Beware of 'victory disease'Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012, at 8:53 AM
With the United States no longer involved in Iraq, and with a clear timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan (by 2014), we're looking at the end of the road of a series of military commitments that have cost nearly 7,000 American lives, left more than 30,000 wounded and cost $1 trillion dollars directly (and another $4 trillion in future VA costs).
That end won't come too soon, especially for the military families that have borne so much of the burden.
Arguably, we'll have "won" both wars.
Having said that, we have to be careful not to fall prey to what can best be described as "victory disease."
It has two components -- military and civilian.
On the military side, it's a belief that we can't be beaten, that we'll always win. But many of our enemies know they can't stand up to us in a fair fight, so they adopt asymmetric warfare, which is difficult for a "regular" army to deal with. It'll be a special forces world for the next decade, especially as we slowly become more and more involved in northeastern Africa -- and we still have terrorist groups to deal with.
The civilian side is perhaps the most dangerous form of victory disease. We're already seeing some of it. Politicians are looking at the "peace dividend" of no more major wars and staking out claims to the "savings" in military spending -- which they intend to divert to their own domestic pork programs.
We're going to see a smaller military. Granted, it will be more capable, as we transition to higher and higher technologies, but high-tech weaponry costs more, offsetting much of the savings in manpower reductions. Furthermore, those manpower reductions will make it more and more difficult to respond to multiple threats at once. Eventually, you run out of warm bodies to put on the battlefield. Future conflicts will rely more and more on Guard and Reserve units, which is why the head of the National Guard Bureau just got a post on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Victory disease is dangerous. It fails to understand that we need a strong, decent-sized military, with adequate funding for extensive training. Otherwise, we'll wind up with a hollow force like we had in the '70s.