web counter Media Lies: Be still my heart

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

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Be still my heart

You can count the number of times I would quote Kevin Drum on one hand - one finger in fact. But this is that time. Drum, discussing the issue of troop strength in Iraq, argues
In other words, when Rumsfeld commented that you go to war "with the army you have," he was exactly right.
How did he arrive at this conclusion?
Several months ago I chatted with Phil Carter about this and then did a bit of research on my own, and as near as I can tell the answer is this: if we used every single active combat brigade of the Army and Marines -- denuding our forces everywhere in the world to do it -- and then filled up every possible National Guard and reserve brigade, we might scrape up about 500,000 troops.

Of course, no one seriously suggests that we should strip every last soldier from Europe, North Korea, and our other overseas deployments. Realistically, then, the maximum number of troops available for use in Iraq is probably pretty close to the number we have now: 300,000 rotated annually, for a presence of about 150,000 at any given time.

The only way to appreciably increase this is to raise the Army's end strength by several divisions, and this is exactly what Kagan and Sullivan think Rumsfeld has been too stubborn about opposing. But as they acknowledge, doing this would take a couple of years -- and as they don't acknowledge, it would have made the war politically impossible. The invasion of Iraq almost certainly would never have happened if Rumsfeld had told Congress in 2002 that he wanted them to approve three or four (or more) new divisions in preparation for a war in 2004 or 2005.
If he keeps this up, I'm going to have to add him to my RSS feeds.

I've made this same argument before, especially the issue of end strength. To discover that Drum has come to the same conclusion is, well, I'm not sure what it is - encouraging? Stunning? Satisfying?

Drum closes with a question.
For that reason, conservative critiques of Rumsfeld on these grounds strike me as hypocritical. Would Kagan and Sullivan have supported delaying the Iraq war a couple of years in order to raise the troops they now believe are necessary? If not, isn't it a little late to start complaining now?
From where he sits, I suppose Sullivan is a conservative. Nevertheless, his pointed question is right. There's been far too much heat and not nearly enough light on this issue.

I'm glad to see some light coming from "the other side". Perhaps now some others will shut up already.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how in the world I even knew that Drum was talking about the issue - Instapundit tipped me off.

UDPATE: More at Belmont Club.