RUMSEFELD'S SPARTAN LEGACY:
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE FAIL TO LEARN THE LESSON OF SPARTA?
Jan. 7, 2005
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to know Donald Rumsfeld has been bad news for the U.S. Army. Since January of 2003, military recruiters (service-wide) have been reporting fewer enlistments. Since July 2004, the pace of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased. The upshot is this: like the Spartans before us, our small Army is being asked to do a very big job. If we go by what's in our history books, this situation is only going to get worse. Are we really going to re-enact a 2300 year old mistake? Let's take a look at the most recent facts.
A recent TIME Magazine article (12/21/04) quotes the Secretary of Defense as saying "we might need a bigger Army."
His remark, made off-the-cuff, is a very real indictment of the policy he helped to create. Rumsfeld believes the American military should be small, highly trained, and well-equipped. Much the same doctrine put forward by the once legendary nation of Sparta, or the late Robert S. MacNamara who advised Presidents Johnson and Nixon during the Vietnam conflict. Like Secretary MacNamara and the Spartans before him, Rumsfeld thinks fewer skilled soldiers equipped with more technology can overcome any foe. Never mind that a few soldiers can only hold a little bit of ground. Hidden and deliberately unstated in this doctrine is the idea that fewer troops in the field means fewer casualties for the career politicians to be held accountable for.
Vietnam and Iraq do have one thing in common. Lots of front-line forces, with little backup in the rear areas. The recent bombing of a military mess hall in downtown Baghdad illustrates this point. Taking the fight to our enemies is fine and well, but, leaving key installations and non- combatants unprotected is just plain silly. Rumsfeld's adaptation of the MacNamara's Spartan-like philosophy plays well in D.C. because our career politicians are afraid of having to answer for the blood and treasure they may have unwisely spent on our behalf.
Its ironic that American voters are tougher than the people they send to Washington. We don't doubt that our leaders may send soldiers, sailors, and airmen off to war. Through the terms spelled out in the Constitution, we gave them the power to do it. All we ask is that the Cause be Just, and the battles worth winning. Rumsfeld, guided by the ghost of MacNamara, seems to be going out of his way to mollify our career politicians even though he clearly does know better.
We do need a bigger Army. We also need better policy. Just like the Spartans, we do live in troubled times. Like the Spartans, we are faced with enemies on many fronts. The threat of Muslim extremism is evolving rapidly in to a new form of trans-national terrorism that will see us fighting on more foreign shores than ever before. Its too late to say we shouldn't have picked this fight. Like the Spartans before us, we're committed to a struggle that will consume us if we don't learn the lessons, act on the wisdom, and win the battles. A bigger Army and a better foreign policy. In memory of Sparta, is that too much to ask?
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