Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
You'll never find your gold on a sandy beach
You'll never drill for oil on a city street
I know you're looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a cracker jack box
I want you, I need you
But there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad
cause two out of three ain't bad
--Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, Meatloaf
The press has reported over the past week that the military is in a state of unpreparedness, with even the blitzkreig brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division not quite so ready ("Army Brigade Finds Itself Stretched Thin.")
Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness panel, said: "I have seen the classified-only readiness reports. And based on those reports, I believe that we as a nation are at risk of major failure, should our Army be called to deploy to an emerging threat." ("Military is Ill-Prepared for Other Conflicts") Well, at least it's only a risk.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we can fight on a third front if necessary ("Despite Strains, U.S. Could Fight a Third War: Gates.")
"Gates said adversaries should not think the United States too weak to fight." It is Wizard of Oz advice, because if you don't think it, Dorothy, it won't be true ("I do believe, I do believe.")
"'Our ability to defend the United States despite the heavy commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan remains very strong and every adversary should be aware of that,' he said. He did not identify any specific adversaries."But Gates did say there would be readiness problems for the Army would if Congress didn't pass the $100 billion in emergency funding.
Little things, like the need to"curtail or suspend some training for reserve forces, slow training of units scheduled to go to Iraq and Afghanistan and stop repairing equipment used in training." Coat hangars and duct tape do nicely in a pinch. (In homage to gone-but-not-forgotten security czar Tom Ridge. How sad that some folks get consigned to the dustbin of history, which can be so fickle and cruel.)
However, The Post also reported problems.
An unnamed Army official said the Army and Marines are in a "death spiral" due to the increased tempo of war-zone rotations which have "consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand," and depleted our strategic reserve of ground troops.
While the Times article quotes military sources who said we'd be "victorious" on a third front, but "would have to rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force," the Post's sources admitted "Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces."
The Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Richard A. Cody, told the House Armed Services Committee's readiness panel last week, "The readiness continues to decline of our next-to-deploy forces."
"We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it," Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
"The Army should have five full combat brigades' worth of such equipment: two stocks in Kuwait, one in South Korea, and two aboard ships in Guam and at the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean. But the Army had to empty the afloat stocks to support the troop increase in Iraq, and the Kuwait stocks are being used as units to rotate in and out of the country. Only the South Korea stock is close to complete, according to military and government officials.
"Without the pre-positioned stocks, we would not have been able to meet the surge requirement," Schoomaker said. "It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks. That's part of my concern about our strategic depth."
I came across a 2003 piece in the The Washington Monthly on military overstretch which read as uncannily current. Below are a few excerpts:
Today's military is "like a football team playing back to back games in overtime with no practice or rest time," says Maj. Donald Vandergriff, an ROTC instructor at Georgetown University and a leading expert on the military's personnel crisis.
The president has never once publicly called upon young Americans to join the military, an omission that has caused some amount of grumbling throughout the ranks. After all, when the Pentagon can't bring in more recruits, those who've already signed up pay the price.
Three years ago, candidate Bush charged the preceding administration with wanting things both ways: "To command great forces, without supporting them. To launch today's new causes, with little thought of tomorrow's consequences." He should heed his own warning.