Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Our broken military

The Democrats and the popular press seem to be all over the idea that the US military is on its last legs and that morale is in the toilet.

Geoff Davis, a former Army officer and a congressman from Kentucky, sees plenty of progress. “I’ve talked with hundreds of soldiers and Marines, ranging from junior-enlisted soldiers to my West Point classmates who I’ve known for nearly 30 years and served with in the Middle East myself as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and they believe in the mission. They see the success. And they ask me, why is politics consuming this mission that we are clearly winning?”

That’s strange, how could America be “clearly winning” when the media tells us every day that we’re losing?

The good news includes Army re-enlistments. As of August, all of the Army’s 10 divisions had exceeded re-enlistment goals for the year to date. Those with the most experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its goal; the 3rd Infantry Division, at 117 percent.

“This is unprecedented in wartime,” said retired Army officer Ralph Peters. “Even in World War II, we needed the draft. Where are the headlines? ...The ugly truth is that much of the media only cares about our soldiers when they’re dead or crippled. That’s a story.”

And then, of course, there's the country we've occupied, subjugated, and left in ruins:

The Iraqi economy is humming along and, yes, even booming. Iraqis are better off financially they have been for two decades. Per capita income has doubled since the U.S. ended Saddam Hussein’s regime, note the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. There are more than 3.5 million cellular phone subscribers in Iraq, up from zero in Saddam’s day. Electricity output exceeds pre-war levels, and the September oil revenues were the highest in Iraqi history.

Largely spurred by the increase in oil prices, the Iraqi economy is anticipated to grow at an eye-popping 16.8 percent in 2006. The Brookings Institution’s Iraq index says there are five times more cars on the streets than in Saddam’s time, five times more telephone subscribers and a 32-fold jump in Internet users.

As of September, there were 40 buildings nine stories or higher under construction in the Kurdish city of Sulaymani; as of five years ago, there were none.

In one of the most important areas, security, there has been steady if uneven progress. For example, terrorists were only able to launch 19 attacks on polling places during the October referendum, a significant drop from the 108 attacks during the January election.

Another indicator is the vastly improved safety of the four-lane, six-mile stretch of highway from central Baghdad to the airport that U.S. soldiers call “Route Irish.” Once one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the highway has been transformed into one of the most secure routes in all of Iraq. While 13 people were killed and 24 injured in ambushes on the airport road during April, only one person was injured in October, said U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

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