US military rethinking two-war strategy - officials
Tue Jul 5, 2005 4:27 PM ET
By Charles Aldinger
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military, under stress
from fighting in Iraq and protecting America from
terrorism, is debating whether it can remain ready to
fight two big wars at once, according to defense
The discussion is part of a broad Quadrennial Defense
Review (QDR), in which the Pentagon will propose a new
strategy and budget to Congress next February to shape
the superpower's forces for years to come.
The civilian and military officials, who asked not to
be identified, confirmed a report in Tuesday's New
York Times that top Defense Department planners were
challenging longstanding strategy that requires the
armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at
Instead, the newspaper reported, they are weighing
whether to shape the military to mount only one major
conventional war while devoting more resources to
defending U.S. territory and to global antiterrorism
efforts in the wake of the 2001 attacks on America.
"The QDR debate on two wars is over risks. Risks can
translate into lives," one senior military official,
who asked not to be identified, told Reuters on
"The questions being debated: Are we really trying to
create a one-war strategy and build a force to it? Or
are we just changing the strategy because we know what
we can realistically afford to spend?" the official
He and others said Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, who
will soon become chairman of the Pentagon's military
Joint Chiefs of Staff, was pushing the war-readiness
debate because of growing U.S. military missions
worldwide burden and the cost of anti-terrorism
operations at home and overseas.
A senior Army officer noted that many of the more than
1,700 U.S. troops who lost their lives in Iraq died
because the military had not anticipated the need to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars on armor to
protect military vehicles against improvised explosive
Another official noted that extra money is being spent
on bullet-proof vests for guerrilla warfare in Iraq
"If you have to spend that kind of money in phase four
(the cleanup) of one war, how much will it cost to
prepare the military to be ready in all areas for two
wars," the official said.
Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, suggested
to reporters on Tuesday that the two-wars issue was
among a wide range of subjects under discussion. But
he refused to go into detail and stressed that no
decisions had been made.
"I don't have any quarrel with what was written there"
Whitman said of the Times article, based in part on an
interview with Ryan Henry, principal deputy U.S. under
secretary of defense for policy.
Senior Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita denied in a
later Defense Department briefing on Tuesday that top
officials were leaning toward changing the two-war
"They (the talks) have no desired outcome" so far, he
But the Times stressed that the debate reflected a
growing recognition that the current burden of
maintaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with
the other demands of the global campaign against
terrorism, may force a change in assumptions that have
been a foundation of military planning.
One Navy official told Reuters that, even if the
United States can no longer fight two wars at once,
publicly backing away from the strategy was risky
because it might tempt potential adversaries China,
North Korea and Iran.
"If we say that we can only do one and then we get
engaged in one that's not on the horizon now, does
that offer North Korea, China or Iran a chance to say
'Well, they're going to be engaged for five years,
that gives me a leeway with what I want to do because
they don't have the force structure for two major
combat operations'," the official said.
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