Michael O'Hanlon is at it again. I'm beginning to wonder why he's even considered a serious pundit anymore.
In this genius piece, disguised as a story on the Congo, he asks: "If the Afghanistan mission was undermanned last year with only 60,000 NATO-led troops in a country of 30 million, how can a U.N. mission of 20,000 address the challenges of Congo and its 60 million people?" Well it can't, even if it the largest U.N. mission in history. So what does Mr. O'Hanlon recommend? "[B]y tapping into President Obama's call for a new spirit of volunteerism and national service, there may be a way to make a difference sometime in 2010. The idea involves a new type of military unit that the Pentagon should propose during its ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review." Oh boy.
You can read the plan for how this new unit would be recruited and trained, but suffice it to say that he recommends one division of poorly trained soldiers to conduct peace operations - one brigade of which could be deployed and sustained at any given time. His rationale for the lesser training is that these types of operations are significantly easier than those we're conducting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Easier??? Maybe he should have asked the U.N. peacekeepers there now how sophisticated their adversaries are before we start creating brigades of similar quality to the Pakistanis. Because they've been so effective there.
I find it odd that he claims that these missions require U.S. leadership and then proposes creating and sending second-rate units to solve these problems. We have some of the best people in the world doing these missions now in Iraq and Afghanistan and the odds of success are still questionable. What are these peace brigades going to do to overcome that? Other than be a token sign that we in the West do care. And then there is the question of logistics and support for this brigade - feeding, billeting, air support, fires. These all have to come from somewhere and these assets are already overextended in our current fights. Who are they going to call when they do come under concerted attack?
This proposal is a recipe to get a lot of good people killed in a mission that would have little to no effect and couldn't be sustained. It also threatens serious mission creep if one of these types of units were ever deployed because there is no way they could do what everyone else has failed to do without offering some sort of new capability (which O'Hanlon is not). We should definitely defer to Einstein and how he defines stupidity.
He ends with this:
Problems like Congo, Darfur and Somalia tend to get solved only with U.S. leadership. And the United States cannot truly lead on this issue while resisting any role for its own ground forces. It is time to recognize the contradiction of pretending otherwise and get on with a solution.
Well, we all know what ground forces in Somalia did for us. Someone needs to inform Mr. O'Hanlon that American exceptionalism will not solve all the world’s ills. Nor is it in our interest to do so.