Don’t pull ’em out until the job’s done

Senior military officers push for withdrawal from Balkans

As much as it pains me to say it, I think we need to stay in the Balkans.

Phil Carter at Intel Dump comments on the latest attempt to pull some or all US forces out of Bosnia and Kosovo to relieve troop shortages due to the occupation of Iraq. Of particular value would be any civil affairs or military police types that could help out greatly in Iraq. There are only about 3500 US troops in the former Yugoslavia, however, and although every little bit helps, I don’t see them making a major impact on our Iraq operations. Carter says

Whatever gains that may be gotten from this proposal will be vastly outweighed by the political consequences of an American withdrawal from the Balkans. Europe — and the world — sees our intervention there as a success story; a case of American might being used for right. If we think we have diplomatic issues now with Europe, just wait ’til we pull a stunt like this. It would be short-sighted in the extreme.

I agree. If we had large numbers of troops in there and shifting them to Iraq would significantly improve the occupation, I might have a different opinion. But the fact is that they’d be nothing more than a drop in the bucket in Iraq, not the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I think the military needs to address this issue in one of two ways. Or, preferably, both. 1) The civil affairs and basic security forces need to be enlarged and better equipped. We are going to be doing this work for a long time. What we’re doing in Iraq (and Afghanistan and Kosovo) right now is going to be the norm, not the exception. We need to prepare for it. 2) It seems to me that some additional combat/security training for non-combat troops would go a long way. We’d have a lot more flexibility in situations like the current operation in Iraq if we could pull from the large numbers of support types when needed and be able to count on them to get the job done well. Just keeping the weapons cleaned and better knowledge in their operation would make a big difference, at this point. Also, basic security for camps and convoys would probably be improved as the mechanics, clerks, and supply units would be able to protect themselves more effectively.

The best defense is a good offense. We need the front-line fighters out hunting down bad guys.