Abizaid: Where would you like me to get them from?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 1 month ago

When pressed as to why he had not requested more troops to deal with both the al Anbar Province and the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad at the same time, General Abizaid responded with the following retort: “Where would you like me to get them from?”  He continued by pointing out that the U.S. currently  has about 500,000 ground troops, and some 390,000 of them are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Abizaid has given an extremely spirited defense of the idea that the U.S. has just the right number of troops.

Contrary to this, we have argued in Force Size and other posts that the U.S. has needed more troops than are currently deployed in order to effectively and efficiently achieve security and stability, and that force projection will be inversely proportional to the amount of force that actually has to be exercised.  But Abizaid’s question is salient.  If we increased force size in Iraq, where exactly would these troops come from?  Actually, Abizaid knows, but saying it would be unacceptable because it would involve policy changes.  Generals like Abizaid should be able intelligently to discuss policy, but the policy changes needed to free troops are of a nature that would require White House and Joint Chief’s of Staff involvement and approval.  So these changes are above Abizaid’s head.

There are approximately 100,000 troops deployed in Europe, another 32,000 in South Korea, and 35,000 in Japan.  But the cold war is over, and the troop deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo are at the same time not onerous and unnecessary.  NATO could take more burden in the absence of U.S. troops.  The burden, both financial and in manpower deprivation to other parts of the world, of troop deployments in Japan is significant, and it is time to reconsider whether the U.S. can and should be the protector of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.  Victor Davis Hanson argues for a multi-pronged approach in dealing with the North Korea situation, including a new and robust push for missile defense, as well as clear threats against North Korea.  But one interesting piece of his theoretical construct involves troop force reductions in South Korea.

To work with South Korea, we need to start withdrawing troops to Pusan—and well beyond. Much of the present mess arose from the appeasement of the Sunshine policy—in part, fueled by the revisionism of Korean ingrate leftists who rewrote the Korean War in populist terms of American imperialism and their own victimization. This was, in part, due to Korean nationalism that envisioned an eventual pan-Korea state birthed by slow and insidious osmosis from the south; and, in part, a result of strategic complacence of a half-century made possible by American subsidies and deployments. It made sense to garrison Americans on the DMZ when Seoul was weak and nascent, but not now when its population and economy dwarf the North’s. Getting America off the DMZ would give us more strategic options through air power, and wake up the South Koreans, reminding them that cheap triangulation with the United States has real costs. They can either play Churchill or Chamberlain—but it’s their call, not ours, since we have wider worries protecting Japan and Taiwan that transcend South Korea’s Sunshine nonsense.

We have also made it clear that Japan should make preparations for its own self defense.  Given troop force reductions in Europe, Japan and South Korea, the U.S. should be able to redeploy enough troops to Iraq to achieve security and in Afghanistan to deal with a resurgent Taliban.

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Comments

  1. On October 16, 2006 at 12:49 pm, Sean said:

    Hi.

    There are real ramification of taking US troops out of Japan and encouraging the buildup of the Japanese military. The US has bilateral alliances with Japan and South Korea, but the South Korean government would be one of the more alarmed at a Japanese military buildup. The Chinese have tacitly accepted US military prescence in the region because they view it as the US keeping the Japanese down. Moving to a more equal partnership between the US and Japan would appear as a US and Japanese trying to keep the Chinese down and trigger some serious security competition in the region.

    The place where our troops should be coming out of (say 75 thousand or so) is Europe. These troops could be redeployed to the Middle East or back stateside and join the rotation of troops coming and going from the war on terror.

  2. On October 16, 2006 at 1:19 pm, Chris said:

    Once again you have done a fantastic job detailing the issues with Iraq.

    Our assumptions under present policy are the following: 140,000 troops would be enough to degrade the insurgency and protect the population. Also, we assumed that Iraqi troops would operate effectively and allow for additional security and further attacks on the insurgency.

    Neither of these assumptions were valid. Attack you enemy’s plans, says Sun Tzu, and Zarqawi did. He might not have been able to fire a machine gun, but he sure knew how to unleash the lesser angels of the Iraqi nature. Since the Samarra shrine was attacked, sectarian violence in Iraq has surged. The Iraqi population is no longer safe, thus degrading our counterinsurgency efforts. Moreover, in this environment the Shiite and Sunni have acted in ways that fuel the insurgency.

    It’s time to call a number of assumptions into question.

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