How many troops does the U.S. really need — and why?
Events in the Sudan indicate a pressing need for more U.S. troops and nation-builders.
Slate features an article from Fred Kaplan
on the idea of a draft for America's armed forces, alongside an article of mine
discussing the current problems with the Pentagon's manpower models.
I know this has become cliche, but I really think that American national security policy is at a crossroads. We've been here for a while, but the events of Sept. 11 and the past three years have painted the issues in stark relief. Our nation no longer faces a threat composed exclusively of powerful states and their proxies, armed with conventional and nuclear weapons, seeking to maximize their interests in roughly predictable ways. Today, we face a myriad of threats — from powerful states like China to failing states like North Korea to failed states like Somalia to non-state actors like Al Qaeda. Instead of dealing simply with nukes, we now face enemies with the full range of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) capability. And to make matters worse, we live in a far more complex world today than we did 30 years ago. Global interdependence has made our security and way of life much more dependent on non-military factors around the world, such as the yen-dollar exchange rate and the spread of HIV in Africa. We ignore these threats at our peril.
A "soup to nuts
" evaluation of American national security policy is long overdue. This assessment ought to look at where we stand in the world today, and where we want to go. It should assess our enemies, and imagine the potential deployments for our military in the next 30 years. It should then construct a military force for the missions of tomorrow — not yesterday. Such a force may require more manpower, more technology, or more money — or it could require less military muscle and more resources from the State Department and other agencies. Without this kind of assessment, we can't know, and we're as blind as a bat flying around in a very dangerous world.
This isn't academic
. The AP reports
this morning that things have deterioriated substantially in the Sudan, where NASA satellite photographs show widespread destruction of nearly 400 villages. This is a very real incident, with real civilian casualties, and real implications for the global security environment.
What will it take to stop the fighting and genocide in Sudan?
Andrew Natsios, administrator of the Agency for International Development, warned that time is running out to help 2 million Sudanese in desperate need of aid in Darfur. He said his agency's estimate that 350,000 could die of disease and malnutrition over the next nine months "is conservative."
Fighting between Arab militias and African residents has killed thousands of people and forced more than 1 million to flee their homes. International rights groups say the government has backed the Arab fighters in an ethnic cleansing campaign against the African villagers.
* * *
The latest weekly assessment of conditions in the 36 camps for displaced people in Darfur showed that in every one, security was poor and those taking refuge faced attacks or threats of attacks, Natsios said. He did not say who ran the camps.
"They've got to stop stonewalling the relief effort," Natsios said of the government. "What they need to do is enforce the agreement they signed" in neighboring Chad on April 8 to allow humanitarian agencies into the area.
* * *
Natsios said the United States had NASA take photographs of the destruction of villages in Darfur.
"We've now analyzed 576 villages, 300 of which are completely destroyed, 76 of which are substantially destroyed," he said. "When we checked them on the ground, we confirmed what we found. We are going to watch them, using aerial photography for the duration to track what's happening."
* * *
U.S. officials have been highlighting the plight of the displaced Sudanese, mindful that the world's inattention to Rwanda a decade ago may have contributed to the genocide that occurred there.
Natsios said the U.S. government has spent $116 million on the relief effort in Sudan — more than all other donors combined — "and we pledged $188 million between now and the end of next year."
The United States is moving "with a maximum sense of urgency to try to save lives," said Ranneberger, who accompanied Natsios. "We don't have time to sit around also and decide, is this ethnic cleansing or is this genocide, or what is it."
Ideally, the Sudanese government would step up to the plate to establish order itself. But it does not look like that's going to happen. And thanks to U.S. satellite reconnaissance, we can see the consequences quite clearly — people are dying. While reading this AP report, I couldn't help but think that USAID was not sufficiently resourced or equipped to do this job. Negotiations and UN resolutions are not going to help the Sudanese people — it's going to take U.S. (or NATO/UN) troops on the ground to make a difference.
Imagine if USAID had an expeditionary nation-building capability of its own — a force of diplomats, aid workers, doctors, engineers, lawyers (but not too many), and a few units of soldiers for security. Or, imagine if USAID could at least call on an ad hoc task force of U.S. Army civil affairs units and build an ad hoc force of contractors for the mission. Then, we might actually be able to stop what's happening in the Sudan, because we could go in to ensure this humanitarian aid got where it needed to go, and this pithy militia was stopped in its tracks. But that's not going to happen. Why? Because first, no such "expeditionary nation building capability exists yet. Second, the American military's nation-building capabilities are so committed to Iraq and Afghanistan that there's nothing more to give.
Why should we care about Sudan though?
I could make the liberal internationalist argument that America should care about genocide wherever it happens because it's our obligation to care as a world leader. Also, a liberal internationalist might point to the ways Sudan could affect the increasingly interdependent world, and how those effects might eventually wash up on our shores. I could make a soft humanitarian argument about the need for moral leadership, and how we should do here what we failed to do in Rwanda. (See Samantha Power's brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Problem from Hell
" for more on these arguments.) But instead, I'll point out one not-so-insignificant fact:
Q: What nation hosted Osama Bin Laden and allowed Al Qaeda to thrive during the 1990s when Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan didn't want him?
We let states fail, and failed states crumble, at our own peril.
: The New York Times reports
Friday that Secretary of State Colin Powell will go to Sudan next week.
The Bush administration is currently studying whether the onslaught should be branded a "genocide," which under existing conventions would require aggressive action by the United States and other nations, and American diplomats are seeking further action from the United Nations.This is a good sign
Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, will be in Sudan at the time of Mr. Powell's two-day visit, which will include a tour of the ravaged Darfur region and meetings in the capital.
"The secretary's visit to Sudan is intended to continue to call attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, to do whatever we can to stop the violence there and to make sure that the needy people of that region are receiving whatever supplies we can get to them," said Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman.
— there was no such high-ranking trip to Rwanda during that nation's descent into hell, although diplomats did shuttle in-and-out of the Balkans during the 1990s. But, it's still too early to tell whether this visit signals any sort of tangible, meaningful U.S. commitment to this crisis. We'll have to exercise a little bit of tactical patience here to see how this situation develops.