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Continued troop levels in Iraq "major risk"
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I've covered this before. The troop levels we have in Iraq is unsustainable and it has degrade our ability to answer a call elsewhere in world. That's both recognized and a given. Again, as I've stated, that's dangerous and something we have to "fix" as soon as possible.
Senior Army and Marine Corps leaders said yesterday that the increase of more than 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has put unsustainable levels of stress on U.S. ground forces and has put their readiness to fight other conflicts at the lowest level in years.

In a stark assessment a week before Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is to testify on the war's progress, Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that the heavy deployments are inflicting "incredible stress" on soldiers and families and that they pose "a significant risk" to the nation's all-volunteer military.

"When the five-brigade surge went in . . . that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army," Cody testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness panel.

He said that even if five brigades are pulled out of Iraq by July, as planned, it would take some time before the Army could return to 12-month tours for soldiers. Petraeus is expected to call for a pause in further troop reductions to assess their impact on security in Iraq.

"I've never seen our lack of strategic depth be where it is today," said Cody, who has been the senior Army official in charge of operations and readiness for the past six years and plans to retire this summer.
I agree with Gen. Cody. In any operation, such as Iraq, there are risks, and your job as a planner and a commander is to determine the acceptable risks. Some of the reasons I was initially against the surge are precisely those which Gen. Cody lays out here. And the effect will be long-term, i.e. it will take us a while, even if we get back to 12 month rotations and the desired down time between rotations to again get both the Army and Marines back to the level of combat fitness we need for any future conventional deployment.

So while the surge's success made the risk that Cody outlines here acceptable at the time, it is getting to the point were that risk acceptability is less and less acceptable.

Immediately, we do indeed need to take our combat troops down to at least pre-surge levels as planned.

The number I've heard batted around as "indefinitely sustainable" is 10 Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). That number, apparently, allows us to do what Cody wants to do in terms of rotation lengths and downtime between them while allowing the military to have the units necessary (and available) to form that "strategic depth" he talks about (he wants "an airborne brigade, a heavy brigade and a Stryker brigade ready for "full-spectrum operations").

There's another part of this which is less apparent and again, something I've talked about in the past. The degradation of basic skills. For instance, in Iraq, very few, if any artillerymen are firing artillery. They're acting as infantry. Same for armor forces. Consequently their basic skills are degrading for lack of training. But what happens is the soldiers who stay in and advance in their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) advance without having the experience in those basic skills of actually doing their jobs in that capacity. You end up with mid-level NCOs and junior officers who've really never acted for any length in the capacity that their MOS assigns them. That hurts combat proficiency should we be faced with a conventional war somewhere and they're deployed in their conventional roles.

These, of course, are problems that must be solved. Yes, I believe the effort in Iraq is critical and I've stated the reasons many times. But, while I understand the concept of acceptable risk, I also understand that the possible long term effects of the troop levels we now have in Iraq, unless changed soon, are moving, strategically, beyond an acceptable risk. And while I understand that the expansion of the Army and Marines will help alleviate the problem, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, that's not the Army we have now. It's time to 'fix' this problem and begin to move us toward that 10 BCT maximum as soon as the situation will allow it. As the Army expands, it may give planners some further flexibility with the 10 BCT max. But until then, we need to get there as soon as we safely can as the risk of not doing so is no longer acceptable.
 
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Long term we need to increase the size of the force, split duties between WAR, and everything else, and decide whether we really think China is a security threat to this country.

Knock China off the list, and start working with them on the everything else list (disaster relief, peace keeping, stabilization operations.)
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
I concur that it was a failure of the Bush administration not to push for a vast expansion of the Army after 9/11. That said, losing the war in Iraq will do more to harm future readiness than the logistical stretch from having that many troops in Iraq does. It’s GEN Cody’s job to point out the problem for the future, and it’s GEN Petraeus’s job to win the war. If I were the commander of both of them, I’d let Petraeus do his job, then let Cody do his job of fixing the damage we sustained in winning the war. If we lose the war, Cody’s job becomes impossible.

 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
it has degraded our ability to answer a call elsewhere in world
Well, yes and no.
What are the most likely hot spots we’ll have to deal with?
China v. Taiwan, NoKo v. SoKo, Iran and Syria v. Lebanon, Iran and Syria v. Israel.
If Pakistan and India get into it, we can’t really help either side. That’ll be ugly, but I don’t see us getting militarily involved.

