The admission by the nation's top general that the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hurting U.S. military readiness indicates that common sense continues to have its place. The blunt honesty of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, is a bracing change from repeated claims by Pentagon civilians and President Bush that everything is fine.
Myers reported to Congress this week that the armed forces would have more trouble this year than last in quickly winning a new major combat operation and would suffer higher casualties. That's a realistic reflection of the cost of tying up 140,000 troops, more than 10% of U.S. active-duty forces, in Iraq even as recruiting lags substantially. It also contrasts with Bush's statement at his press conference last week that when he asks Myers about strains on readiness the general says he "doesn't feel we're limited" and the military has "plenty of capacity."
The troops are having problems. The proposed Pentagon budget for the next fiscal year is $420 billion. Add in supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan and it's about half a trillion dollars. Such enormous amounts of money have not bought security for the road from the Baghdad airport to downtown or information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or his acolyte in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi.