Problems on the Horizon

Briefly, Douglas Farah of the Counterterrorism Blog writes about a few topics frequented here on MountainRunner. While I disagree with his shifting blame from resting squarely on the Administration’s shoulders, I agree with most everything else.

From his personal blog (an expanded post from what’s on CT blog):

…the military is being asked to do everyone else’s job in government, particularly the job of the State Department.

The public diplomacy wing of the State Department seems to have virtually disappeared (except for the little shop run by Shaha Riza, Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend, and a shop that has a $45 million annual budget but has made no grants in 18 months of existence).

Partly because of the security conditions and partly because the army is already on the ground, many of the leaders feel they are being ordered to do things they are not trained for, have no resources for, and that take them away from crucial missions.

The second is that, as a result of the massive strain on human and physical resources of the Iraq conflict, the military and the rest of the Intelligence Community are falling further and further behind in monitoring vital events in the rest of the world.

This is not entirely the fault of this administration, of course. The hollowing out of the military and the drastic reduction of human intelligence capabilities began under Bush I, was continued under Clinton and not adequately addressed by the current administration. So there are plenty of people responsible.

One area of acute concern in the intelligence community is Venezuela and its growing orbit in Latin America, thanks largely to the close ties of Hugo Chavez to Iran.

Another area where intelligence, both military and civilian, has huge gaps, is most of sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the plans to stand up the Africa Command, it will take years before the new command is operational. There is still no consensus on where the headquarters should be located IF the command is based outside of Germany, where it currently is housed as part of the European Command.

This means that, even as lip service is paid to the rapid emergence of non-state armed actors, the unnerving rise in the number of failed and failing states and the clearly-demonstrated threat to national security these factors represent, there are few resources to actually DO anything about the challenges. This includes studying and training for different types of emerging threats.

The third thing is that those officers with hard-earned experience and knowledge, the captains and the majors, are leaving in droves because of the heavy rotations away from home in combat zones.

This is leaving a huge hole between the fresh, young officers with little or no experience and the colonels who see little field action. This loss of experience on the ground is compounded by a similar phenomenon in the upper ranks of enlisted men.

The final point was the feeling that public support for the military is eroding because the political establishment has done little to prepare the public for extended military commitments. There is broad recognition that, under ideal circumstances, the stabilization of Iraq would have taken a decade. Now, if it is possible at all, it will take far longer. Yet no one wanted to say that publicly or lay out the case for such an engagement.

All this adds up to the possibility of even more acute shortages in the near future, both in terms of personnel and capacity. The men and women of the armed forces are professionals, doing the heavy lifting in an ill-defined war against Islamist militants. They deserve better.