Digging a deeper hole

From today’s New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 — Military planners and White House budget analysts have been asked to provide President Bush with options for increasing American forces in Iraq by 20,000 or more. The request indicates that the option of a major “surge” in troop strength is gaining ground as part of a White House strategy review, senior administration officials said Friday.

Discussion of increasing the number of American troops, at least temporarily, has coursed through Washington for two months, as a possible way to reverse the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad. But the decision to ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to specify where the additional forces could be found among overstretched Army, Marine and National Guard units, and to seek a cost estimate from the White House Office of Management and Budget, signifies a turn in the debate.

Officials said that the options being considered included the deployment of upwards of 50,000 additional troops, but that the political, training and recruiting obstacles to an increase larger than 20,000 to 30,000 troops would be prohibitive.

At present, only about 17,000 American soldiers are actively involved in the effort to secure Baghdad, so even the low end of the proposals being considered by military and budget officials could more than double the size of that force. If adopted, such an increase would be a major departure from the current strategy advocated by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., which has stressed stepping up the training of Iraqi forces and handing off to them as soon as possible…

What’s interesting about this (apart from the echoes of Vietnam) is that it’s not so long ago that we were told that US military planning and budgeting was predicated on ensuring that the US would always be able to fight two major wars simultaneously. I was always incredulous about that — but, hell, what do I know about war-fighting. Now it seems that the mighty US war-machine is stretched beyond endurance by a raggle-taggle crowd of turbanned and balaclava’d insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.