December 12, 2003

About Time, and While You're at It...

Congress is apparently beginning to notice that we don't have enough troops, and is going to fix the problem even if the Pentagon objects. Good.

Call-ups of part-time troops from the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve to fill the ranks in Iraq have intensified the bipartisan sentiment that the Pentagon doesn't have enough troops to fight an extended war on terrorism while keeping enough well-rested, well-trained troops ready for an emergency.

"Momentum is building in Congress for" an increase, says Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "Finally, everyone has come around to see enough is enough."

"This recognizes the reality in the strain and the stretch in all the services," says Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Skelton promises "positive action by our committee early next year."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld strongly opposes increasing the size of the military on the grounds that the services are not efficiently using the personnel they already have, and increasing the number of troops is enormously expensive. Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says Rumsfeld "hasn't seen any analysis that convinces him there is a need" for a large increase in active-duty troops.

If Congress forces the administration to add troops, it would mark a turning point in the downsizing of the active-duty military that began before the end of the Cold War. These forces peaked at 2.2 million in 1987 and fell back slightly because of budget concerns. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 speeded up the cuts, shrinking the force to just under 1.5 million troops in 1998, where it has remained.

While they are at it, there is one other area that the Congress needs to fix, over administration objections: intelligence. While the failure to foresee the Black Tuesday attacks was regrettable, it has to be realized that some things are just going to be missed. Our intelligence services were organized to prevent another Pearl Harbor, not this kind of attack.

On the other hand, the failure of NRO, CIA and others to pin down Iraq's WMD capabilities is unforgivable and unacceptable. This is, in fact, exactly the kind of thing we were primed to look for, and Iraq was almost our sole immediate strategic focus for more than a year before the war started. In all of that time, we were unable to reliably identify what weapons and programs Saddam had, and where he had them. I do believe that we will eventually find the evidence of the programs, but clearly the intelligence failed to find anything of significance that could be trusted, in that what was publically released (which presumably would be the easiest material to prove) has not held up at all.

This is a serious breach, because we will need good intelligence in the future. At what point do we invade Iran? How will we know the state of their nuclear programs? Will Congress believe the administration (any administration) that tells them it's time, if they were publically embarassed this time?

The President has refused to take action against the director of the CIA, who is ultimately responsible for that intelligence. I applaud the President for his loyalty, but not for his common sense: we need to be able to trust our intelligence services. The President won't fix this problem, but Congress can. It is time, I think, for the Congress to impeach and remove the senior intelligence officers for dereliction of duty in regards to pre-war WMD intelligence on Iraq. It would have a practical effect of concentrating the attentions of these officers' successors, as well as rebuilding Congressional trust in our intelligence services.

Posted by Jeff at December 12, 2003 10:42 PM | Link Cosmos
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