Israel has their own army, we have an aircraft carrier group in the Med and some in the Middle East area to help them if they need it.

We’re not going to send troops into Lebanon, but our Navy and Air Force can help them against invaders, but I don’t see Lebanon being a conventional war, more like the low-level-conflict that the terrorist nations use against Israel.

I’m looking at China getting frisky with Russia before Taiwan, China’s pop is becoming more (young, single) male and growing while Russia’s is getting smaller, older and drunker and I really hope we don’t get militarily involved in a land war in Asia. I would rather mess with Sicilians.
But...If China gets frisky with Taiwan, it’s our Navy and Air Force who would be called on to keep them off Taiwan, not our ground forces.

If NoKo attacks SoKo, their army will supply the ground troops. Again, our Navy and Air Force will be our contribution.

If we have to go into Iran or Syria or somewhere in the Middle East, the Iraqi army appears to be getting ready to help themselves with our support, so many of the soldiers could be used elsewhere and they’re in the area already.

And think of one of the most important attributes of a good soldier: being a veteran. We have a huge supply of combat-proven veterans in all services and fields.
I’m not arguing against a larger military, I’m just saying I don’t agree with the "our army is broken" meme the NY Times tries to push every chance they get.
 
Written By: Veeshir
URL: http://
But...If China gets frisky with Taiwan, it’s our Navy and Air Force who would be called on to keep them off Taiwan, not our ground forces.
Well unless the Chinese plan to occupy Taiwan while remaining China, it will indeed involve our ground forces if they successfully take it and we’re not ready for that contingency or any contingency with our present problems.

We can’t field an airborne brigade, heavy brigade and a Stryker brigade at this time which would be prepared and properly trained for such a contingency.
I’m just saying I don’t agree with the "our army is broken" meme the NY Times tries to push every chance they get.
This isn’t the NY Times pushing any meme, this is the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army addressing a serious problem.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Let’s play grand strategy for a moment. If China attacks and takes Taiwan, with us not being able to intervene in time, but we decide that it is in our interest to retake Taiwan, how would we do it?

If it were me as CINCPAC, here’s the basic strategy:

China’s center of gravity is not their military, which is good because it’s too large to attack anyways. It is their carefully cultivated internal reputation of inevitability and progress. So the idea would be to strike at that reputation. Secondarily, their economy is now largely dependent on two things: imports of foreign oil (by sea) and shipment of manufactured goods (by sea) to the West. That would be the secondary route of attack on China.

Conveniently, both are subject to the same attack: cutting off China’s ties to the outside world. I would shut down China’s sea trade, and destroy their Navy, which our Navy could do easily. I would shut down China’s internet and banking access, which other parts of our government could do. I would sink or (if possible) impound China’s commercial shipping fleet. I would make it so that the Chinese forces in Taiwan, in other words, could not be supplied.

I would attack Chinese air bases and ports to reduce their ability to interfere with these actions.

I would make it very clear that Chinese that we would not attack Chinese civil or agricultural industry, infrastructure or population; most certainly not their nuclear assets; and not their military other than as above so long as they don’t escalate attacks on the US (including cyber attacks, if we cannot cut their internet infrastructure completely enough to shut down the Chinese government hackers). I would also make it clear that we would stop all of these actions if they surrender Taiwan back to its lawful government. I would further make it absolutely clear to the Chinese leadership that if they escalate attacks against the US or our allies, then we would be forced to attack China with all the means at our disposal, until such time as China’s rebellious mainland provinces were returned to the control of the lawful government of China, which has been sitting in Taiwan since 1948.

In other words, I would make it impossible for China to keep Taiwan without destroying its economy and credibility, while giving China way out that doesn’t challenge their power base (because their army would be intact and their civilian population would not have suffered horribly), and ensuring that the Chinese don’t escalate this into a wider war by raising consequences they are not willing to pay.

Note that nowhere in there did I use land forces, and if we are forced to fight a land war in China, I’d have years to build up the forces for that endeavor.

Remember, we would be fighting not the arms of the Chinese military, but the moral center of the Chinese leaders. The goal is not to destroy or to occupy China, though we would if we have to, but to force their withdrawal. Forcing their withdrawal means making their position untenable, which does not always require force on force actions in the main concentration of enemy power. (Indeed, it is that attitude towards war, traceable to von Clauswitz, that led to the endless and meaningless slaughter of WW I.)

