CBO's analysis indicates that the active Army would be unable to sustain an occupation force of the present size beyond about March 2004 if it chose not to keep individual units deployed to Iraq for longer than one year without relief (an assumption consistent with DoD's current planning).
Under the Army's plan, units will remain in Iraq for no more than one year and will then be rotated out of the theater. Some units that are rotated out will be replaced with U.S. forces; some will be replaced with coalition forces; and some are not scheduled to be replaced at all. About half of the combat units in the Army's active component are now serving in Iraq. Since the majority of those units arrived in Iraq between February and April 2003, and many of the Army's other units are assigned to other commitments, the Army does not have enough active-component forces to simultaneously maintain the occupation at its current size, limit deployments to one year, and sustain all of its other commitments.
Some U.S. troops scheduled to leave Iraq soon might be kept there longer to deal with the surge in violence, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.
U.S. forces are in the midst of changes in Iraq, as troops who have stayed for a year are replaced by fresh forces. That gives the United States an advantage for now because there are more troops than there otherwise would be, Rumsfeld said.
"Taking advantage of that increase, we are managing the pace of redeployment to allow those seasoned troops ... to see the current situation through," Rumsfeld said.
The defense secretary refused to say how many troops would stay on in Iraq or how long they might stay.
As I watch events unfold in Iraq, I cannot help but be reminded of another battle at another place and another time that hurtled more than 600 soldiers into the maws of death because of a foolish decision on the part of their commander. The occasion was the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1864, during the Crimean War, a battle that was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Tennyson got it right -- someone had blundered. It is time we faced up to the fact that this President and his administration blundered as well when they took the nation into war with Iraq without compelling reason, without broad international or even regional support, and without a plan for dealing with the enormous post-war security and reconstruction challenges posed by Iraq. And it is our soldiers, our own 600 and more, who are paying the price for that blunder.
Now, after a year of continued strife in Iraq, comes word that the commander of forces in the region is seeking options to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground if necessary. Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development. Surely, the Administration recognizes that increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq will only suck us deeper into the maelstrom of violence that has become the hallmark of that unfortunate country.
It is staggeringly clear that the Administration did not understand the consequences of invading Iraq a year ago, and it is staggeringly clear that the Administration has no effective plan to cope with the aftermath of the war and the functional collapse of Iraq. It is time -- past time -- for the President to remedy that omission and to level with the American people about the magnitude of mistakes made and lessons learned. America needs a roadmap out of Iraq, one that is orderly and astute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow the fate of Tennyson's doomed Light Brigade.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.