20 February 2004

''Winning'' isn't everything

Via Atrios, a nice summation from Digby at Hullabaloo of why the Iraq adventure is a catastrophy.
By invading Iraq the way we did and being proved complete asses now that no WMD have been discovered, one of our best defenses has been completely destroyed. It may have always been nothing but a pretense that we had hi-tech, super duper satellites with x-ray vision and all-knowing eavesdropping devices that can hear a pin drop half a world away but it was a very useful pretense. Nobody knew exactly what we were capable of. Now they do. It appears to everyone on the planet that our vaunted intelligence services couldn't find water even if they fell off of a fucking aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

It's this kind of thing that makes really crazy wackos like Kim Jong Il make mistakes. When a hugely powerful country like the United States proves to the entire world that it is not as powerful as everyone thought, petty tyrants and ambitious generals tend to get excited.

Digby writes largely in response to a post by Nick Confessore who sums up the argument that we've bogged down our military, drawing heavily in turn on James Fallows' dazzling article about military preparedness in The Atlantic Monthly.
It's a slight exaggeration to say that the entire U.S. military is either in Iraq, returning from Iraq, or getting ready to go. But only slight.

The basic problem is that an ever leaner, numerically smaller military is being asked to patrol an ever larger part of the world.

''Unanticipated U.S. ground force requirements in postwar Iraq,'' a report for the Army War College noted late last year, ''have stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking point,'' with more than a third of the Army's total ''end strength'' committed in and around Iraq.
Meanwhile, barely noticed, the United States still has some 75,000 soldiers in Germany, 41,000 in Japan, 41,000 in Korea, 13,000 in Italy, 12,000 in the United Kingdom, and so on, down through a list of more than a hundred countries -- plus some 26,000 sailors and Marines deployed afloat. The new jobs keep coming, and the old ones don't go away.
Despite our level of spending and our apparent status as the world's mono-power, the United States has few unused reserves of military strength. Sending troops in a hurry to the Korean DMZ -- or to Iran, or the Taiwan Strait -- would mean removing them in a hurry from some other place where, according to U.S. policy, they are also needed.

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