After each war there is a little less democracy left to save.
Brooks Atkinson
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

February 21, 2008

Overstretched Forces Concern US Officers

by Ali Gharib

The US military is "severely strained" by two large-scale occupations in the Middle East, other troop deployments, and problems recruiting, according to a new survey of military officers published by Foreign Policy magazine and the centrist think-tank Center for a New American Strategy.

"They see a force stretched dangerously thin and a country ill-prepared for the next fight," said the report, "The US Military Index," which polled 3,400 current and former high-level military officers.

Sixty percent of the officers surveyed said that the military is weaker now than it was five years ago, often citing the number of troops deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We ought to pay more attention to quality," said retired Lt. General Gregory Newbold, who retired from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in part over objections to the invasion of Iraq, at a panel during a conference to release the data.

From Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain to President George W. Bush, politicians regularly speak on the military from a position of authority. They know, they contend, that despite the two ongoing wars, the US is ready to deal with new threats militarily if need be.

"I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars," said McCain at a campaign stop last month. "We will never surrender but there will be other wars."

But the officers surveyed implied that military options against future threats may not be as politicians from across the spectrum have intimated "on the table."

"Asked whether it was reasonable or unreasonable to expect the US military to successfully wage another war at this time," said the report, "80 percent of the officers say that it is unreasonable."

When asked to grade the preparedness of the military to deal with the threat of Iran on which McCain's rhetoric has been especially hawkish respondents gave an average score of 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 representing fully prepared.

The difference in which civilian and military leadership are viewed also made its way into the survey results. The level of confidence in the presidency among officers averaged just 5.5 out of 10, with 16 percent having "no confidence at all in the president."

The US Congress scored lowest of the institutions that the survey referred with an average score of just 2.7.

The low regard for politicians could arise from the officers' notion that elected officials know little about the workings of military 66 percent of officers responded that elected leaders are "either somewhat or very uninformed about the US military."

Those views are likely informed by survey respondents' opinions about the way the civilian leadership handled the war in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. Nearly three quarters of the officers said that the goals of the civilian leadership for the military were "unreasonable."

Furthermore, it appears that many officers find that the efforts of US forces have sometimes been counterproductive. Asked what country had gained the "greatest strategic advantage" from the war in Iraq, 37 percent said Iran while 22 percent answered China. Just one in five of the officers answered that the US had gained the most.

Though many of the results of the survey were negative, the officers were not pessimistic about the forces themselves. 64 percent of the officers said that they believe morale is high in the military, and nearly 9 in 10 believe that the "surge" escalation was having a positive effect on the war effort.

"The Army is not broken," said Major Robert Scales. Fifty-six percent of those polled agreed, though nearly 90 percent said that the war in Iraq has "stretched the US military dangerously thin," with just over half agreeing strongly.

A problem for the military, said Scales, could arise if the forces become "hollowed out" as they were after the Vietnam War. Degraded equipment and a loss of some of the fighting force particularly mid-level officers could adversely affect the future health of the military.

Thirty-eight percent of the officers advocated increasing the total number of US ground forces to face future challenges, and the same percentage called for the reinstatement of the draft.

By far the most common answer to the question of how to best win the "Global War on Terror" was to improve intelligence which nearly three quarters of the officers supported. Thirty-eight percent said that the size of Special Operations Forces should be increased.

One of the most interesting splits in survey came on the question of what constitutes torture and whether torture is acceptable as an interrogation method. Prompted with the statement "torture is never acceptable," 53 percent of the officers agreed and 44 disagreed.

On the subject of "waterboarding" a harsh interrogation technique that simulates drowning there was also an even split with 46 percent saying "waterboarding" is torture and 43 disagreeing.

The report a rare public look into the thoughts of the military higher-ups is one of "the few comprehensive surveys of the US military community to be conducted in the past 50 years.

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?

  • Perils Seen in Obama's Afghan Strategy

  • Afghan Civilian Casualties May Surge as Well

  • Hoping for a Spontaneous Regime Change in Iran

  • Iraqi Elections Dawn on Changed Political Landscape

  • Jewish Organizations Call For End to Gaza Bombings

  • Overcoming the Zero-Sum Hurdle in Israel-Palestine Negotiations

  • Deaths Down, But Iraq Still Top Danger Zone

  • US Arms Deployed in Wars Around the Globe

  • An Outside Insider Probes the Iranian Psyche

  • Hawks Campaign to Preempt Iran Talks

  • Regional Players Key to Salvaging Peace Process

  • No Amnesty for Bush Administration, Say Torture Opponents

  • Pundits Debate the Inevitability of a Nuclear Iran

  • Iraqi Detainees May Go From Frying Pan to Fire

  • Analysts Question Timing of Syria Raid

  • Judge Orders Release of Uighurs at Guantanamo

  • US War on al-Qaeda Widely Viewed as a Bust

  • Neocons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video

  • Kosovo Casts Shadow on
    South Ossetian Standoff

  • Iran in the Spotlight at Christian Zionist Confab

  • Critics See Vendetta in Al-Arian's Legal Limbo

  • A Blueprint for Iraq Withdrawal

  • Tangled Web of Allegiances Leads Back to Tehran

  • Iraq 'Divide and Rule' Strategy Called Shortsighted

  • Chaos Hardening Sectarian Fiefdoms

  • McCain's Vietnam Lessons Unlearned

  • Iraqi Shi'ites: Calm on the Surface, Simmering Beneath

  • Campaigns Spar Over Where to Focus Troops

  • Opening the Door to Hamas

  • Strategic Alliances Remain Elusive in Iraq

  • Overstretched Forces Concern US Officers

  • Surge Exposing Iraqi Political Tensions

  • Critics Fear Pact Will Tie Next President's Hands

  • Contractor Abuses Rarely Punished, Groups Say

  • Al-Arian Documentary Highlights Real Cost of Indefinite Detentions

  • Much Ado About Annapolis

  • Bell Tolls for Bush's 'Freedom Agenda'

  • Dialogue Undermined by White House's Iran Sanctions

  • Still Flogging a Dead Cuba Policy?

  • Pentagon Gives Blackwater New Contract
  • Ali Gharib writes for Inter Press Service.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2015 Antiwar.com