Sunday, July 17, 2005

Michael: Abrams Doctrine Trips Bush

The nation's Governors are concerned over National Guard deployments in Iraq. Recruiting is 23% under targets and the homeland capability of reserve units is being eroded. Units deployed overseas are cutting into the ability of Governors to meet crises at home. Foreign deployments have a double impact on response to domestic crises; not only are Guard units unavailable, but since a disproportionate number of first responders, such as police, firemen, and paramedics are Guard members, the impact on disaster readiness is even greater.

Expect a major sub-theme of the war in Iraq and counter-terror during the coming bi-elections and the 2008 Presidential campaign to be the impact of Bush's military policies on the short- and long-term capabilities of our armed forces, and especially on the reserve component of the Total Force Concept (the post-Vietnam staffing doctrine put in place following the abolishment of Selective Service, aka the Abrams Doctrine). Already Presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle are sounding the alarm about the effect thhe Iraq deployments are having on Guard families, on national security, and on the future of the citizen-soldier. Gov. Warner, a likely 2008 Democratic hopeful said, "We are changing the role of citizen-soldier to soldier-citizen." And Governors aren't just criticizing current policies, many are suggesting changes to the reserve system. Gov. Mitt Romney, a likely 2008 Republican candidate suggested, "we are going to need to recognize the greater demand on the young men and women that serve in the Guard by substantially improving their benefits." Where those additional revenues will come from is anyone's guess when the current Administration is already killing the messengers in its own party over shortfalls in the VA system.

Many military experts see the current force structure as a means of connecting military action to public opinion by requiring the mobilization of the reserves in Guard units from communities across the county. These citizen-soldiers' deployment has a much stronger impact on their communities than would professional soldiers, involving public opinion much more strongly in either support or opposition to a war. Many have characterized the Abrams Doctrine as a force structure with a built-in political tripwire which a President has to pass to accomplish a major deployment. It may not have been Gereral Abrams' intent, but it could be that the force structure he created, and the relationship between the military and civilian secotrs he engineered, does have the effect of creating political accountability for the extended deployment of American troops.

What we see in Iraq, and in homefront opinion of the war, is the reaping of what the Bush Administration sowed by lying their way into war. The initial reaction of the American public was very favorable as they expected to eliminate a grave threat to America and to the world, to do so cheaply with a great deal of 'Coalition' support, and to do so relatively quickly; what they expected was the First Gulf War. What they got was a very different sort of war that has turned out to miscalculated and badly planned at every turn. Declining public support of the Iraq war reflects people's disillusionment with the Pollyanna pronouncements of an increasingly disconnected Administration.

The impact of this war on military families has been much harsher than initially expected, too. The casualites continue to mount, with horrific injuries being sustained by soldiers in the field, even as medical and family benefits are cut and narrowed. Citizen-soldiers expecting, and accepting, the possibility of a tour of duty overseas, despite the great hardships on their families and their professional lives, found themselves forced into multiple tours overseas on a contractual technicality. Families and communities are suffering a great deal for a war that has stretched to much more than the 6 months suggested at the outset.

Abrams' tripwire has been triggered. It is not because Americans are anti-military; they're not. It's not because Americans are against the use of military force; they're not. It's not because Americans don't support our troops; it's because they do. This Administration has done just about everything it can to alienate, denigrate, short-change, exploit, and flat-out lie to the American public, including our soldiers. Now they are begining to feel the backlash. It is a national tragedy that more people didn't recognize earlier an Adminstration that has no regard for Americans' safety and for the people who protect it. When someone is mouthing patriotic words, and dressing up in military costumes, most people aren't cynical enough to think it is just a cover for ideological politics. I'm more cynical that most.

I don't have much hope that the next few years hold out much hope of any sort of redemption for Bush Co. I don't forsee them transforming themselves into a national unity Administration; they only understand dividing, not uniting, despite Bush's hollow and ironic early claims. I only hope that, unlike the aftermath of Vietnam, the damage to our national esteem and the effectiveness of our armed forces is slight and reparable, and that the experience galvanizes Americans to support our troops in the best best way possible - by making peace.

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