I’m curious, McQ, why it is that you think that attacking in the most costly possible way into the teeth of the enemy’s forces is the right way to fight a war?
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
"I’m curious, McQ, why it is that you think that attacking in the most costly possible way into the teeth of the enemy’s forces is the right way to fight a war?"
I wonder if we could put away the Risk boards for a moment and address the essential issue here, which is about the ability to fight at all. That’s what this argument is about.

This has been on my mind for a long time.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I’m curious, McQ, why it is that you think that attacking in the most costly possible way into the teeth of the enemy’s forces is the right way to fight a war?
Who said anything about attacking into the teeth of the enemy is what I was talking about (btw, it wouldn’t really be an attack into their teeth if we were prepared to deploy and attack them before they were able to consolidate their control on the island. That, of course, would require ground combat troops prepared to deploy)?

But the contingency could just as easily be their deployment to Taiwan prior to an anticipated invasion to act as a very prominent "tripwire" (and doing so would most likely stop any such attempt because the implication of such an action would be very clear).

We haven’t the forces ready or available to do even that - and that’s the point.

So while I’m sure we could make life uncomfortable for China if they move on Taiwan (which I don’t anticipate at all, btw, especially after the last Taiwanese election) I’m unconvinced we’d do it long enough to have the effect you expect (unless the US Congress is willing to declare war, which I find very doubtful anytime soon).

Of course, China isn’t the point of my concern. I was simply making the point that China can’t take Taiwan and occupy it without introducing ground troops there.

More to the point: We certainly didn’t foresee being in Afghanistan did we? Or the Balkans? Then there’s NATO and our obligations there. Remember Panama? Haiti? Not to mention Africa. There are plenty of contingency missions which could easily involve a lot of ground troops, and, interestingly the two we’re involved in now have been almost completely ground combat with hardly any Navy use (except aircraft, logistics support and corpsmen for the Marines) and some Air Force. It is those types of missions I see in our future - not the China scenarios.

We’re not only unable to deploy a national reserve, we don’t even have one. That’s the problem, and if a Panama or some NATO obligation popped up requiring US ground troops, we’re simply unprepared to answer the call.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Hmmm... I may have misunderstood you. You now seem to have been saying the Chinese would have to put ground troops into Taiwan to take it, which is undeniably true. This was in response to a comment that we would fight over Taiwan, if we had to, with our Navy and Air Force, so I interpreted your comments as saying we would have to put in ground troops, which is certainly not the case, and which would be attacking into the teeth of the enemy, and along the line of expectation at that.

Also, that came out way more belligerent in type than it was in my head; sorry about that.

As I said earlier, I agree that not building up our ground forces has been a mistake. We should have done that right after 9/11. We should do it now. Yes, it takes years, but also note that we’ve had years.

That said, I think that if the option is to reduce our forces in Iraq to respond to future possibilities, at the cost of increased risk of failure in Iraq, then we are better off keeping the troops in Iraq. If we fail in Iraq, we would be politically unable to respond to a second such situation even if we were militarily able to respond. On the other hand, if another situation comes up that we must respond to, and if that situation required ground troops (none of the more likely contingencies do, but as you point out, Afghanistan wasn’t exactly on the radar before 9/11), then we would have options. Unpleasant options, to be sure, like mobilizing the Guard and Reserves more fully than they are now, and putting more of the active duty units into the field at once (you think the Army is broken now?), but nonetheless we would have options.

The point is that the Army is a tool to solve problems, and failing to solve a real and current problem because it would mean that you couldn’t use that tool to solve a future hypothetical problem is short-sighted at least.

I think that it’s likely we agree that the force (particularly the Army) needs to be built back up, and that our force levels in Iraq now with the Army we have now are unsustainable without preventing us from fighting elsewhere. It’s just that I see winning in Iraq as a higher priority than preparing for a hypothetical fight elsewhere.

 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
Hmmm....
Well unless the Chinese plan to occupy Taiwan while remaining China, it will indeed involve our ground forces if they successfully take it and we’re not ready for that contingency or any contingency with our present problems.
OK, now I’m confused. You did indeed say that we would have to put ground forces into Taiwan if China decides to fight there (which I agree is unlikely in the near term). I disagree, for the reasons I noted before: not every contingency requires us to use ground forces, nor would ground forces be the best types of forces to use in all contingencies.

