I believe there is no way a liberal Democratic administration would have been able, in the post-9/11 environment, to run-down and over-stretch the U.S. military the way the Bush administration has by giving it ambitious missions without significant new resources and manpower. This is very much a Nixon-to-China kind of phenomenon, because a liberal wouldn’t have won the acquiescence of the Right to such a thing. But Bush has mostly gotten it–and, moreover, conservative audiences still give Rumsfeld standing ovations! Here is part of a disturbing Washington Post article today:
Beyond that, however, the Army would have to cobble together war-depleted units to form complete ones to dispatch to the new conflict — at the risk of lost time, unit cohesion and preparedness, senior Army officials said. Moreover, the number of Army and Marine combat units available for an emergency would be limited to about half that of four years ago, experts said, unless the difficult decision to pull forces out of Iraq were made.
“We are concerned about gross readiness . . . and ending equipment and personnel shortfalls,” said a senior Marine Corps official. The official added that Marine readiness has dropped and that the Corps is unable to fulfill many planned missions for the fight against terrorism.
Senior Pentagon officials stress that the U.S. military has ample air and naval power that could respond immediately to possible contingencies in North Korea, Iran or the Taiwan Strait.
“If you had to go fight another war someplace that somebody sprung upon us, you would keep the people who are currently employed doing what they’re doing, and you would use the vast part of the U.S. armed forces that is at home station, to include the enormous strength of our Air Force and our Navy, against the new threat,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.
But if the conflict were to require a significant number of ground troops — as in some scenarios such as the disintegration of Pakistan — Army and Marine Corps officials made clear that they would have to scramble to provide them. “Is it the way we’d want to do it? No. Would it be ugly as hell? Yes,” said one of the senior Army officials. “But,” he added, “we could get it done.”
According to Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, the Army and Marine Corps today cannot sustain even a modest increase of 20,000 troops in Iraq. U.S. commanders for Afghanistan have asked for more troops but have not received them, noted the Iraq Study Group report, which called it “critical” for the United States to provide more military support for Afghanistan…
…The U.S. military today could cobble together two or three divisions in an emergency — compared with as many as six in 2001 — not enough to carry out major operations such as overthrowing the Iranian government. “That’s the kind of extreme scenario that could cripple us,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution.