More Troops Versus the Right Troops
Glenn Reynolds‘ observation that,
We like to treat this [i.e., the broad war on terror] as a military problem because (1) we’re good at those; and (2) that seems to produce simple questions, like “more troops, or not?” Trouble is, those probably aren’t the right questions.
Our Army size was entirely adequate for crushing Saddam’s forces in short order. It’s probably adequate to doing the same to Iran’s forces. It’s not up to fully policing a big country once we’ve done that. Do we want a military that is?
Has won him a rare concurrence from Kevin Drum, who leans toward “creat[ing] a branch of the military dedicated to occupation and peacekeeping.”
I’ve long resisted that idea, since operations have a nasty tendency to shift gears from warfighting to stabilization operations and back again in the blink of an eye. I’ve been arguing since the early 1990s that what we needed was more of the right kinds of troops for these missions: MPs, civil affairs, engineers, linguists, and Green Berets.
It may well be, though, that sustained stability ops have such a negative impact on our ability to wage conventional war, that we at least need some hybrid between these concepts. In Imperial Grunts, Robert Kaplan is amazed at how well our unified command for Latin America, SOUTHCOM, has managed to build a deep competency by essentially maintaining an old British colonial style force where soldiers spend most of their careers rotating in and out of SOUTHCOM assignments, rather than just doing three or four years, going back stateside, and then rotating to Europe or wherever. Something along that line may be a preferred model for this puzzle, developing soldiers with cultural and linguistic skills in the Middle East, East Asia, and other hot spots where sustained operations may be needed.
Regardless, Reynolds and Drum are right: Simply throwing more of the same at the problem is unlikely to work.