Defense Secretary Bob Gates is frustrated. He sees trouble in the military everywhere he turns and yet he is relatively powerless to overcome the inertia. Problem 1—the Generals want to fight the last war–the one against the Soviet Union.
In his speeches here and at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Mr. Gates made clear his belief that the military must focus on unconventional, irregular and terrorist threats — a view that challenges procurement plans of the Air Force and Army that continue to devote vast resources to expensive weapons designed for traditional adversaries.
“Asymmetrical conflict will be dominant for decades,” he said. “Training and procurement has to focus on that reality.”
But the Air Force is filled with fighter jocks who don’t want to be piloting drones over Afghanistan from an easy chair outside of Las Vegas, so they just ignore Gates.
“I’ve been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater,” he said. “Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth.”
Problem 2–recruitment. The Army and the Marines granted 861 felony waivers last year to new recruits. The Army accepted two men convicted of “terroristic threats including bomb threats”, a convicted child molester and 70 convicted burglars. This cannot be good for the trust that must exist for soldiers under fire.
Problem 3–Veteran’s mental health care. The incidence of suicide attempts among former Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is growing.
“More than 600,000 veterans are waiting, on average, more than six months for disability benefits,” said Mr. Sullivan, who worked at the department monitoring benefits.
Experts agree that veterans are more likely, perhaps twice as much, to commit suicide as people who have never served in the military. Meanwhile, a study released last week by the RAND Corporation estimates that roughly one in five veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which heightens the risk of suicide.
Its very clear that the next President is going to have to rebuild our military from the bottom-up. The rash and uninformed votes of John McCain and Hillary Clinton led us to the precipice that Bob Gates now stares over. Only one candidate, Barack Obama understood the consequences and on October 2, 2002 he laid them out starkly.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.