The U.S. militaryWhy don't we read more like this from the MSM?
The brilliance of U.S. army and marines officers has not been fully appreciated. I met scores with PhDs and MAs, from Majors to Colonels, who are literally all at once trying to defeat al Qaeda gangs and Shiite militias, rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities and train Iraqi army and police. As was true of the last trip to Iraq, I am left with three general impressions about the military.
(1) Our army and marines are far too few and overextended. The United States must either radically increase the size of these traditional ground units or scale back its commitments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Through constant rotations, we are literally burning out gifted officers and lifetime professionals— and will lose their priceless expertise if they begin, as I fear, retiring en masse due to the sheer exhaustion.
(2) There is more optimism about success among the battlefield soldiers than present with analysts in Baghdad. The sudden decrease in violence has left many units stunned that Iraqis who used to try to kill them are suddenly volunteering information about terrorists and landmines, and clamoring to join the joint security force. Usually those behind the desk are the optimists, the soldiers who die the pessimists. But instead there is genuine feeling on the front that after four frustrating years of ordeal, at last there are tangible signs of real, often radical improvement.
(3) As a supporter of some four years of the now unpopular effort to remove Saddam and leave a democracy in his place, I continue to have only one reservation, albeit a major one. The U.S. soldier in the field is so unusually competent and heroic that one comes to despair at the very thought of losing even one of them. As a military historian I know that an army that can’t take casualties can’t win, but I confess after spending 16-hour days with our soldiers in impossible conditions one wonders whether the entire country of Iraq is worth the loss of just of these unusual Americans. I understand both the lack of logic and perhaps amorality in such a sweeping statement, but feel it nonetheless out here.
The military is pulling out all the stops. Some examples. They have flown Vietnam-era veterans to lecture on counter-insurgency in their school at Taji, in addition to clinic psychologists and veterans of recent wars from Panama to Afghanistan. The problem is now not too few interpreters, but too many trying to join us. Some of the best are Iraqi-Americans, who know American idiom and deeply appreciate being an American.Read it all.
Hundreds are working on IEDs, not just counter-technologies and aerial surveillance, but sophisticated methods of learning how they are made, how the bombers function, and how they are paid and maintained. Thousands of other reserve and retired engineers have come to Iraq to build and advise Iraqi contractors. I met a fascinating engineer in his mid-fifties who volunteered to return to the Marines and is now supervising the reconstruction of the governmental center in Ramadi.
Again, they are trying not just to defeat the insurgency, but to literally take Iraq from its primordial past to the twenty-first century within four years. A Herculean Task.