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
"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
"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
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
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)