 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
OK, now I’m confused. You did indeed say that we would have to put ground forces into Taiwan if China decides to fight there (which I agree is unlikely in the near term). I disagree, for the reasons I noted before: not every contingency requires us to use ground forces, nor would ground forces be the best types of forces to use in all contingencies.
I’m not arguing otherwise. I’m arguing we have no ground troops to commit to any other scenario which might need them right now.

But you have to admit, there are a multitude of scenarios which could play out in an attack on Taiwan. One is as you’ve described it, if we have the time and if Congress will declare war and allow them to play out (unlikely in my opinion) or it could just as easily be one in which it is left to the president to act unilaterally, quickly and decisively to defeat the Chinese attempt before they can consolidate their success and re-secure the island.

I’m simply pointing out that while your scenario would be nice you have to remember the trigger point of the hypothetical is an actual Chinese attack and successful invasion of Taiwan, and unless the Taiwanese army can reconstitute itself (success of such an invasion assumes they no longer exist as a functional entity), some force is going to have to physically take the island back.

By treaty, that would be us. Whether that’s done at the end of your scenario or instead the one I describe, or, in fact, at the end of one that is completely different, I see no way around introducing ground troops at some point to occupy and re-secure the place.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
You now seem to have been saying the Chinese would have to put ground troops into Taiwan to take it, which is undeniably true. This was in response to a comment that we would fight over Taiwan, if we had to, with our Navy and Air Force, so I interpreted your comments as saying we would have to put in ground troops, which is certainly not the case, and which would be attacking into the teeth of the enemy, and along the line of expectation at that.
Again, not necessarily. One of the things WWII German troops were the master of was the counter-attack and the reason they were so good and effective with it is they understood that an enemy is never more vulnerable than after he has succesfully attacked but before he has been able to consolidate his gains. So, first of all, if we were to counter-attack swiftly before the Chinese could consolidate, I wouldn’t consider such an attack an attack into the teeth of anything.
As I said earlier, I agree that not building up our ground forces has been a mistake. We should have done that right after 9/11. We should do it now. Yes, it takes years, but also note that we’ve had years.
That’s all irrelevant Jeff ... the problem exists now and it should be fixed as soon as possible. Otherwise we’re going to suffer terribly in combat at some point in the future because we neglected critical MOS training and experience.
That said, I think that if the option is to reduce our forces in Iraq to respond to future possibilities, at the cost of increased risk of failure in Iraq, then we are better off keeping the troops in Iraq.
I don’t think we have to reduce them to the point that we risk failure in Iraq. Like I said, a 10 brigade solution is infinitely supportable, lets us reduce rotations, give them the down time they need, lets them train in their basic MOSs and provides what is necessary for a viable strategic reserve or contingency force.

So the solution is to work toward a 10 brigade force in Iraq. And I certainly don’t think that’s a force which would somehow risk failure given the situation today there.

The fact remains that with every year we continue to do what we’re doing to our ground forces, we lose another year of experience for our junior NCOs and officers working within their MOSs.

Think of a 2LT of artillery who has primarily been an infantry platoon leader in Iraq, and maybe, on the next deployment an 1LT battery XO of an artillery battery in name only (again running infantry patrols in Iraq). He eventually gets promoted to CPT, is a battery commander and for the most part has never experienced an artillery battery operating in a combat environment and has rarely even trained for the mission. How effective will he be? More importantly, using the same scenario for his soldiers, how effective will they be?

That’s the inherent danger here. So these guys badly need to have 12 month tours doing whatever is required and a minimum of 24 months to trainup again in their primary MOS.
Unpleasant options, to be sure, like mobilizing the Guard and Reserves more fully than they are now, and putting more of the active duty units into the field at once (you think the Army is broken now?), but nonetheless we would have options.
That’s not really an option Jeff, except in a long war. Guard and reserve troops go through a 90 day train up before they can be certified for deployment. That’s the law. So today when a Guard unit is notified they’re going to be deployed, that notification comes a year plus in advance and they begin the long process of preparing to do so.

Contrast that with the 82nd Airborne Division whose QRF battalion had to be wheels up in 12 hours and the whole Brigade deployed within 48 (at least those are the times I remember when I was with them).

