So is the war in Iraq causing troop shortfalls for hurricane relief in New Orleans?
In a word, no.
A look at the numbers should dispel that notion. Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.
That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.
So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course–the Left wants you to believe that the country has been denuded of its citizen soldiers, and that Louisiana has suffered inordinately because Guardsmen and women who would have been available to be mobilized by the state to stop looting and aid in reconstruction are instead risking their lives in Iraq.
Not hardly. According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies.
It is hard to understand what more should, or realistically could have been done up to this point. A disaster of this magnitude is certain to be politicized, but it seems early in the game to be assessing blame for a response effort that has only been underway a few days in a crisis that is still developing; particularly such a rapid response. Moreover, it is simply not plausible to use the situation to critique the force structure in Iraq. The Guard is demonstrating that it can fulfill both its state and federal responsibilities, as it was designed and intended to do. Of course, it is impossible to win in these situations; critics will always find a way. A year ago after Hurricane Charley, the president was accused of responding too quickly, allegedly to curry favor with Florida voters. Back then only a few fringe characters tried to make the Iraq/Guard connection. It is a shame that the Times has drifted in their direction.