THE BLOG
01/19/2006 01:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President Bush is Endangering Our Lives 7: Mismanaging the Military

"The United States is fighting the Global War on Terrorism with a mindset shaped by the Cold War. Unfortunately, the wars the United States must fight today in Afghanistan and Iraq are not of this variety."
--LTC M. Wade Markel, Military Review (Nov-Dec, 2004):

"Eliot Cohen cites the two dominant characteristics of American strategic culture as: 'The preference for massing a large number of men and machines and the predilection for direct and violent assault'"
-- "Changing The Army For Counter-Insurgency Operations," by Army Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, Military Review (Nov-Dec 2005)

"`If I were treated like this, I'd be a terrorist!'
--- U.S. Army Colonel, ibid.

As unbelievable as it sounds, the Bush Administration learned nothing from the military mistakes which lost the Vietnam war. Although there is a widespread consensus that the U.S. military must fight an intelligent and sensitive counter-insurgent war if it is to prevail in Iraq, even military journals report that the Administration is using brutal conventional war techniques that have alienated much of the population and increased the number of insurgents we face.

Geopolitical strategists may come up with hypothetical scenarios in which a large U.S. military force can be useful, such as deterring irrational behavior by Iran or North Korea, or keeping nuclear weapons out of a jihadist Pakistani regime. But those who believe in such scenarios should be particularly outraged by the Bush Administration's mismanaging our military in Iraq, which has seriously weakened the deterrent power the U.S. military could have in these other potentially more serious situations.

As we have discussed, fighting a "global war on terror" by invading Iraq was the single most irrational decision ever made by an American leader. Even if one believes we should have overthrown Saddam Hussein for other reasons, however, Mr. Bush had a constitutional responsibility to do so carefully and deliberately, with a well-thought out strategy, troops properly trained for the post-invasion period, sufficient logistics including body-armor and vehicle protection, as many well-trained and well-equipped allies as possible, plans to secure weapons depots that could otherwise be used against us, and a strategy for setting up an Iraqi civil, police and military administration.

He did none of these things. His errors in Iraq have weakened the U.S. military in so many ways that we can only briefly mention some of them here:

-- Over-extending our forces: Mr. Bush's failure to secure Iraq has ensured that our forces are unavailable for the hypothetical scenarios listed above. Bogged down in Iraq, unable to defeat even an estimated 25,000 insurgents, our military is a far weaker deterrent to potential threats in Iran, North Korea or Pakistan. And if we were to fight, we would kill more civilians and suffer higher troops losses because of Iraq. The N.Y. Times reported on May 2, 2005: "The concentration of American troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan limits the Pentagon's ability to deal with other potential armed conflicts ... Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan."

-- Creating a humanpower crisis: Not only are general recruitment and reenlistment rates are down, but so too are re-enlistment rates for non-commissioned officers, the backbone of the military. Many military officers worry that the military reserves, upon whom we rely so heavily, will fall apart coming years. USA Today reported on August 21, 2005: "General Bob Scales, former commandant of the Army War College ... says without a reduction in U.S. ground forces in Iraq ... it would become more difficult to recruit talented people, and young officers and midcareer enlisted soldiers, not easy to replace, could choose to leave." The N.Y. Times reported on July 11, 2005: "In the last several months, the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, has repeatedly cautioned that the Reserve was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force."

-- Creating shortages for domestic needs: Two months before Katrina devastated New Orleans and its citizens suffered and died needlessly, the N.Y. Times reported on July 11 that "long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have left fewer troops available to be mobilized by governors to deal with state missions traditionally performed by guard units, like helping with forest fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters."

-- Failing to commit sufficient troops: While Mr. Bush claims to listen to his commanders, he ignored the request of his own Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki, for the additional several hundred thousand troops needed to secure the country. Mr. Bush has thus bogged us down in a quagmire. Mr. Rumsfield says we could likely see American troops still fighting and dying in Iraq 10 years from now.

-- Not securing sufficient allied support: Mr. Bush has forced the U.S. to pay all costs for the war, unlike the Gulf War where allies paid most of it. This will have wasted an estimated $500 billion by the end of next year, and over $2 trillion eventually. Mr. Bush's failure to assemble a multinational force has also meant that almost all the fighting and dying has been done by U.S. troops.

-- Disbanding the Iraqi army: By disbanding the Iraqi army he added to the burden on U.S. troops.

-- Needlessly endangering our troops: He sent in our troops without sufficient body-armor or protection for their military vehicles, a decision that has needlessly killed hundreds of them.

Even had Mr. Bush made none of these inexcusable mistakes, however, he would have failed as Commander-in-Chief in an even more profound way. For he neither prepared nor trained our troops for the kind of war they needed to fight. Although worded diplomatically, Army Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster - a British Officer who served in Iraq for a year - has written the most devastating pro-military critique of the Bush Administration's military mismanagement since similar critiques were written 35 years ago in Vietnam. Some excepts:

-- "An analysis of 127 U.S. pacification operations in Iraq between May 2003 to May 2005 (reported that) 'There was a strong focus on raiding, cordon & search and sweep ops throughout, on killing insurgents, not protecting the population'."

-- "U.S. Army personnel had a strong sense of moral authority (that) encouraged the erroneous assumption that actions that occurred in its name would be understood and accepted by the population, even if mistakes and civilian fatalities occurred in the implementation."

-- "At times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism."

-- "High levels of emotivity, combined with a strong sense of moral authority, invoke responses to insurgent activity that ultimately exacerbated the situation... U.S. commanders (in Fallujah) ... became set on the total destruction of the enemy."

-- "One study notes that U.S. forces were relatively isolated from the population they existed to support: 'they live in fortified camps away from the population and most face-to-face contact is during cordon and search or vehicle checkpoint operations'."

What this means is clear. The Bush Administration rushed into an ill-conceived invasion of Iraq that was doomed to failure because it repeated the same mistakes that caused us to lose in Vietnam. It is using conventional military techniques that alienate the population and increase both the size and force of those opposing us. This is more than a cause for moral outrage. It constitutes the most convincing evidence possible that our President is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief. He has proven incompetent to manage our military forces. His being allowed to remain as Commander-in-Chief compounds our losses, constitutes a threat to our national security and endangers us all.