Monday, May 16, 2005

Paul Krugman: Military Analyst

Paul Krugman should stick to what he does best, bad economics analysis. When he branches into military subjects, the economist whose military experience is limited to watching "Platoon" on HBO once, only embarasses himself. In his latest column titled "Staying what course?" Krugman is insisting that the Bush administration has not only failed to make us safer, but destroyed the capabilities of the military.

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

Let's have a quick recap of the last 4 years. Hmm, less than 2 months after 9/11, with less than 500 US troops on the ground we overthrew the Taliban. Then in March 2003, despite being numerically outnumbered, we marched 500 miles through the desert and occupied Baghdad in 3 weeks. All while suffering less casualties then a hot weekend in Paris. Yet somehow, because some terrorists still know how to make bombs we have "demonstrated the limits of American power". Do you think Saddam Hussein is sitting in prison right now laughing over the weakness of the US military?

At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.

Yeah, and anytime they chose to accept battle they lost! If "melting away" were considered a sign of military prowess we would be saluting the great victories of the French Army right now.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat.

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

While I agree that recruiting may be a long term problem if we stay in Iraq longer than expected, especially for the reserves, we are hardly powerless to respond to threats. Between the active Army and Marine Corps and their respective reserves, and the Army National Guard, we have over one million soldiers under arms. Only 140,000 are in Iraq. Not to mention the most powerful Air Force and Navy in the world, which have barely had to make an effort thus far.

While the war may be hurting recruiting, it is actually making the veteran servicemen better. It may sound cruel, but surviving war and combat teaches you your job. Most of the soldiers in the military are now veterans of at least one deployment. They know how to do their jobs under stressful conditions, and they know how to train soldiers to do their jobs and kill the enemy. We are not going to win the war with a bunch of untrained draftees, but with some hardcore veteran professional soldiers.

So we need to get beyond the clich├ęs - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

Well no kidding. The whole point of it is that we are enabling the Iraqi government to take care of itself. We have no intention of staying forever. Has Krugman not noticed all those Iraqi policemen and soldiers on CNN? He criticizes the administration, and then proposes what the administration is already doing. He says we need to get beyond the cliches, well here is one cliche, can you say strawman argument?

UPDATE: My first link on Don Luskin's excellent site, although I gave him several tips in my pre-blog days. Welcome all Poor and Stupid readers, you are anything but. Also Mr. Luskin points out a great ironic comment by Krugman on scrivner.net

11 comments:

ajmurray said...

Came here through Donald Luskin's site. Excellent putdown of Krugman. I often wonder if the guy is just stupid or if he is intentionally lying.

Read some of your other posts, too. Well done. Will bookmark your site. You ought to send something to Powerline.

Keep it up and thank you for your service.

Adrian Murray

Anonymous said...

As a veteran of the war in Southeast Asia, I agree with you in all respects. Krugman apparently learned his history of SEA by watching "Platoon." Even the NYT acknowledges that we had defeated North Vietnam, only to have some left-wing politicians (aided and abetted by some unprincipled ones) throw the victory away at the final moment.

WT said...

Also made it to you via the Conspiracy. Posted about you here. Come on over and stay a while! Excellent piece--keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I tell you what - if you and your posters are so gung ho on this Iraq debacle, go ahead and sign up to go on over there. It'sd that simple - if the Fighting 101st Keyboarders got off their asses and enlisted we wouldnt be so short of cannon fodder.

Or maybe you're like Bush, Cheney, Delay etc....

James B. said...

I have spent 2 out of the last 3 years deployed for the Army, so I really don't need a lecture from Mr. Brave Anonymous guy, thank you.

Dan said...

You all are missing the point. The war in Iraq has hurt our ability to deal with far greater threats to the USA: Iran and North Korea. Once Iran and North Korea get the bomb we will be kissing their asses just like we do with Pakistan.

Sorry, George W. Bush wimped out and chose the softer target.

James B. said...

How? It is not like we are going to deal with Iran and North Korea through the massive use of ground forces. Is Krugman proposing taking Tehran?

Anonymous said...

Me again...

Thanks for your service, I wasn't aware of that. Seriously, thanks. But there's lots and lots of supporters of the war who do nothing more that put magnets on their Tahoes. Hell, the Bush twins have been unemplyed and out of school for a whole year - I'm sure they've dried up enough for the Army to make women out of them.

James B. said...

Dude, I got a picture of me in DCUs at the top of the page! I thought I was being too hooah, I guess I am being too subtle for liberals. As for the twins, Jenna is working as a school teacher, I am not sure what Barbara is doing, but she is a Yale graduate, so I am sure she found something. But thanks for the ignorant gratuitious insults anyway.

Anonymous said...

1. Sorry I was too busy reading your blog to gawk at your pic. My bad. I've seen too many "dress-up" warriors (like your buddy W) to assume everyone in fatigues actually served.

2. As of a few days ago both Bush twins were unemployed, unless you call partying a job.

3. I wasn't insulting anyone, just asking people to stand up for waht they talk about - if serving in this Iraq mess is such a great idea, why don't you encourage all your readers to enlist? Why aren't the blowhards at Powerline and the Corner joining up? Again, armchair warriors a la Bush, Cheney, Delay etc. Also known as Chickenhawks.

Michael Stahl said...

Thank you very much for your service, and perhaps more importantly for your thinking. It is not the pen, but the mind that is more powerful than the sword. That being said, the sword must be wielded as circumstances require.