April 29, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XXII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XXII is below:

Of course, there will also be times when the war on terrorism tests our military, as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen, and in the Philippines. What will the war on terrorism require in terms of new doctrines, tactics, equipment, and training? How will it change our military organization? How can we defeat this new enemy while upholding the values that protect our own troops in wartime and that define who we are? The Bush administration has not addressed these questions. A Democratic administration must answer them.

The Bush administration believes that our military should be reserved for war fighting; it came to office averse to peacekeeping and nation building and deeply suspicious of long-term U.S. military deployments overseas. This prejudice drove strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq -- with disastrous consequences. After driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, the administration delegated the building of a nation to the same warlords who destroyed the Afghan nation in the early 1990s. As for Iraq, it sent the minimum number of troops needed to defeat the enemy, without simultaneously deploying forces to occupy and secure the ground those troops were liberating. The result was postwar chaos that emboldened terrorists and soured the coalition's relationship with Iraqis.

This is bizarro world stuff. Yes, there's some truth to it but in a very backwards sort of way and any resemblence to the actual situation on the ground is somewhat coincidental. Yes the military will be called on to defeat terrorism. In fact, Democratic criticism to date has largely rested on the idea that it has been called on too much to deal with the subject. The Bush administration's redefinition of war in post-Westphalian terms is such a huge change that it's been given a soft open, ie it's been stated simply (we're at war with Al Queda) and matter-of-factly because it upsets so many applecarts that to engage in significant public analysis invites the panicked formation of a grand coalition against the idea. Tony Blair can get away with explicit references to post-Westphalian international systems. The US president can't without starting something that may not end well for us. There is a lot of ground work that has to be done and, like the rest of the Bush administration initiatives it imitates, it will probably surface, nearly fully formed, at an appropriate time.

It is an unexceptional truth that the Bush administration was focused conventionally in its military thinking prior to 9/11. But blame them for that and you might as well condemn FDR while you are at it. He too made a considerable U-turn from his original campaign ideas of national military strategy.

The Democrat party simultaneously does not want to give the military more money, wants it to have more troops, and is the most sensitized portion of the country to the idea of US casualties. The truth is that if you reduce per soldier spending you get more casualties. You have fewer protective devices, less training, less skills, less experience, and that means more dead soldiers. The fact that we are not in a time of exploding military expenditures is precisely because Democrats are salivating at the political drubbing they would administer to George W. Bush if he were to dare submit such a budget and the margins in Congress are so thin that the administration dares not give them that set piece battle.

So the military stretches.

Posted by TMLutas at April 29, 2004 11:43 AM