April 02, 2008

Nagl Makes His Case in the New York Times

All we're saying is that if the U.S. Air Force and its military-industrial complex proxies can wine and dine crooked congressmen with booze and hookers and goodness knows what else (sheep? teenage page boys?), active-duty officer John Nagl should be allowed to write an op-ed in the New York Times asking for an adviser corps.

Doctrine — a standard enumeration of the purpose of a military organization and how it will accomplish its goals — is still nonexistent for the adviser mission. Organization is inconsistent, for example, with most Afghanistan teams consisting of 16 soldiers with no medic, while most Iraq teams contain 11 soldiers, including a medic. The fact is, both types of teams are too small for the tasks they have been assigned, and many consequently have been augmented on the ground by regular troops on an ad hoc basis.

This is simply because not enough advisers are being produced — just 5,000 per year. We are going to need ever more experienced, trained advisers as the size and complexity of the Iraqi and Afghan police forces and armies grow and as the combat burden increasingly shifts to them.

Part of the problem is institutional. The United States military’s ability in battle is unmatched, but we have a spotty history in terms of helping allies fight for themselves. Advisers who live and fight with a struggling “poor cousin” local army often do their dangerous and sometimes frustrating work out of sight of the brass, and it can be a career-killer for ambitious young officers. ...

In the long term, we need to institutionalize our ability to field advisers and provide effective military assistance to allies. As it stands now, the troops we train at Fort Riley do their tour and are then moved back into conventional roles, while the embedded training teams are demobilized. This is as senseless as if in World War II we had decided that the First Infantry Division, which had gone ashore in North Africa and Sicily, was to be disbanded and replaced on D-Day with a division that had no experience landing on hostile ground. What we need, even after the Iraq and Afghanistan missions have ended, is a standing advisory corps of about 20,000 troops that can deploy wherever in the world we need to get our allies up to speed.

The only problem with Nagl's idea is he has yet to figure out how an adviser corps can be built in 48 different states and 200 congressional districts, providing jobs for 10,000 Americans and thus eternally immune to budget cuts.

Update: And while we're on the subject of the military-industrial complex, did everyone see this article?

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages. ... In another case, the initial contract target price of Boeing's program to modernize avionics in the C-130 cargo plane is expected to skyrocket 323 percent, to $2 billion. Another Boeing program, for a radio system, is up 310 percent, to $966 million.

This may not be a reason to vote for Obama over McCain, but it's certainly a reason to vote for Obama over Clinton. It's tough to look at all those generals and admirals up there with her -- and John freaking Murtha -- on the podium and think she's going to be the one to harness this beast. Obama, on the other hand...