- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

For the first time since the U.S. military adopted a post-Soviet strategy of being ready to fight two wars simultaneously, there are real prospects that American troops may be asked to carry out that mission.
But some military analysts say the armed forces today are too small to fight two major wars at once.
The situation is this: The Bush administration says Iraq is lying about its weapons of mass destruction, as the United States moves forces to the Persian Gulf for an invasion to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In the Pacific, North Korea is exploiting the crisis with Saddam to test President Bush's resolve. Pyongyang has resumed its nuclear-weapons program, which Washington believes poses a threat to world security.
With tensions rising, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asserted on Monday that U.S. forces can simultaneously fight North Korea and Iraq. A Pentagon policy statement, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, states that the military today is funded and structured to fight and occupy one enemy nation, while defeating another foe.
"We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Let there be no doubt about it."
But there are doubters, inside and outside the military.
"In all due respect to Rumsfeld, that was a very patriotic thing to say," said retired Army Col. Ken Allard, a military analyst. "But we do not have the means, the manpower or the strategy to actually do that. We simply lack sufficient ground forces, sufficient airlift, sufficient sea lift to do those things."
Retired Rear Adm. Jeremy Taylor, a former attack pilot and carrier commander, said he believes the Bush administration, in reality, knows it cannot fight two major conventional wars simultaneously. That is why, he said, the White House recently issued a strategy statement threatening to use nuclear weapons to prevent attacks from enemies that use weapons of mass destruction.
"We have a [two-war] strategy that is totally out of whack with the size of the force we have," Adm. Taylor said. "For the secretary to say we can handle two regional conflicts is ludicrous to the point where the rascals of the world, our adversaries, don't believe us. We have lost our ability to deter war."
Today's 1.4-million-member active-duty force is about half the size of the U.S. military during the 1980s, when the country was still engaged in the Cold War. Yet the United States has taken on additional assignments while maintaining old alliances through the deployment of 200,000 troops in Germany and Asia.
The U.S. military plays a major role in peacekeeping in the Balkans, is actively preparing for war in the Persian Gulf, has 8,000 troops fighting a low-grade war against al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and has positioned units to attack terrorists in the Gulf and Africa.
The United States had just begun shrinking the Cold War force of 2.1 million in 1990 when Saddam's army invaded Kuwait and the Pentagon responded with Operation Desert Storm. Commanders asked for and received 550,000 troops to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Today, the active force is a little more than half that size. A U.S. Army that once constituted nearly 800,000 soldiers now stands at 480,000.
"When all of a sudden push comes to shove, part of the reason we have been able to do what we've been able to do is overwhelming ground power. That was the reason Desert Storm went so spectacularly well," Col. Allard said. "Today, you simply lack the forces to go around."
The United States is in the midst of a major military buildup in the Persian Gulf for what could well be an invasion this winter to oust Saddam from power.
If North Korea attacks South Korea while the United States has troops invading Iraq, the Pentagon would be faced with a whirlwind of decisions. Some domestic units are designated for war in both the Pacific and Gulf theaters. Gen. Tommy Franks, who would direct an invasion of Iraq, might have to relinquish some of his requested 250,000 troops to block the North Korean advance.
This could prolong the war against Iraq and increase U.S. casualties something uniformed military officials warned about last year when Mr. Rumsfeld's aides toyed with the idea of cutting the active force even deeper.
The argument of Mr. Rumsfeld's aides, in part, was that advancements in "smart" munitions during the past decade have reduced the requirement for land units.
Pyongyang has picked this time to announce the resumption of its nuclear program as the United States is involved in a crisis in the Gulf to test Mr. Bush.
One scenario is that Mr. Bush is forced to order air strikes on North Korea's nuclear facilities to prevent the quick assembly and use of nuclear weapons. North Korea, whose communist regime has brought famine to the country, may respond by invading South Korea.
The White House says no military action is imminent against Pyong-yang. The administration is talking with Japan, China, Russia and South Korea about a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
North Korea has more than 1 million troops stationed near or on the border with South Korea. The warning time for an attack is measured in hours, not days.
The United States has a "trip wire" force of 37,000 troops in South Korea and another 60,000 sailors, Marines and airmen in the region. They, and the well-trained South Korean army, would need reinforcements almost immediately to protect Seoul from a massive artillery barrage and occupation.
"In fact, the force in place is little more than an emergency 'stopper' that is supposed to hold until reinforcements arrive," said a Navy officer. "But the forces in Japan, Okinawa and the United States are already too shallow and will be further reduced for Iraq. I see no way they could take the offensive and win even if they could hold."

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