BuSh HaS FaIlEd ThE MiLiTaRy
During the 2000 campaign, then Gov George W. Bush of Texas told potential military voters, "Help is on the Way."
Bush Administration Has Failed the Military
By Paul Connors
During the 2000 campaign, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas told potential military voters, "Help is on the way." Military members, exhausted and drained by pointless deployments in support of half-baked peacekeeping schemes hatched by the Clinton administration, rallied to Bush believing they had found their Messiah. How wrong they were.
Unfortunately for the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who protect this nation and its people, President Bush inflicted on them a man who is without a doubt, the worst Secretary of Defense this country has had since the Department of Defense was created in 1947.
Like so many of President Bush's picks for key posts in his administration, Donald H. Rumsfeld is a retread from previous Republican administrations. But unlike some of the others, Rumsfeld, a vain, conceited and arrogant dilettante, has done little to improve the overall condition of the armed forces and the Defense Department. Instead, he has unleashed one pyrotechnic after another as he has purposely wreaked havoc on the senior leadership of the Army, permitted the continued draw-down in the number of combatant ships in the Navy, and has repeatedly denied what is obvious to every American, both in and out of uniform.
Immediately after the first Gulf War, the assaults on the defense budgets began. Starting with the first President Bush, the U.S. Army, the service most closely associated with ground combat and peacekeeping, was reduced from 18 divisions to just 10. The Bush I defense review called for a reduction in the active duty military from 2.1 million people in 1991 to 1.44 million by the middle of the 1990s. By the time the successor Clinton administration had taken power in Washington, the liberal academicians Clinton was so fond of employing decided the collapse of the Soviet Union would make a "peace dividend" possible by ordering even deeper cuts in the military. Clinton's analysts proposed an active force of 1.25 million and some went so far as to suggest that our active duty forces be trimmed to just one million members.
Throughout the 1990s, the personnel cutbacks, as well as the denial of critical funding for equipment maintenance, upgrades and acquisitions, left the DoD budget stagnating and then falling behind inflation. Despite these losses in buying power the Clinton administration continued to press the smaller U.S. military by putting it to work in every god-forsaken corner of their world. It was if the administration really believed that soldiers should serve as a worldwide "meals on wheels" program for every failed nation-state on the planet. In the meantime, the military lost its warfighting abilities, social engineering became commonplace and officers - more concerned with their careers than national security - bowed to the altar of political correctness and thinly veiled Marxist social rhetoric.
By the late 1990s, many people in the U.S. military had had enough and began looking for their own form of salvation. They desperately hoped that a Bush administration would return them to something resembling what they had known under President Ronald Reagan twenty years earlier.
Those hopes and dreams were in vain. They were quashed the minute that Bush announced Rumsfeld as his candidate for Secretary of Defense. Even before assuming office, Rumsfeld announced that what the military needed was "transformation." He was so sure in his assertions that it was if he had said, "and by God, I'm just the man to force them to do it my way."
From his first days at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld let it be known that things were going to change. The Army was the first service to feel the heat. As the largest service (and the most conservative), Rumsfeld believed that Army generals were too devoted to their tanks, armored personnel carriers and attack helicopters. Like JFK before him, he became enamored of the capabilities of airpower and the U.S. Army's Special Forces, insisting that all future wars could be fought by elite troops with high-tech weapons and new high-tech toys (read newer, faster, more expensive jets).
It should be remembered that Rumsfeld's own military service was limited to just three years. He served in the U.S. Navy when that service was still flying straight-wing jet fighters. A Princeton graduate, Rumsfeld couldn't wait to leave active duty so that he could get on with the more important business of making money.
As he embarked on his political career, Rumsfeld first held a seat in Congress and after a stint in the Nixon administration, served as the nation's youngest White House chief of staff and then SecDef under caretaker President Gerald Ford. With his tenure at the Pentagon cut short by Ford's electoral defeat by that other foreign policy disaster, Jimmy Carter, Rumsfeld moved back into the private sector.
He excelled in his business career because he was that particularly hard-nosed form of executive who manages by intimidation and demands complete compliance from his subordinates. He reportedly never encouraged discussions or debate from his subordinates and dealt with disagreements harshly. That is the management style Rumsfeld brought with him for his second stint as Secretary of Defense.
