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The Year Rumsfeld's Dream Died

Donald Rumsfeld, former US Defense Secretary
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jan 08, 2007
The past year saw the collapse of the Bush administration's grand strategy in Iraq and the fall of long-time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But it also saw the death of Rumsfeld's grand strategic vision of an ultra-lean, ultra-high-tech U.S. Army that substituted science-fiction weapons systems for brute strength.

For six years, Rumsfeld pushed his vision with such buzz words as creating a "faster, more agile" U.S. armed services to fight counter-insurgency campaigns and rapid response deployments anticipated in the 21st century. But like so many high-tech military prophets before him, he proved to be a false one.

The new strategy that the White House is currently crafting for Iraq contemplates a new "surge" of between 20,000 to 40,000 additional ground troops. This strategy in fact is opposed by many senior Pentagon generals who are alarmed at the degree to which even holding-action operations against the Sunni insurgency in Iraq and the increasingly powerful Shiite militias there are degrading the Army's combat manpower resources.

At the same time, there is a growing realization in both the Bush administration and in the U.S. Congress, including among senior Democrats whose party now controls both chambers, that the U.S. Army and Marines need more manpower to deal not just with the security challenges in Iraq but with other conflicts that could arise in other parts of the world.

One taboo phrase is not yet being heard anywhere: that is "Imperial Overstretch" -- the phenomenon that faces an over-extended global hyperpower when its strategic commitments around the world exceed its military and resource ability to support them.

The British Empire faced this dilemma of "Imperial Overstretch" in the 1930s, as documented by British historian Corelli Barnett in his classic book, "The Collapse of British Power." Significantly, the problem was exacerbated by a continuing Sunni Muslim Arab insurgency in the Middle East in a small country that eventually engaged up to 25 percent of the effective ground combat forces of the British Army.

That insurgency in Mandate Palestine, the territory now occupied by the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority territories, was eventually totally crushed by the British. The ground commander responsible for defeating it was Bernard Law Montgomery, who later won world renown as the greatest British combat general of World War II.

During the three years from 1936 to 1939 that the Arab Revolt raged in Palestine, Britain's potential enemies such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy grew increasingly bold. The longer the Iraq insurgency lasts and the more U.S. troops are tied up in combating it or trying to separate rival factions there, the greater is the likelihood that the United States will face increasingly serious challenges to its commitments and interests in other parts of the world.

The growing sentiment in Congress to approve a boost in the size of the U.S. Army reflects these concerns that are increasingly felt within the Washington Beltway, even when they are not so explicitly articulated. Rumsfeld's successor, former director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates, has lost no time in signaling that he wants to step up recruitment for U.S. ground forces and the initial response in the White House and on Capitol Hill has been highly favorable.

Obviously, increasing the size of U.S. ground forces does not mean abandoning the enormous Pentagon investment in advanced weapons systems and force multipliers. But the Rumsfeld vision was a very explicit one: Rumsfeld was determined to shrink the size of the conventional army, boost the size of and budget of Special Forces, and pour unprecedented sums into high-tech weapons and IT systems that the Army and Marines could use in real time.

Now, U.S. policymakers are coming up against the bedrock reality that they cannot afford to shrink ground forces any more and that regular conventional forces as well as the Special Forces Rumsfeld favored will have to grow.

The failure to prevent or quickly defeat the Iraq insurgency has brought home forcibly the old truth, repeatedly emphasized by such old Army men as retired Lt. Gen. William Odom, that there is no substitute for having enough boots on the ground, and well-trained soldiers to put in them. Rumsfeld never admitted that to the day he left the Pentagon. His successor has already acknowledged it. That is the lasting strategic change that bitter experience in Iraq in 2006 has taught the policymakers of the United States.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Can Congress Stop An Iraq Surge
Washington DC (UPI) Jan 08, 2007
If Congressional Democrats want to block any proposed escalation in U.S. troop levels in Iraq, as new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hinted at the weekend, they have the constitutional authority and the legal power to do so, according to some scholars. "It's a fundamental constitutional principle that Congress can initiate and regulate war," law Prof. Neil Kinkopf of Georgia State University told United Press International.

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