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December 20, 2006
Do We Need A Bigger Military?

President Bush reversed course from his six-year effort to make the military smaller and more nimble by saying that America needs a more robust military. In an interesting interview with the Washington Post, Bush also backtracked from his earlier insistence that the US is winning the war in Iraq:

President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists.

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

In another turnaround, Bush said he has ordered Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to develop a plan to increase the troop strength of the Army and Marine Corps, heeding warnings from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill that multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching the armed forces toward the breaking point. "We need to reset our military," said Bush, whose administration had opposed increasing force levels as recently as this summer.

But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed. He confirmed that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted out of concern that it would not help.

Bush tried to cast his new assessment on Iraq as consistent with his earlier statements, but that's risible on its face. Before the election, he said that we "absolutely" were winning in Iraq. Now he says that he meant it as an absolute commitment to winning there, but that was not how he phrased it then. Insisting that the two statements are somehow equal undermines his credibility in a silly cause. We're obviously not winning in Iraq, and while we're not be losing, it's not the same thing.

And let's not pretend that the expansion of the military represents some continuity of thought, either. Bush fully backed Donald Rumsfeld's vision of military transformation from a Cold War strength-through-numbers paradigm to the modern rapid-response force that would address the post-Soviet world. It hasn't worked as planned, mostly because the strategies it was designed to support did not get used. Once we decided to stay in Iraq after Saddam's removal -- a decision made for good reasons in the war on terror -- the Cold War style of military was needed for the long-term administration of the country. It takes boots on the ground to pacify insurgencies, perhaps not as many as Eric Shinseki predicted, but more than we have now.

Our greatest issue may not be boots on the ground, but sailors in the water. The Chinese have enjoyed massive economic growth, and they have begun to invest a large chunk of that in their blue-water navy. That buildup threatens our position in the Pacific Rim, and we have done little to counter the threat. We have allowed ourselves to fall far behind the curve in building new ships for the Pacific Fleet. If the Chinese will eventually rise to challenge us as a world superpower, then we have to rethink the small-but-nimble strategy for our traditional channel for global power.

This will force us to spend even more money on defense than we have in the past, which will create difficult choices for us in the next few years. We need a bigger military both for the war on Islamist terrorism and to counter the rising strength of China. It looks like we've finally agreed on that. Now we have to agree on how to fund it -- and where to get the money to do it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2006 6:45 AM

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» Bush to Increase Military Numbers from Wake up America>
Our military doesn't just deserve our "funding" them, but they deserve our respect, our thanks and our moral support. They are not asking YOU to pick up a gun and fight, they are willing to do it for you...... is it so much to ask that we support the... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2006 10:29 AM

» A Larger Military from The Thomas Chronicles
As President Bush decides whether or not mass more troops in Iraq, one thing is clear. We need to expand the military, not make it smaller. In the post-Cold War era, many high level policymakers for our military during the Clinton and Bush presidencies... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2006 7:38 PM


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