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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Shinseki troop strength myth

Re-posted with permission from the editors of American Thinker. Second in a series; as retired generals peddle their books and their critiques of our war policy, national security correspondent Douglas Hanson discusses General Shinseki's troop strength myth and the generals' revolt.

Bosun's comment: There are many facets to the generals' revolt. One must explore the issue fully. What exactly has Rumsfeld done? Is it part of a bigger problem to "blame Bush" and his administration? Only time will tell.

The Shinseki troop strength myth and the generals' revolt
By Douglas Hanson, 4/18/2006

American Thinker contributor Herb Meyer does a superb job in getting to the heart of the matter concerning the retired general officer critics of SecDef Rumsfeld. The key question is: what is it exactly that the SecDef has "done, or not done that justifies his removal from the Pentagon in the middle of a war?" One of the criticisms has to do with inadequate troop strength, and Mr. Meyer says that,

The only active-duty commander who seems to have publicly voiced this concern at the time was Army chief-of-staff General Eric Shinseki, who quickly found himself unwelcome at the Pentagon.

I respectfully disagree with the notion of the former Army Chief of Staff as a forthright, honest leader, who was simply giving his professional opinion to a sober, knowledgeable Senate committee in the run-up to war. This is quite simply a myth which has gained wide acceptance by the anti-war left and others who accept the selective reporting on the event by the antique media.

The details of troop strength numbers and Shinseki's testimony can be found in my (Hanson's) article from last October. Americans must place Shinseki's answers to questions by Sen. Levin in the proper context.

On the eve of war with Iraq, Shinseki painted everything as hunky-dory with the Army in his prepared statement, and he confidently stated we could handle contingencies all throughout the spectrum of warfare. What seemed to go over the heads of the Senators is that Shinseki had informed them that the Army already had almost 200,000 soldiers deployed, and later questioning brought out the response from Shinseki that we would need, at best case, 300,000 troops to handle Iraq.

Excuse me, but can't these guys add? Shinseki had just informed our esteemed Senators that we would need to deploy 20,000 more troops than were on active duty at the time! No Senator questioned him further to elicit clarification, nor did anyone ask Shinseki how he intended to field a force of that size, what mix of active and reserve components would be used, etc. Remember, the service chiefs are tasked to build and maintain forces to support the combatant commanders; not the other way around.

According to the Army's own budget numbers, it then took five years of increasing personnel dollars "up 46%" for a measly active duty strength increase of 0.5%. This was in addition to supplemental budget authorizations to mobilize reserve component units for active duty, and to pay for a temporary increase of 30,000 troops on the active duty rolls. If these dollar and manpower figures are correct, we must conclude the Army has spent five years digging themselves out of a very large manpower hole.

It's entirely possible that Shinseki was covering for years of neglect and did not have the deployable troop strength to support anything near what he optimistically parroted in his canned statement to the Senate. It's also reasonable to conclude that General Tommy Franks' troop request of a little over 100,000 for Operation Iraqi Freedom allowed many in the Army leadership to breathe a sigh of relief. At least this gave the Army a few months to build up its deployable troop strength and add over three division equivalents by June of 2003.
Far from ignoring the advice of other leaders, I think Gen. Franks did everybody a favor. I also doubt he would have been given very many more troops even if he had wanted them.

As far as the generals' revolt is concerned, this troop strength imbroglio actually leaves them in a very precarious position. Other than the stated reasons of strategy differences, or Rummy's abusive personality (what a hoot coming from some of these idiosyncratic egotists!), we must consider the possibility that the Army may in some aspects, have been a paper tiger during the 90s and the pre-9-11 years. There is a lot of blame to go around, but mostly this falls on the generals who blew smoke with unrealistic readiness reports, and convinced our civilian leadership that technology would substitute for manpower and "save" money.

Let's hope Tony Blankley is wrong about the coordinated generals' revolt. For the stakes to be as high as described by Mr. Blankley, it means there is a decade's worth of questionable practices by the Army's "enlightened" pre-9-11 leadership. And most importantly, the legacy of the previous commander-in-chief must be salvaged at all costs.

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