Thursday, September 27, 2007

If it is broke and you can't fix it

By Edward Copeland

During last night's Democratic presidential debate, most of the top candidates refused to commit to having all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the theoretical end of their first term in January 2013. Joe Biden had the most specific answer, saying that he would only keep troops if Iraq finally gets a political solution but if it's still the chaos it's in today when he took office in 2009, he'd start immediate withdrawal.

Of course, all the posturing and specific and nonspecific answers may be moot because once again one of the U.S. military's top officers, this time Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, told Congress yesterday that the military has reached a breaking point where it will be unable to keep up its current activities, let alone allow for unexpected conflicts or new ones elsewhere. He told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is "out of balance":

"The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."

What's even more fascinating is that though Casey, who has just taken on the job of Army Chief of Staff, could have held a private hearing but requested a public one so that his words could be heard by everyone. Perhaps those on the inside of the military now finally are getting the guts to take disputes with Dubyaland out in the open, since this comes the same week Defense Secretary Robert Gates edited his prepared remarks to Congress about war funding bill to delete yet another unnecessary 9/11 reference that we can only assume was placed there by one of the Bush loyalists.

Though Gates did urge the funding without any strings, Casey addressed the cost of the war as well during his House hearing, saying the costs can only go higher.

Casey's testimony yesterday sent a clear message: If President Bush or Congress does not significantly reduce US forces in Iraq soon, the Army will need far more resources - and money - to ensure it is prepared to handle future security threats that the general warned are all but inevitable.

"As we look to the future, national security experts are virtually unanimous in predicting that the next several decades will be ones of persistent conflict," Casey told the panel, citing potential instability caused by globalization, humanitarian crises, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Responding to Casey's testimony, Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.) called the general's warnings "just downright frightening."

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