History has a funny way of looking backward at Presidents and assessing all of those tiny little decisions — made day in and day out — from a much wider lens. From the perspective of not just the short-term ramifications of policy decisions, but what their real world, long-term impact has been. It is not often that we get to see both the short-term and the long-term questions intersect in a measureable way. But that is exactly what seems to be shaping up in a number of recent reports regarding US troops, our strategic capability for the short and long term, and the impact that all of this is having — right now — on our folks in uniform.
The fact that some of this is coming out of the mouth of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace? That's sure to make a few heads explode inside the Beltway, isn't it?
Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.
The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.
The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace's review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels."…
The review grades the military's ability to meet the demands of the nation's military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Cuba or China….
So, can we officially say now that the Bush Administration has made us less safe in terms of our strategic readiness capabilities and the eroded level of response capability that we now have under George Bush's watch? The GAO thinks so (H/T Raw Story):
Congress's investigative arm has warned that sustained operations in Iraq are taking a toll on the military's ability to respond to conflict elsewhere in the world, RAW STORY has learned….
"The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force have drawn heavily from their prepositioned stocks to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," they write. "These sustained military operations are taking a toll on the condition and readiness of military equipment."
What does this mean for our men and women in uniform? Or for the rest of the nation not currently serving? It means if there is a big emergency, we are in a world of hurt, that's what it means. We have neither the equipment nor the force elasticity to adequately respond to much more around the world — and our amazing forces who are working on a shoestring now, stretched so thin in parts of the line it astonishes me daily that they are able to hold things together as well as they do? Well, they are going to be forced to keep on stretching.
A lot of active duty folks are not happy about that — and have started speaking up about it — something that rarely happens, for good reason, considering the need to maintain a strong chain of command structure. If you haven't seen the report that 60 Minutes did on this, you can watch clips here. As for specifics on how they are stretching, just take a peek at this report that two Army units will be forgoing desert training that is specifically designed to ensure readiness for the conditions they will face in Iraq. Instead, because of the Bush escalation plan, they will be immediately sent to Iraq without this readiness training. And that is just one example of many.
All of the interviews and discussions with ABC's Bob Woodruff over the next few days will focus some serious public scrutiny on far too neglected issue: head trauma injuries. Woodruff has a special this evening about his road to recovery from the injuries that he sustained reporting in Iraq — and, if you take a peek at this from The Nitpicker, you'll see why this has the potential to open a whole lot of eyes for people who are not used to real news being put in front of them. This is both newsworthy and infotainment, and that has to have a whole lot of wingnut armchair warriors frothing at the mouth…because the truth of the matter is, our nation's soldiers are not getting the best care possible, and a whole lot of them are dealing with substantial head trauma from IEDs and other attacks — and the Pentagon's PR department has been sweeping this under the media rug without any pushback for accountability from the public.
He was, like any journalist, determined to tell his story. But in an hour-long special that airs Tuesday night at 10, Woodruff does more than that. He visits with Iraq veterans who also suffered traumatic brain injuries, documents their painfully slow progress and accuses the Pentagon of withholding information about how widespread these debilitating wounds have become.
Woodruff's reporting packs an emotional punch because he is, quite simply, a man who cheated death. Never before had an anchor for an American broadcast network been injured in war. Woodruff instantly became a symbol of the dangers that journalists face in Iraq, and is trying to use his higher profile to illuminate the plight of soldiers who struggle with these injuries far from the spotlight.
It is high time that the moratorium on hard questions came to an end, don't you think?
Looking back through the lens of history, if JFK were alive today, don't you think he would be not only wise but justified in saying "Hey, maybe we should have spent a little more time reviewing all the data on Vietnam before we rushed more and more troops there for years and year without really having any workable strategy or honest hope of achieving our publicly stated political goals?" Isn't it about time we started asking the Bush Administration to take a long, hard look at reality — instead of constantly allowing them to tap dance around it?
I don't know about you all, but terrorists aren't exactly sitting around and saying, "Hey, American troops are stretched thin. Let's not open another front in the so-called war on terror because that wouldn't be sporting.", now are they? As commander-in-chief, shouldn't Bush's first priority be to make decisions that make us more safe, and not less so — not just for the short term, but also for the long haul? And isn't it well past time for all of us to stand up and demand that he do just that?