Saturday, March 11, 2006

An army stretched to its limits

America's Achilles heel in Iraq is that its forces are stretched very thin, and they have been since the occupation of Baghdad in April 2003. The reserve forces have been weakened severely by extensive deployments and the active forces enjoy little slack. Critics of Rumsfeld have argued that the U.S. did not deploy enough troops, which is true enough, and we know that former proconsul Bremer's request for more troops was simply ignored. The unmentioned fact is that there are no more forces to send. In effect, considering training requirements, refitting, other commitments, support missions, and the obvious need for the troops to spend time with their families, there are no extra forces to send. It is as though the entire army were in Iraq. Gary Hart's article points to the possibility that the Army will find itself trapped in Iraq, should the civil war expand. While he may be exaggerating the danger to make his point, he does put his finger on the underlying reality and that is that the U.S. military is stretched to the breaking point because of the occupation of Iraq.
US Army in jeopardy in Iraq - The Boston Globe: "IN 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia and, after success at the battle of Borodino, marched on and occupied Moscow. Napoleon and his generals took over the palaces of the court princes and great houses of the mighty boyars.
Sadly for Napoleon, the Russians had different plans for their nation. Within days after abandoning their city to the French army, they torched their own palaces, homes, enterprises, and cathedrals. They burned Moscow down around Napoleon. Denied his last great triumph, the disappointed emperor abandoned Moscow and started home. Along the way, he lost the world's most powerful army.
Recently one of Islamic Shi'ites' most revered sites, the golden mosque in Baghdad, was destroyed by sectarian enemies. By this act and the reprisals that followed, Iraq moved a substantial step closer to civil war. Though a remote, but real, possibility, an Iraqi civil war could cost the United States its army.
Hopefully, leaders are planning for this possibility. If sectarian violence escalates further, US troops must be withdrawn from patrol and confined to their barracks and garrisons. Mass transport must be mustered for rapid withdrawal of those troops from volatile cities in the explosive central region of Iraq. Intensive diplomatic efforts must be focused on preventing an Iraqi civil war from spreading to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Such a potential could make the greater Middle East a tinder box for years, if not decades, to come.
But the first concern must be the safety of US forces. It is strange to contemplate the possibility that the greatest army in world history could be slaughtered in a Middle East conflagration. But prudent commanders have no choice but to plan for this danger.

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