I was invited to participate in a call with General Richard Myers (ret.), Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was to talk about Iraq and DOD funding.
This is a very vital issue; just today I received an email from Michael Fumento who is now imbedded in Afghanistan. Michael’s latest article, Forgotten War, Shoestring War, directly addresses the issue of funding in Afghanistan. At the same time, progress is slowly being made in Iraq, with another province now under Iraqi control and an important foreign policy development in the last 48 hours. Definitely, now is not the time to reduce funding.
General Myers started by making three points:
- explaining that the supplementals funding has has an impact on the troops. Operations and maintenance have to budget as if money was not coming along so they start scaling back, and it does cause real concern.
- The nature of the debate today has changed to very partisan debate and as a former military person he finds that unhelpful. We need, and the troops would expect, a nonpartisan approach.
- The actual surge is working – too early to tell but the security part seems to be getting traction and there’s a lot of good effort on the parts involved. You gotta give things a chance to work.
Question: As you look back at the era when he was chairman, which things would you say we did right, which wrong?
Gen. Myers: I came in right after 9/11, with unprecedented challenges to the US. We have an enemy that would use bio weapons, fissile material, nuclear device if they could, so there were some things that were done well, some done with a real sense of urgency, so how do you treat an enemy that is not associated with a country? How do you treat them when all the conventional law and protocols are lacking? We did well but not perfect. This conflict won’t end any time soon.
Afghanistan, in terms of how we used military power, was innovative and successful because we leveraged the Northern Alliance and other capabilities. Regarding the aftermath of reconstruction in Iraq, people are very critical but he takes issue witih those who think there’s a straight line after combat; as you look forward, the path we’re on – there may have been better ways but there was no clear way. There wasn’t much of an Iraqi army and senior officers were Baathits.
Q. 2 Cliff May asked the General to elaborate on the surge getting traction: and would he comment as to whether we wo’’t know until August;
GM: General Petreus said Summer.
We can’t have instant gratification: there’s more than 1 adversary: Al-Qaeda, infiltration, and a lot of different factors, and they’re picking up that we seem to be so divisive in our political prcess.
In October we’ll be able to see if Iraqi Government has done this, this, and this. Casualties are down in Bagdhad and the Iraqi army and police, US forces, are having the impact Gen Petreus thought they’d have. There are some good news but it’s too early to tell. Some of the conflict has gone outside Bagdad environs.
The Iraqi parliament did approve security plan after much loud debate and it was hard for them because it stated that there would be no political meddling with the armed forces Those are important things. One would hope al-Saddar would be more within the political process.
Q. 3 It seems like this is the kind of warfare needs to be mastered in the 21st century, or we’ll have a very difficult 21st century in front of us.
GM: One of reasons Gen P went was to learn the process for having to deal with this. Insurgencies are very difficult to deal with and we’ve had great debates. You need security, political and economic improvement simultaneously. We need to learn this, and more than just the military – it’s the US using all instruments of national power. We think of Iraq as a military problem but it’s a diplomatic economic and media.
Q. 4: How about the debate over pulling resources from the military?
At the State Dept you can’t compel foreign service offices to go there but if you pull more resources from State they won’t be able to do anything at all.
Q. 5: Is the domestic debatae in US influencing overseas for instance, al-Sadr pulling his 6 parliament members? (quoting from this NYT article)
If that’s true, it’s disappointing. It doesn’t take much to see through al-Saddar, who was implicated in murder of 3 clerics and he’s working his own agenda so Iraqis need the bureaucracies to implement a viable goverment.
My question was on Afghanistan funding: Is Afghanistan underfunded?
GM: His former executive assistant is now in Afghanistan and his letters are encouraging: We’re trying to gain the confidence of the locals by bringing the roads, water, etc necessary to make a living. Gen. Myers would be surprised If it’s a resource issue. We’re asking for more troops from NATO. “The good thing about Afghanistan is that it has international attention.”
The supplementals funding has a real impact on people trying to get things done.
Q. 7 The political tenor has changed in US – Any way to turn it back?
GM : Being a military officer, he has no solution but hopes that the leadership in Capitol Hill will realize that for the good of the country we’re trying to make Iraq and Afghanistan a better place, and this has to be approached in a nonpartisan way. It seems that the motivation is to do the opposite. If the American people would call for that kind of answer, that the threat is serious, it would have an effect.
Q. 8 How about the funding issue breaking the military for years to come?
GM The General thinks it’s hyperbole: all the services have been working very hard and equipment needs to be replaced; the realization has to be that there needs to be a stream of funding and, whle the budgets are pretty good, there needs to be a stream of funding to continue.
On the people side, all indicators are good – Army’s making all retention and recruiting except for reserves, which are at over 90%. We now also have a much stronger guard and reserve, much better than they were with a lot of experienced officers and NCOs.
My thanks to Claude Chafin for inviting me to participate in the call.