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04:01 PDA Bulletin -- A New Occupation -- Preventive War's High Cost

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  • Charles Knight
    04:01 PDA Bulletin -- A New Occupation -- Preventive War s High Cost The following op-ed by Charles Knight of the Project on Defense Alternatives and Marcus
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2004
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      04:01 PDA Bulletin -- A New Occupation -- Preventive War's High Cost

      The following op-ed by Charles Knight of the Project on Defense
      Alternatives and Marcus Corbin of the Center for Defense Information
      was published early in January. It appeared in the Albany (NY) Times
      Union, the Tallahassee (FL) Democrat, the Watertown (NY) Daily Times,
      the Ft. Worth (TX) Star Telegram, and the Commondreams Website --

      A New Occupation: Consequences of Preventive War and Regime Change

      Cambridge, MA: Soon after the first anniversary of the September 11
      terrorist attacks the Bush Administration published a new National
      Security Strategy that gave prominent place to unilateral, preventive
      wars to be followed by the dismantling of the leadership and
      governing structures of the targeted nation (aka "regime change").
      Remarkably, the Strategy did not acknowledge, describe, or discuss
      planning for the consequences of this radical new doctrine. What was
      left unsaid is that the United States would now bear a great new
      burden, that of protracted occupation and large-scale state building
      in the aftermath of preventive war. Indeed, the Strategy reads more
      like a vision statement than a strategic plan, failing to address how
      its stated objectives will be achieved within the real world
      constraints of acceptable costs and consequences.

      A year later the United States military is on long-term occupation
      duty in not one, but two, countries. In Afghanistan 8,500 U.S.
      troops serve to guarantee the survival of a new government, to train
      the new Afghan army, and to undertake raids against remnants of the
      Taliban who are attempting, with some apparent success, to regroup
      after military defeat in the 2001 war. Iraq is occupied by over
      150,000 coalition soldiers (87% American.) This works out to be six
      soldiers for every thousand Iraqis -- a very low density by historic
      standards. Military occupations that face concerted resistance often
      require upwards of twenty troops per thousand. If the insurgency in
      Iraq continues to intensify, suppressing it might end up requiring
      300,000 troops or more.

      Not only did the Bush administration not plan for such a large-scale
      long-serving occupation force, it did not instruct the military to
      train the troops for occupation duty, a task very different from
      destroying an enemy army on the battlefield. Maintaining public
      order, guarding civilian reconstruction activities, and routing out
      insurgents, all the while respecting the rights of non-combatant
      civilians to go about their daily business, requires a specific set
      of skills in which only a small portion of American troops have
      training. In the eyes of this administration the skills required
      are uncomfortably close to those used in peacekeeping, a role they
      disdain. They have shown little interest in promoting such skills in
      the U.S. military.

      The deployable portion of America's active component ground forces
      (including the Army and the Marines) totals about 400,000 men and
      women. The comparable number for the reserve component is about
      500,000. Together these numbers are more than enough to fight
      America's wars when they are of short duration such as the 1991 war
      with Iraq. However, when policy choices result in long occupations
      these numbers quickly become insufficient -- a result of the dismal
      math of force rotations. It takes four units of active troops to
      sustain a deployment of one active unit in the field for multiple
      years, and it takes nine reserve units to sustain deployment of one
      reserve unit.

      A four or five year occupation of Iraq by 65,000 active and 35,000
      reserve troops -- a realistic possibility -- will require a rotation
      base of 260,000 active troops (65% of the deployable active ground
      forces) and 315,000 reserve troops (63% of the deployable reserve
      ground forces.) This illustration doesn't fully capture the effect
      of the broader "war on terror" on the reserves. Currently there are
      more than 130,000 reserve ground troops serving in homeland security
      roles, "back filling" for active-duty soldiers abroad, and deployed
      to the Afghanistan and Iraq operations . For the reserves this level
      of mobilization is more than twice the long term sustainable rate.

      If another war begins the United States will still have plenty of
      military power which the President can mobilize. It is occupations
      that are the problem. If, the occupation of Iraq stretches into years
      and the "war on terrorism" widens even further, Army Reserve and
      National Guard units will be called to active service again and
      again -- an activation rate far higher than the norm expected by our
      citizen soldiers, their families, and their communities. Soon there
      will be significant problems with recruitment, morale, and
      retention. As a possible indicator of things to come, the U.S. Army
      Reserve missed this fiscal year's overall retention rate goal by 6.7%
      and by 9.3% among career soldiers.

      The Bush administration plans to start drawing down U.S. troops in
      Iraq next spring, but history suggests a different course is as
      likely. After WWII U.S. forces occupied Germany for ten years and
      Japan for seven. As yet the Congress of the United States and the
      American people are only dimly aware of the approaching point of
      decision emerging from the new Iraq War: either invest in larger
      armies trained and ready for long occupation duty, or jettison the
      Bush administration's radical doctrine of preventive wars and regime

      # # #

      Charles Knight is Co-Director of the Project on Defense Alternatives
      (PDA) Cambridge, MA. Marcus Corbin is Director, Military Reform
      Project at the Center for Defense Information (CDI), Washington, DC.
      Both CDI and PDA are members of the Security Policy Working Group, a
      collaborative policy research consortium seeking to reform U.S.
      security policy -- http://www.proteusfund.org/spwg/ .


      PDA also calls your attention to two important reports available at
      the War Report Website - http://www.comw.org/warreport/

      "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism" by Jeffrey Record, Army War
      College, December 2003.

      "WMD in Iraq: evidence and implications" by Joseph Cirincione,
      Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004.

      An important excerpt from Cirincione's report:

      "The National Security Strategy issued in September
      2002 proffered a new doctrine of preemptive military
      action. 'The legitimacy of preemption,' it acknowl-
      edged, is traditionally conditioned 'on the existence
      of an imminent threat.' But in an age of terrorism,
      we can not expect to see the usual measures of immi-
      nence, 'a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and
      air forces preparing to attack.' That is true. However,
      the strategy did not go on to offer an alternative
      standard. It argued simply that 'We must adapt the
      concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and
      objectives of today 's adversaries...We cannot let our
      enemies strike first.'

      "What this amounts to is not preemption, but a
      loose standard for preventive war under the cloak
      of legitimate preemption. Hence, we use here the
      awkward, but accurately confusing formulation,
      'preemptive/preventive war' — preemption for what
      it has been called, prevention for what it actually is.

      "Neither in the strategy itself nor in other settings
      does the administration use the term preventive war.
      Presumably, this is for two reasons. First, it would un-
      dermine the search for international support because
      preventive wars have no legitimacy under interna-
      tional law as does preemption. Second, as historian
      Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has recently pointed out, the
      concept of preventive war enjoys a poor standing in
      American thought and practice."

      for more on these issues see:

      "Essential Elements Missing in the National Security Strategy of
      2002" by Charles Knight, October 2002 --

      "First Strike Guidelines: the case of Iraq" by Charles Knight,
      September, 2002 -- http://www.comw.org/pda/0209schneider.html
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