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U.S. Military Adjustments for "Long War" Lagging Reality; Further Adjustments Needed

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Just less than a year ago, of February 3, 2006, then U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world.

He said he had come to refer to this struggle as "the long war."

"Compelled by a militant ideology that celebrates murder and suicide with no territory to defend, with little to lose, they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs," Rumsfeld said in a speech at the National Press Club that February day.

And what has changed since then? Mr. Rumsfeld is retired and a new Secretary of Defense is in place, the American voters gave the President and the Republican Party a repudiation of sorts, and the President of the United States has offered a new plan for the war in Iraq, briefly known as the "surge."

But even adding something like 20,000 soldiers to the streets of Baghdad and al-Anbar province will strain the United States Army and Marine Corps.

What else has changed since this time last year?

*North Korea tested a nuclear weapon and has continued to develop long range missiles.

*Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to "wipe Israel from the map." He has said the Holocaust was an "Invention of the Zionists," and that the "Zionist state is illegitimate." He has also made no secret of his nuclear ambitions.

*U.S. Intelligence services have now concluded that Iran is directly supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

Claude Salhani, the international editor for United Press International, wrote a commentary essay for The Washington Times' editions of January 9, 2007. "Newly obtained intelligence reports indicate Iran is increasing its efforts to destabilize Iraq just as President Bush is reviewing his policy options," writes Mr. Salhani.

*Israel fought a war with Hezbollah. Many would argue that Israel fought to a stand-off or even got the worst of the war. Israeli intelligence concluded that both Syria and Iran were supporting Hezbollah.

*Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda operatives infiltrated Somalia to such an extent that they had a stranglehold on the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia intervened to drive the Muslim insurgents out of Mogadishu.

*European support for the war against terror has flagged even further, if that was possible. Great Britain announced it would not join the U.S. in its "surge" into Iraq.

The military writer of the Associated Press, Mr. Robert Burns, wrote this morning that "the Pentagon has abandoned its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty, officials said Thursday, a major change that reflects an Army stretched thin by longer-than-expected combat in Iraq."

The Pentagon is also shortening the time troops spend at home before they return to combat.

These new policies for soldiers directly respond to outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker who told congressional committees in mid December, "At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components, through remobilization, we will break the active component [of the U.S. Army]."

This week, the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division, which spearheaded the U.S. attack into Iraq and Saddam Hussein's army in 2003, is returning to Iraq for it's third time. That means a career U.S. Army soldier who made a decision to make the "Third I.D." his home before 2003 will now have amassed more than three years time in Iraq by next year this time.

The Pentagon also announced this week it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.

The United States is engaged in a long war that will test the strength, potentially, of every American family.

"Such a war requires our leaders to understand that our staying power, our will to win, is as important as any weapon in our arsenal. Our enemies doubt this. Saddam Hussein said before the first Gulf War that Americans wouldn't tolerate '10,000 dead in one battle.' Osama bin Laden said he was emboldened to direct the Sept. 11 attacks because watching support wane for the American operation in Somalia 'convinced us America is a paper tiger.'"

James Carafano wrote those words in September 2003.

America's mettle is being tested. We may be about to find out if America really is a paper tiger as Osama bin Laden has said.

We at Peace and Freedom now believe that a direct military confrontation with Iran cannot be too far off. Just in the last week:

*The Pentagon added one aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian gulf region. This allows a greater deterrent force to face Iran and allows the U.S. the flexibility to do other missions like the ongoing counter-terrorist work off the coast of Somalia.

Wrote Mr. Burns for the AP today, "Navy officials said the carrier heading to the Gulf region is the USS John C. Stennis, which previously had been in line to deploy to the Pacific. It was not clear Thursday how the Pentagon intended to compensate in the Pacific for the absence of the Stennis in that region, where a chief worry is North Korea."

*The President named a U.S. Navy Admiral, Admiral William Fallon, as the new Commander of the U.S. Central Command. At the same time he ordered General David Petraeus to succeed Gen. Casey as his ground commander in Iraq.

Columnist Raph Peters wrote in the January 8, 2006, New York Post, "Gen. Petraeus is going to Baghdad to deal with our present problems. Adm. Fallon is going to the U.S. Central Command to deal with the future [Iran and Ahmadinejad]."

*The President ordered additional air defense missile systems, Patriots, to Iraq.

The U.S. needs to do a rapid re-assessment of its future military strengths and weaknesses.

The New Secretary of Defense should ramp up his analytical section in the Pentagon and assess what the United States will need at its fingertips if the war against terror continues to expand to include additional adversaries.

Our belief is that the United States needs now to accelerate the development of both land and sea-based missile defense efforts and may need now to start the planning to build an additional aircraft carrier. Making these decisions after the war grows larger still may be too late.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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