At an age when most men would be content to sit back and survey the successes brought forth by a lifetime of achievement, Rumsfeld's unquenchable thirst for power flared again when President Bush asked him to serve in his administration. After arriving in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld quickly announced that upgrades to legacy programs like the M1A1 Abrams tanks and the M2 Bradley fighting vehicles would be curtailed. The army, he said, was far too heavy and took far too long to get where it needed to be. Army generals were too conservative, too cautious, too conservative. Moreover, they resisted change and still fought and re-fought great tank battles at the Fulda Gap.
Wherever possible, Rumsfeld - like that other defense department failure, Robert S. McNamara - ordered studies of what weapons systems could be cut loose to save money. He ordered manpower studies to consider additional personnel cuts of 90,000 from the active-duty force to pay for more untested whiz-bang technology. Like McNamara, Rumsfeld never met a statistic he didn't like and seemed to believe that spending more on technology and less on people would automatically win all of the wars the United States might have to fight in the 21st century. His hubris knew no limits and he continued to insist, even after the fall of Baghdad, that American forces were adequately staffed to meet any and all possible contingencies around the world.
After three years, some military observers wonder if there is really a has been difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations in terms of how their policies impacted on the armed forces. While Clinton stretched the military as far as possible without letting the band break, at least he didn't launch a full-scale war. He kept his conflicts smaller, more local and regional in nature. And while I've never been a fan of Clinton or his foreign policy, at least he kept our allies on our side in most major discussions.
With the Bush/Rumsfeld team, we have an administration that launched a war that the military quickly won. But like all too many folks who act on impulse, they didn't have a back-up plan for what to do when American forces came out of the other end of the tunnel victorious.
And that's where we sit today. We have a Secretary of Defense who apparently is lying to himself and the American people when he categorically states that American troops are adequate for the tasks at hand. In a complete turnaround from their recent historical opposition to increased military budgets, even the liberal Democrats have belatedly concluded that America's armed forces are stretched perilously thin and have agreed that we now need more people to carry out the missions that we have given them. Rumsfeld continues to shake his head and say no.
Rumsfeld still fails to see that the average GI Joe and Jane are stretched to the end of their endurance. Military families are sick to death of the lies and the deceit that emanates downward from the OSD through the chain of command to the family readiness coordinators at all of our domestic and overseas locations.
Rumsfeld, recognizing that the National Guard and reserve components have been tasked too much in the last ten years, has decided that the nation no longer needs a capable "force in reserve." Rather than have forces available when needed, he has ordered that key capabilities currently found mainly in the reserve component be returned to the active-duty force. An ongoing Pentagon review reportedly plans to reorganize the reserve component so that the nation will not have to rely on them for the first 15 days of a major contingency. In other words, by Rumsfeld's divining, America will in the future fight wars lasting only 15 days or less. In that vein, we won't need to call up reserves ever again.
The problem is that we already are fighting a protracted conflict in "postwar" Iraq that refutes that theory.
We won the major combat phase of the second Gulf War with less than 200,000 combat troops. But we still went in too light and our occupation of the conquered country has turned into a daily charnel house.
Yet Rumsfeld remains steadfast in his idiotic belief that American forces are numerically adequate for the tasks before them.
Whether we like it or not, the United States has assumed the mantle of an imperial power. With that power comes responsibility, particularly the charge not to waste or squander our finest resource - the young men and women who perform these dangerous tasks for the rest of us.
Rumsfeld and the man he reports to have betrayed the very people who depend on them the most. They have betrayed the men and women in uniform by not providing them with every available means to defeat our enemies, to destroy their ability to fight and then, to have a coherent plan for their re-deployment home.
This administration has betrayed the American public by entering into large-scale
military operations without a clear exit strategy and by creating a potential quagmire that will engage our combat forces for years to come. While far too large a percentage of our true combat power is tied down against a guerilla foe, the American homeland has been left woefully unprotected against other threats.
With the smallest Army we've had since Dec. 7, 1941, the fewest number of naval vessels since 1931, and a smaller Air Force now than the day it was created in 1947, the Bush administration is blindly following in the footsteps of that other great wartime President, Bill Clinton.
Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article