That’s an immediate reaction force and it something we don’t have right now. Don’t forget, it was the 82nd Airborne Div which drew the line in the Saudi desert when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Not the Airforce. Not the Navy.
The point is that the Army is a tool to solve problems, and failing to solve a real and current problem because it would mean that you couldn’t use that tool to solve a future hypothetical problem is short-sighted at least.
That makes no sense to me. Breaking the tool because of short-sighted overuse when a solution is available seems to be extremely poor management of that tool.

Time continues to roll on, contingencies continue to pop up on the radar and the Army’s job is to serve our nation’s interest by being prepared to answer those contingencies if necessary. Gen. Cody is telling us, using very clear and blunt language, that it is unprepared to fulfill that mission. Is that acceptable to you?
I think that it’s likely we agree that the force (particularly the Army) needs to be built back up, and that our force levels in Iraq now with the Army we have now are unsustainable without preventing us from fighting elsewhere. It’s just that I see winning in Iraq as a higher priority than preparing for a hypothetical fight elsewhere.
At some point, if we continue this op tempo, we’re going to find it difficult to maintain the same level we now maintain in Iraq. So it’s six of one, half dozen of another - regardless of the priority you might give Iraq, we’re getting to the point that the Army isn’t even going to be able to sustain that, never mind another mission or contingency.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
You have to work with the forces you have. Since we haven’t built up our forces, we are in the position that we cannot sustain the force levels in Iraq and the other commitments we have (Kosovo, the Sinai, Korea, Afghanistan and so on) and respond to another contingency. It is not acceptable to me that we are at such low force levels and such high commitment levels that we are in that position.

But, and it’s a pretty big but, if GEN Cody is saying we cannot sustain the forces in Iraq and respond to another contingency (and it is certainly his job to bring that forward when that is the case), and GEN Petaeus is saying that we cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq with a smaller force, then my preference would be to win the war we are in first. Now, if GEN Petraeus is saying that he can do his job with a 10 BCT force, then by all means draw down to that. If GEN Petraeus is asking for a 5 BCT team, then draw down to that. If he’s saying that he needs 15 BCTs or equivalent, that’s what he needs. If we don’t have it, we need to get it, or change his mission.

In the meantime, it’s a matter of priorities. My first priority, and I think POTUS’ first priority, based on his actions to date, is to win the war in Iraq, and I’m not willing to lose Iraq for the sake of a future hypothetical. When it comes right down to it, I would not second guess the commander on the ground.

You seem to be willing to do that, because you seem to be more concerned with the future hypothetical, or convinced that the commander on the ground is misguided in his force requests, or convinced that his mission is not defined correctly, or something. That is fine, but I don’t see the Army being unable to respond as a problem with our current allocation of force, but with our current size of force. We have more missions and potential missions than force to budget for those missions, and that is wrong. You would change the missions; I would change the force.


 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
In the meantime, it’s a matter of priorities. My first priority, and I think POTUS’ first priority, based on his actions to date, is to win the war in Iraq, and I’m not willing to lose Iraq for the sake of a future hypothetical.
Jeff, you’re missing the big point in this. It isn’t just a ’future hypothetical", it is the effect that it is having on the Army’s ability to perform it’s mission - current and/or future - now.

You can’t run an op tempo which denies critical parts of your military the training and experience it must have to be proficient in the areas they’re payed to function and expect to be able to wage war in a conventional battle should the need arrive.

And it will.

So we have to find a way to fix what has been an ongoing problem for almost 4 years if we don’t want to effectively cripple the Army.

It is as critical as Iraq is to find an acceptable fix to this if we don’t want to pay in a lot of blood on down the road when that inevitable contingency does pop up.

Now I’m sure Petraeus is both aware of and amenable to finding an acceptable solution, so your point about his requirements doesn’t fall on deaf ears. And because I’m confident Petraeus would indeed act in the best interest of the Army even while weighing his requirements in Iraq, so I am inclined to go along with your point on that as well.

