Monday, July 11, 2005

The Next Bad War

From today's Bob Herbert column:

"Last week's terror bombings in London should be seen as a reminder not just that Mr. Bush's war [in Iraq] was a hideous diversion of focus and resources from the essential battle against terror, but that it has actually increased the danger of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its allies."

If you carve through the emotion of this sentence, you'll find the clearest lesson learned about the Iraq War. It was a strategic mistake. Invading, occupying, and attempting to rebuild another nation did not defeat or even diminish global terrorism. And there's no tangible reason to believe it ever will.

This lesson seems to have evaded the New York Times' editorial staff.

In a Sunday editorial on the upcoming Quarterly Defense Review (QDR) the Times calls for the pentagon to cut back on naval and air forces and to increase Army manning by 100,000. The present force wasn't designed to fight the kinds of wars we're presently fighting, and "The price for this mismatch is evident in Iraq, where the burden of fighting has fallen on Army and Marine ground forces neither large enough nor adequately equipped for a long-term occupation in a hostile environment."

I agree that cut backs in the Air Force and Navy are called for (although one cannot dismiss the vital role these forces would play in repelling an invasion of Taiwan or South Korea).

But the notion of building an Army to fight more wars like Iraq is patently unsound. The last thing we want to do is fight another war like that, but if we build a force to fight a war like that, guess what kinds of wars we're going to fight?

An old adage says that generals always make the mistake of preparing to re-fight the last war. The New York Times would have us make the mistake of preparing to re-fight this one.

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