- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2013

Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, warned Monday against U.S. military involvement in Syria and Egypt before better understanding the crises in the Middle East nations.

“The one thing I don’t want to do is make the mistake we made back in 2003, not understanding what we were getting involved with,” Gen. Odierno said at the American Enterprise Institute.

“One of the things I’m absolutely focused on is making sure our leaders, as we prepare ourselves, understand the social, economic and other factors involved within the Middle East, because they’re complex, they are quite difficult, they are quite difficult to understand.”


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Gen. Odierno led the 4th Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2003 to March 2004, and served in various commanding roles through August 2011, including commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. He is nearing the end of his second year as Army chief of staff.

“For me … one of the most important things we need to do is to make sure we understand what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on and the impact on Israel, the impact on Lebanon, and the impact on Iraq, the impact that Egypt could have on the rest of the Middle East,” he said.

He also warned that massive defense cuts of $500 billion over the next decade, known as sequestration, could result in higher casualties during an emergency or intervention in the next few years.


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“As I look ahead … what keeps me up at night is if I’m asked to deploy 20,000 soldiers somewhere. I’m not sure I can guarantee that they’re trained to the level that I think they should be over the next few years because of the way sequestration is being enacted,” he said. “That means operations would take longer, but most importantly, it probably equals more casualties.”

He pointed to the Korean War as an example.

“We struggled when we first got into the fight in Korea. Why? Because we had reduced too much after World War II. We didn’t have enough capabilities. We didn’t invest in our capabilities. And what did it cost us? It cost us thousands of lives when we first went into Korea,” Gen. Odierno said. “There’s a lesson there that we should not forget as we look ahead to some of these budget cuts that we face.”