Maj.-Gen. (Retd.) Robert H. Scales is a former commander of the US Army War College-- and also, according to Col. Pat Lang, a former 'counsellor' to D. Rumsfeld. So we should all take it very seriously that Scales writes, as he did yesterday,
the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We're running out of soldiers faster than we're running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.
(Hat-tip to Pat Lang for that, anyway. Also, for the very similar message reportedly coming from Gen. Barry McCaffrey.)
Scales starts his article, which was published in the rightwing Washington Times, thus:
If you haven't heard the news, I'm afraid your Army is broken, a victim of too many missions for too few soldiers for too long...
He also writes,
The Army's collapse after Vietnam was presaged by a desertion of mid-grade officers (captains) and non-commissioned officers. Many were killed or wounded. Most left because they and their families were tired and didn't want to serve in units unprepared for war.
If we lose our sergeants and captains, the Army breaks again. It's just that simple. That's why these soldiers are still the canaries in the readiness coal-mine. And, again, if you look closely, you will see that these canaries are fleeing their cages in frightening numbers.
The lesson from this sad story is simple: When you fight a long war with a long-service professional Army, the force you begin with will not get any larger or better over the duration of the conflict. For that reason, today's conditions are pretty much irreversible. There's not much that money, goodwill or professed support for the troops can do...
Scales also makes clear that however much money Bush and the Congress want to try to throw at the Iraq problem, and however much they want to try to increase the size of the military, it is now quite simply too late to "save" the situation in Iraq.
(Lang also notes this: "MG Robert Scales has been a military analyst for Fox News, and was a counselor to Rumsfeld. He helped create the situation that he complains of now. He should go and hide somewhere and not walk abroad among the living.")
For another take on this, see Slate:
Many reservists have chosen to get out of the military, creating a manpower crisis. Reserve units now frequently deploy to Iraq as composite units, victims of so many personnel exits and transfers that their soldiers often don't even meet until they are called up to active duty. Consequently, the reserve units deploying to Iraq today are not as good as the units that went in 2003-04, and there are few reservists left to fight elsewhere should the need arise.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said that the only thing worse than a broken army is a defeated army. But this puts the cart before the horse, because in this case, the breaking of America's military will lead to defeat, both now and later. America cannot afford to send untrained, unready, or distracted troops into complex conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pretty soon, no more Army, no more problem. Until we need them for a real purpose, not one made up by Bush and Cheney.