President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. combat forces will leave Iraq by the end of the year, thus marking a milestone and turning the page on military conflict that has lasted nearly a decade, cost a billion dollars a month and over 4,400 deaths of American soldiers killed in fighting militant Islamic insurgents. This deadline comes with the approval of the Iraqi Provisional government headed by the interim Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. For the returning veterans it will be receiving a heroes welcome initially, military debriefing and then integration back into a society that in economically anemic with no booster shot in sight to stimulate a struggling and stagnant economic machine.
The forty thousand or so former combatants will have a host of problems, and perhaps the most prevalent will be post-traumatic stress deficiency syndrome (PTSD), nightmares, and what do you do with your life now when for the last few years all you have been used to is killing people and blowing up things? This is not to say that our troops have not been exceptional in doing constructive things in Iraq such as help rebuild the infrastructure [roads, bridges, schools, hospitals] and restoring electrical, sewer/water and sanitation services, but with an unemployment around ten percent nationally, what skills can these soldiers offer in a very competitive marketplace that canít even provide adequate employment opportunities to the most recent college graduates with technical and advanced degrees?
Another thing that hasnít been discussed is the future role of the U.S. military and its mission to protect America domestically and abroad. Warfare as it has been waged in the past is gone forever and a new kind of fighting has been shaping up. The enemy wears no particular uniform and doesnít meet you out in the open on a vast battlefield; it isnít a jungle trail in Southeast Asia with overgrowth covering a ditch booby-trapped with sharpened bamboo poles at the bottom, or other deadly projectiles, or landmines; nor do troops storm a sandy beachhead from amphibious boats to breach razor wire and destroy large guns firing exploding 100mm howitzer shells from a concrete bunker. It is urban guerilla warfare using innocent civilians as human shields with explosives strapped to their bodies. It is using technology in the way of disposable cell phones to detonate IEDís [improved explosive devices], cyber warfare and computer viruses to make vital systems malfunction and inoperative, and it is creating a meltdown in financial markets throughout the world. It is WMDís (weapons of mass destruction) in the form of chemical, radiological, or bacterial that can produce casualties on a massive scale; almost like a global pandemic.
So, the conventional deployment of thousands of troops and having to bivouac and support them with all the logistics and equipment will give way to the more elite, quick strike force teams like Navy Seals, Green Berets, Army Rangers, and Special Forces. There will be more of an emphasis on intelligence gathering in collaboration with the CIA, Navy Intelligence, Homeland Security and increased use of GIS/GPS systems as well as unmanned predator drone surveillance [and attacks, if necessary]. It must also be remembered that before the War on Terror officially started in 2001, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was going around the country and closing some military bases. This practice will resume because America cannot any longer continue to afford paying for the operation of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine military installations in the United States and around the world because it is now just too cost prohibitive. There will of course be consolidation of some bases to reduce redundancy of operations and personnel but the remaining ones will be closed permanently. It is painful and unpopular but hard choices have to be made so while all Americans celebrate the return of our men and women in uniform from Iraq, some of these same ones will be competing with the rest of us for the few and scarce jobs that are available.
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October 22, 2011