But that doesn’t change anything in terms of how bad the current situation is for the present Army. Regardless of how big winning in Iraq is to you, me or anyone else, it doesn’t change that fact. You can’t continue to abuse the Army like this and claim to have an effective fighting force ready to fulfill it’s mission of the defense of this country if you do.
You seem to be willing to do that, because you seem to be more concerned with the future hypothetical, or convinced that the commander on the ground is misguided in his force requests, or convinced that his mission is not defined correctly, or something.
None of the above, anymore than Gen Cody believes any of that. What he and I believe is this continued op tempo is destroying the Army’s ability to be an effective force and will make it unable to respond to any contingency that might arise to which we’d need them to respond. It has nothing to do with commander on the ground and everything to do with what is or isn’t sustainable for the force. And what isn’t sustainable is the present deployment strength and op tempo in Iraq.
That is fine, but I don’t see the Army being unable to respond as a problem with our current allocation of force, but with our current size of force. We have more missions and potential missions than force to budget for those missions, and that is wrong. You would change the missions; I would change the force.
You have to do both, Jeff. In the short term, you have to change the mission enough to preserve the force and you then have to expand the force so you don’t have this problem in future missions of this type. We’re in the middle of the expansion, but we need to do something immediately to keep a viable force until that is done.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Consequently their basic skills are degrading for lack of training.

Don’t they go back for training every 18 months?

That hurts combat proficiency should we be faced with a conventional war somewhere

That seems unlikely to matter. Who’s going to fight a lengthy conventional ground war with us? I doubt a standing army engagement of more than weeks is even possible given our precision airstrike ability.

I would argue the experience they’re getting now is probably more valuable.
 
Written By: TallDave
URL: http://deanesmay.com
If China attacks and takes Taiwan,

It’s generally accepted that this is neither militarily possible nor politicially desirable for China.

For all the talk of "emerging superpower" there are not enough boats/planes in the mainland to ferry troops across the strait in the teeth of Taiwan’s defenses. The economic response from the West would also be devastating, so much so it would stand a good chance of fomenting a successful revolution.

 
Written By: TallDave
URL: http://deanesmay.com
Tall Dave makes a good point about the experience our troops are getting, especially since counter-insurgency is something that its probably very hard to train for in peace-time.

And seriously, the only place I can see us using our artillery and armor in the near future would be Korea or Iran. Iran is sort of covered seeing as how Iraq is next door to Iran, and Koreans have a huge land army themselves.

Regarding Taiwan, if China attacked and succeeded in completely seizing the island (big Ifs there) we would not attempt to re-take it unless world opinion came around so hard as to provide massive international support. Maybe if they only held some portion of the island, but if they completely own it, no way. My prediction would be Sarkozy would make some noise and become silent once Airbus got some more deals from China.

That said, any battle over Taiwan would be a naval / air battle at first. Taiwan already has a lot of ground troops, and would probably only need some token boots on the ground from our troops.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Don’t they go back for training every 18 months?
Not always, that’s the problem. And, of course, in Iraq, many are not working in their primary MOS.
That seems unlikely to matter. Who’s going to fight a lengthy conventional ground war with us? I doubt a standing army engagement of more than weeks is even possible given our precision airstrike ability.
That’s fine Dave, but in those three weeks you have to be able to function as an Army or, as you might imagine, it might take longer than three weeks to do what you need to do. So while you may very well be right, you now sound like the folks who previously pushed only the peer enemy/conventional warfare possibility to the detriment of COIN. The military has to be proficient in both, and we have to find a way and the time to do that. Right now we’re not.
I would argue the experience they’re getting now is probably more valuable.
For COIN, yes. But it would have done them no good in March of 2003, would it?
It’s generally accepted that this is neither militarily possible nor politicially desirable for China.
Agreed. I’ll remind you I was answering a hypothetical brought up by another commenter. They do not have the air or sealift capability necessary to put the necessary forces on Taiwan to take the island and have scant hope of being able to mount a second wave if they try.

But that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be properly training conventional skills. If the loon who runs NoKo every decided to go out in a blaze of martial glory, they’d be called on soon enough and we simply wouldn’t be able to answer.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Here’s a thought. China has nukes. We get the upper hand as discussed above, and they say back off and put their finger on the button.
 
Written By: Is
URL: http://
The economic response from the West would also be devastating, so much so it would stand a good chance of fomenting a successful revolution.
Because the West has responded so devestatingly to the threats of Saddam, Iran and North Korea.

The West is having enough trouble responding to it’s own economic failings without adding an embargo of China onto it.

I can see what McQ is getting at, and it is a problem.

Let’s put a different hypothetical into the mix.

Elections are held in Venezuela, and Hugo doesn’t step down. Part of the military goes over to his side, and the rest are fighting them.

