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April 16, 2008

A Question for Michael O'Hanlon
Posted by Michael Cohen

As Ilan noted Michael O'Hanlon has his 8,456th op-ed in the Washington Post today about the war in Iraq. Amazingly, it sounds a lot like the previous 8,455 - we can't leave Iraq.

O'Hanlon argues, "continued progress will be far more likely if major reductions in U.S. forces beyond those currently planned await early 2010."

Now Ilan has here deconstructed that argument, but let's say that O'Hanlon is correct, how does he reconcile the call for troop levels to remain constant until 2010 with the most recent proclamations of the nation's top generals that continued deployment in Iraq is doing serious damage to our military and its readiness?  This is not an esoteric discussion. Here is General Cody on the risk to the all-volunteer force:

Gen. Cody said that the "heavy deployments are inflicting 'incredible stress' on soldiers and families and that they pose 'a significant risk' to the nation's all-volunteer military. 'When the five-brigade surge went in, that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army,' Cody testified. 'Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and our families, testing the resolve of our all-volunteer force like never before.'"

Here are the Joint Chiefs:

"Members of the Joint Chiefs have also told the president that the continued troop commitment to Iraq means that there is a significant level of risk should another crisis erupt elsewhere in the world. Any mission could be carried out successfully, the chiefs believe, but the operation would be slower, longer and costlier in lives and equipment than if the armed forces were not so strained. Members of the Joint Chiefs also acknowledge that the deployments to Iraq, with the emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, have left the ground forces no time to train for the full range of missions required to defend American interests."

This is Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, back in February:

"The cumulative effects of the last six-plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future."

Indeed, this is the fatal flaw in all the pro-war proclamations that we heard recently during the Pe-Crock hearings - pro-war advocates are more than happy to call for continued commitment to Iraq, but they are simply unwilling to even engage on the question of whether our military can sustain it. O'Hanlon's op-ed is just another example of this obfuscation.


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should another crisis erupt elsewhere in the world

Oh, my heavens, where might another "crisis erupt?" Could it be in Iran, where the US has been promoting (and arguably has already started) a war? Or Korea, where the US is STILL at war and has stifled any attempt at resolution? Somalia, where the US is currently actively engaged below the radar? Or perhaps Venezuela where the President has had the audacity to call Bush 'The Devil?" (not far off, actually) Or perhaps, with the added troops called for by all leading presidential candidates, it's time for the US to go for The Big One with China? Or with Russia, for which the US army in Europe has been preparing with a recent exercise? Or perhaps another minor distraction like Grenada or Panama? The mind boggles at the opportunities for war that the US might have to pass up for lack of "flexibility."

Staying in Iraq is wrong, but trading Iraq for more war elsewhere is also wrong. The US needs to leave Iraq and reduce its military forces. The US is not thtreatened by any other military force in the world. "Erupting crises" need to be solved by other means than military force, which should never be the first option. A surge in diplomacy is needed, after revamping (reviving) the State Department.

The main problem with the civilian leadership in the White House and those in the think tank world is that they seem to ignore pragmatic concerns such making sure that the soldiers do not PTSD after repeated tours or have equipment that work. The longer that we stay in Iraq the more we reduce our standing army and are prolonging our defeat in that country. It is also interesting that those like O'Hanlon are constantly moving the goalposts in Iraq and are not willing to concede that this effort has been failure.

Making sure that our soldiers do not PTSD is impossible in a brutal military occupation where Iraqi lives are seemingly cheap but nightmares are forever (unless interrupted by suicide).

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