Jewish World Review July 7, 2003 / 7 Tamuz, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Peacekeeping requires a new look for the Army | The Washington Post recently chronicled the trials and tribulations of Capt. Ian Cromarty, who is, in effect, the "mayor, utility manager, public security chief, agricultural problem-solver and general complaint-taker" for Bani Sad, a town of about 186,000 in Diyala province, just north of Baghdad.

Like most civil affairs soldiers, Cromarty, 43, is a reservist. In civilian life, he is a respiratory therapist in New Hampshire. Cromarty is one of only 35 soldiers -- just 16 of them civil affairs personnel -- assigned to civil administration duties in the entire province, which has a population of 1.4 million.

"What we're doing now is something we never expected to do," Cromarty told the Post. "We figured we'd provide some emergency assistance, and then we'd be out of here."

Many think reconstruction efforts would be going more smoothly if civilian experts replaced soldiers like Cromarty, who are inexperienced in civil administration. But our diplomats are better at attending cocktail parties than at restoring electric power or repairing irrigation ditches, and civilian aid agencies still think Diyala is too dangerous a place for them to be.

The Post took the obligatory swipe at the Bush administration for failing to plan properly for the occupation. It deserves some licks. But you can't plan to use resources that don't exist.

The fundamental problem is that military units ideally suited to winning battles are poorly configured for keeping the peace, which is more manpower-intensive, of much longer duration, and in many ways more complex than winning wars.

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The ideal type of unit for our current mission in Iraq would be a battle group consisting of two military police battalions, an infantry battalion, a medical battalion, a civil affairs battalion, an engineer battalion, a composite aviation battalion, military intelligence and psychological operations companies, and (perhaps) an armored cavalry troop. But no such unit exists.

It would behoove the Army to create some. Iraq demonstrated that we have more heavy mechanized units than we need to defeat just about anybody we'd ever have to fight, but not enough of virtually everything else. A reorganization is in order. But it can't be completed by the day after tomorrow.

More of these softer units need to be in the active force. Only one of the Army's civil affairs battalions is full time. But the burden in the future, as at present, must fall principally upon the reserve forces. The Army Reserve and the National Guard are better suited to recruit the cops, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, teachers, farmers, hospital administrators and lawyers whose skills are vital for nation building.

Most of the Army's civil affairs, psyops and military police units already are in the Army Reserve, and nearly all are overworked. So the Army National Guard will have to take up the slack.

Of eight National Guard divisions, seven are armor or mechanized infantry. Since the active Army already has more heavy divisions than it can use in a war, several of these should be converted to the kind of battle groups described above.

Conversion ultimately would save the Army money. It simply isn't possible properly to train mechanized units of battalion size or larger just one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. But Humvee-mounted MP companies can be kept sharp, at a much lower cost in fuel and ammunition.

Conversion also would make these units more valuable to state governors, to whom they belong when there is no war. Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles aren't of much use in natural disasters or civil disturbances. Military police would be.

Proper performance of our burgeoning peacekeeping duties in the War on Terror also will require transformation of the Foreign Service. The State Department should recruit less from Ivy League colleges, more from Special Forces. We could get by with fewer diplomats who know which fork to use at a state dinner. But we need more who have actual skills, and who can relate to ordinary people.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Jack Kelly