With his Iraq strategy (or rather, non-strategy) in tatters, Bush has lately been talking up the idea of a Surge or a temporary increase in US troop strength. It's not quite clear whether the President saw this as a last minute "hail Mary" attempt to postpone disaster or as a purely political ploy to discomfit the Democrats.
This idea, anchored in no particular strategic conception, has now suffered a lot of damage. Colin Powell, doing some overdue penance for his part in enabling this war has dealt it a blow that ought to be fatal.
The summer's surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? . . . Is it something that is really accomplishable? . . . Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?"
The other problem is that there aren't really any more troops.
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else. . . . There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."
He added: "That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained."
The "active Army is about broken," Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to "grow in size, in my military judgment," he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
The fact that our Army is so small now is a direct consequence of Bush and Rumsfeld policies. Rumsfeld made himself the proverbial donkey who starved to death between two haystacks. Committed to transforming the military into a smaller, lighter force, and faced with a strategic problem that required the opposite, he failed at both.