In Iraq as in Vietnam, a much smaller and weaker enemy has tied down a large segment of the American armed forces. During our Vietnam commitment our force levels were stretched, equipment, materiel and weapons were stripped from the seventh army in Europe and CONUS and sent to Vietnam. The hollow army syndrome that we endured after the close of the Vietnam conflict was due in large measure to stripping away our forces to support the mission in Vietnam. Our forces confronting the Warsaw Pact forces in Europe and communist insurgencies in other parts of the world simply did not have the weaponry, ammunition and logistical support needed. This lack of equipment is termed the hollow force syndrome.
The armed forces accounting agency is defunding research projects and other non-essential activities to free up funds for bombs and operations in Iraq. The hollow force symptoms are already showing up. Interestingly, Don Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense the last time we hollowed our forces, too.
Today a Marine report announced that US forces have not been able to establish sufficient control in Anbar province to provide the security basis needed for the Iraqi government to establish control. This is to say that US main force efforts, as contrasted to counter-insurgency or small-scale urban warfare, has been ineffective in suppressing the Iraqi resistance. A third world Arab irregular army has taken on the vaunted USMC and won. It is not clear that American forces are strong enough to be invincible even if we were united. As a result of the Bush-Rumsfeld hollowing of our armed forces, we will be weaker when we confront our next enemy.
The public mood of restlessness, of dissatisfaction and of impotency is unprecedented and in NYS very dispiriting. The economy is unraveling and people are leaving in droves. I am sure that people in the southern states are wondering who left the gate open up here. Because of the distraction caused by Bush's war and his social agenda, our progress has been impeded. The economy, which had been healing in the eighties and nineties, is again heading down hill. This is a high price to pay for a foreign war and a conservative social agenda. Our failing economy is particularly galling in view of the fact that we were the one's who took the attack.
Worst of all is the dispiriting and the decline in public service ethic. GW Bush campaigned as a compassionate conservative who claimed to want to help volunteerism and community based efforts in solving our problems. Yet our ambulance corps, our fire departments and our other volunteer agencies are all suffering from the triple threat of military mobilization (yes a lot of volunteer firemen are also reservists), economic uncertainty and the lack of public spirit.
Resistance to the war is not following the pattern of passionate protest; instead it is following the path of resigned apathy. How will democracy survive a generation who nod in agreement when asked but who then fail to show up to perform democracy's chores?
These are the costs of Bush's war. What are its benefits? Cheap oil? The replacement of Saddam Hussein with a failed state brimming over with terrorists? Increases in every category or terrorism and higher causalities among civilians in every region of the world?
President Bush asked us to imagine the world without his invasion. OK to imagine such a world: three thousand dead American kids still with us. Iraq still under control. Afghanistan, now more peaceful under the protection of a multi-national force. Terrorism, defeated by an effective international effort. Bin Laden in custody. These are all goals we could have accomplished without the diversion of the futile and immoral invasion of Iraq.
What to do next?
First, the United States must renounce the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. The Bush Doctrine is the moral equivalent of the Japanese militarists' strategy against America.
Third we should use our military to train multi-national forces that can establish and maintain lawful and just peace. The mission in Colombia where we are training Colombian forces to wage a civil war is the wrong approach. The mission in Afghanistan or Bosnia where American forces are working with competent international organizations to protect well defined and just constitutional governments show what we are capable of. But America should not bear these legitimate military burdens alone.
Fourth we should use our soft power to the greatest extent possible. The other peoples of the world still are willing to buy from us, they love our culture and for the most part they like Americans. Let them. We should stop pushing them away by pointing guns at them.