Michael: GWOT Making World Less SafeBush was asked last week in a rare press conference if the “number of troops you’ve left tied up in Iraq” are limiting military options elsewhere that might be of higher priority. He replied that his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “doesn’t feel we’re limited” in our capacity to fight other engagements.
This week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an annual risk assessment report that says the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could hamper U.S. ability to fight other wars. Specifically, the report noted that the risk of troops casualties would be greater and engagements could be longer and cause more collateral damage (i.e. innocent deaths and loss of property) because the military is stretched thin with the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The situation is likely only to get worse if military recruiters continue to come up short of their targets.
It is striking how misleading Bush statement was in light of the actual facts. While not a lie, his statement cuts very close to the boundary of honesty by dint of over-simplification. The report, of which he was surely aware, states that additional operations would have their effectiveness degraded - though he is right that the Pentagon’s assessment doesn’t say operations couldn’t be done, or that the President would be limited in his options. But the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly are endangering not only the troops on the ground there, but are also degrading the survivability and effectiveness of other possible missions.
Lowered survivability and effectiveness in future conflicts actually translates to a significant strategic disadvantage in dealing with potential military hot spots. The knowledge that future military operations will be more costly for us in terms of casualties is sure to embolden potential adversaries and negotiating partners. In fact, Chairman Gen. Meyers specifically warned in his Congressional testimony that potential adversaries should not feel encouraged by this news, which is the surest means to tell that they certainly will be, and with good reason.
Bush was also asked about the suppressed State Department statistics showing that terrorist attacks had tripled in 2004. Bush responded with that horrible line about fighting terror overseas so we don't have to fight them here. There are two reasons this is specious reasoning; globalization and chauvinism.
Globalization flattens the world, making the movement of goods and people in commerce vastly easier. More terrorists making more attacks overseas isn't a good sign, as Bush would have us believe. It is a sign that there are more terrorist who are more active and who have not yet decided to attack American domestic targets, but it is just a matter of time, really. When terrorists intend to attack inside the United States, the nature of our open, democratic, and free market society means that they will succeed. There is no way to win the 'War on Terror' by security measures or by military action alone. The only way to win is to have the other side decide you are no longer a legitimate or useful target, or stop fighting entirely.
The chauvinism in Bush's statement is breathtaking. No wonder the whole world hates the man. He implies that so long as terrorists aren't striking on U.S. soil, everything is OK. Politically, he is correct. American's aren't going to pay as much attention to overseas attacks, even if they are against U.S. citizens. But the fact remains that people are dying in record numbers due to terrorist attacks inspired by Bush's policies. These are innocent people being murdered, the fact that they aren't in the U.S., or not U.S. citizens, should give Bush no pass on his share of responsibility for the carnage.