Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military

The Washington Post fronts shocking news that two years of war have left the U.S. military tired and with equipment in need of repair. Also, American troops apparently lack the ability to be in two places at once.

Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military (A1)

Two years after the United States launched a war in Iraq with a crushing display of power, a guerrilla conflict is grinding away at the resources of the U.S. military and casting uncertainty over the fitness of the all-volunteer force, according to senior military leaders, lawmakers and defense experts. The unexpectedly heavy demands of sustained ground combat are depleting military manpower and gear faster than they can be fully replenished. Shortfalls in recruiting and backlogs in needed equipment are taking a toll, and growing numbers of units have been broken apart or taxed by repeated deployments, particularly in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

“What keeps me awake at night is, what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?” Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff, said at a Senate hearing this week. The Iraq war has also led to a drop in the overall readiness of U.S. ground forces to handle threats at home and abroad, forcing the Pentagon to accept new risks — even as military planners prepare for a global anti-terrorism campaign that administration officials say could last for a generation.

Stretched by Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States lacks a sufficiently robust ability to put large numbers of “boots on the ground” in case of a major emergency elsewhere, such as the Korean Peninsula, in the view of some Republican and Democratic lawmakers and some military leaders.

Presumably, action elsewhere would be handled by some combination of Reserve call-up and mobilization of troops that have recently rotated from Iraq. That would be demanding, to be sure, but that’s the nature of things. It’s unrealistic to think the taxpayers will fund a force large enough to fight an infinite number of wars simultaneously.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gottlieb Almanegro says:

    Trying to “fight an infinite number of wars simultaneously” has brought down the best of empires, why should we be any different? Of course in most cases cowardly and corrupt politicians inside the empire aggravated the demise. Hmmmmm, now I’m really getting depressed.

  2. McGehee says:

    It’s unrealistic to think the taxpayers will fund a force large enough to fight an infinite number of wars simultaneously.

    Gosh, what is an imperialist neo-con warmonger regime to do?

  3. ob1 says:

    All this proves is that the drawdown of the 90’s was incredibly stupid. Anyone who has studied US military history knows that it is the pattern to drawdown too much after a conflict. We weren’t ready for the Korean war because the cuts after WW II were too drastic. After Korea the same thing happened. After the Cold War, we started another drastic drawdown. Desert Storm was just on the cusp of it and since it was so short there was no problem. The reductions afterward and thru out the Clinton admins have given us a military that is too small. There were plenty of people who were shouting this to any that would listen at the time it was happening. Unfortunately, the right people did not care. BTW, I am not solely blaming the Clinton admin. Many of the cuts were scheduled before he took office. Clinton and his minions do bear some of blame though, they continued the cuts, and did nothing stop what was happening.

    If we had the force levels we had during Desert Storm there would not be this issue.

    Bring back at least 2 Army Infantry Divisions and 1 Marine div! Bring back the 2 SF Groups (Reserves) lost in the 90’s. It will take 5-10 years to do it right, but we need to start now.

  4. ken says:

    We’re paying, or should I say borrowing, way too much money right now to fund the most letal military the world has ever seen.

    If we could keep the neo-cons from waging useless wars all over the globe we would be able to actually reduce the bloated size of the military without sacrificing any security.

  5. Liam says:

    “If we could keep the neo-cons from waging useless wars all over the globe we would be able to actually reduce the bloated size of the military without sacrificing any security.”

    Huh? Show your work.

  6. ken says:

    Liam, we could cut our military in half and we would still have more lethal firepower and be stronger than the next ten largest militaries combined.

  7. bindare says:

    Ken says we could cut our military in half. This would not result in fewer wars, only more dangerous ones as we would surely be tested by our many enemies around the globe. Maybe I’m wrong but it would be foolish to find out the hard way.

  8. McGehee says:

    Good old Ken. When I posted my sarcastic comment, it was him I had in mind because sarcasm — obviously — is wasted on him.

  9. ATM says:

    Exactly how do you cut the military in half? And are you sure that the resultant military would be larger then the next ten militaries combined? Especially if other countries increase their forces in response to a gap in capabilities opened up by a reduction of the US military or because they see an opening for conquest that is created by reduced US military strength?

    And don’t buy into the bullshit about the US spending more on its military than everyone else. The cost of labor in the US means both military personnel require more pay and military equipment costs more. The absolute dollar amount is not irrelevent. What is more relevent is the purchasing power that a country’s military budget affords.

  10. Hal says:

    So, what ATM is saying is that the US dollar is so low in real terms that it takes X times the amount of spending – in dollars – to achieve the same level of spending as, say, Russia or the UK. . .

    What a moron.

  11. Clint Lovell says:

    They jus’ don’t git it…

  12. ob1 says:

    If we cut Ken in half, he would still be more of an idiot than the next 10 liberals combined.

  13. Hal,

    In this case, you’re the moron. The file you linked to doesn’t use purchasing power parity, but inflation-adjusted numbers. Now, I’m not saying they’re wrong, but the data they provide doesn’t support the conclusion you reach.

    Inflation-adjusted numbers are better for comparing within the same country, but not as good for comparing across countries.