troops," says Powell. "All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer, and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."
CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid lately told an audience at Harvard, "This is not an Army that was built to sustain 'a long war.'"
Retired Gen. Kevin Ryan agrees: "Today, the 37 combat brigades of the active Army are almost totally consumed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With all units either deployed, returning from deployment or preparing to deploy, there is none left to prepare for other contingencies."
Yet, adds Ryan, "Our published defense strategy requires a military that can defend our homeland, sustain two major wars, be present in key regions abroad and fight a global war on terrorism. With Marine and Army ground forces barely able to fight the two major wars, the other security tasks are left to flyovers and ship visits from our Air Force and Navy."
What these generals are saying is ominous. Not only is the United States "losing" the war in Iraq, the Army is breaking and we do not have the troops to meet the commitments America has made all over the world. In short, U.S. foreign policy is bankrupt. We cannot meet all the IOUs we have outstanding if several are called at once.
What kind of superpower is it whose army can be "broken" by two insurgencies that have required only half the number of troops we sent to Korea, and a third of the number we sent to Vietnam?
If our Army is "about broken" now, how do we propose to defend the Baltic republics and, if Bush and the neocons get their way, Ukraine and Georgia from a revanchist Russia? How could we fight a second Korean war, the first of which required a third of a million men?
If our Army is "about broken," has our commander in chief lost his mind when he issues bellicose ultimatums to Tehran? And if our Army is not built to "sustain a long war," are not those people insane who talk wildly of fighting "World War IV"? In World War II, we had 12 million men under arms on V-E Day.