Do we intervene? And if so, with what?
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
I think that the West would embargo China, for two reasons. First, historically, the West has been happy to put tight embargoes in place in the face of ongoing aggression. Sure, by 2003, the embargo against Iraq was falling apart (largely due to our own guilt about the now known to not exist millions of starving Iraqi children), but don’t forget that when Iraq was actively in possession of Kuwait, the embargo was tight, and remained that way for some time afterwards. Second, and more critically, if we make China’s entire coast a war zone and threaten to turn back, confiscate or sink any ship in that area, the Western countries would not challenge us on that (again, assuming that China was actively in possession of Taiwan).

On Venezuela, I’m not sure that we would want to intervene; I don’t see the national security interest. (Venezuela has already nationalized US companies out of the oil industry there, and while oil prices would certainly climb, it would not be the same kind of supply constraint as if the ME supplies were interrupted.)

If we did intervene, given your hypothetical that part of the Venezuelan army would be fighting Chavez, our likely intervention would more resemble Afghanistan: Special Forces calling in air strikes. I cannot see a situation where we would want to occupy Venezuela, though I could certainly see situations where we would want to help someone oust Chavez. But the reality is, Chavez simply isn’t that important, and I don’t think it matters much to the US if Venezuela goes into civil war. Oh, sure, we’d deplore it in the strongest terms, but my guess is that would be about it.

The better hypothetical, in my opinion, would be what happens if we have to invade Iran or Pakistan (say, because Pakistan falls to a jihadi coup, and we have to secure their nuclear weapons and reactors). In that case, we’re pretty much in over our head, unless we are willing to call up our full range of forces (Guard and Reserves) for the duration, or to largely abandon Iraq.

I am certainly concerned that we are so overstretched with our Army right now. I just disagree with McQ on what the best solution to the problem is.

 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
On Venezuela, I’m not sure that we would want to intervene; I don’t see the national security interest. (Venezuela has already nationalized US companies out of the oil industry there, and while oil prices would certainly climb, it would not be the same kind of supply constraint as if the ME supplies were interrupted.)
So, the #5 source for our oil imports and #3 source for petroleum, being disrupted wouldn’t be a national security concern?
The top sources of US crude oil imports for January were Canada (1.944 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.479 million barrels per day), Mexico (1.198 million barrels per day), Nigeria (1.163 million barrels per day), and Venezuela (1.135 million barrels per day).
This with the average gas price reaching $3.50 before our summer peak, and our economy already straining to deal with inflation as a result of various factors. Unless OPEC increased it’s pumping capacity, there’s no where else for that to come from.

And so, you solution in my hypothetical is to bomb the hell out of them (yeah, that worked so well with Milosovic.)

So, we wouldn’t send troops down to help the Democratically elected government of Venezuela help put down a coup by a guy we already hate. What if that new governments BEGS for help?

What does that do to our credibility if we don’t help?

Normally I’d say, we send the 82nd airborne or Rangers down, followed by a Stryker brigade or 2 and a Special Forces company. We would not want Chaves to go running off into the hills to fight another day, and get into a protracted jungle campaign. But, I don’t know that we have that capability right now.

If Pakistan falls, all we need to do is make sure the nukes are out of play. The rest of the country can burn. We would have to find new supply routes to Afghanistan though.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Check that, the only other source would be the Strategic Oil Reserves, which would have to be touched in this case.

So, that would give us 58 days of protection.

Link for the facts above...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
So, the #5 source for our oil imports and #3 source for petroleum, being disrupted wouldn’t be a national security concern?
Not on that count. Whoever wins will sell the oil. Similarly in the Middle East: we don’t have a national security concern based on who sells the oil, as long as they aren’t using the proceeds to attack us. We do have a national security concern to make sure that the oil gets sold, which is why we got involved in the tanker war and Operation Praying Mantis. Also, remember that there was already a coup in Venezuela, and we didn’t get much involved with that, except rhetorically.

As far as "bombing the hell out of them," I would hope that if we do decide to bomb someone, we do it right. But my point was not that we should bomb them, but that in your hypothetical, that is the most we would likely have to do: it wouldn’t require ground troops.

Pakistan, on the other hand, would require ground troops both to get the nukes out of play and keep them that way, and to open supply routes into Afghanistan (unless we decide to abandon Afghanistan, which would be a colossal error). And given the sanctuary problem that would be created if we let the rest of the country "burn," I think we’d want to secure the country in any case. In fact, it would be an ideal opening to attack the tribal areas — if we had the forces to do it, which we don’t right now. (And again, I agree that this is a problem; I just differ with McQ about the solution.)

 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog

 
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