The Factor O'Reilly Overlooks
This morning on the Today Show, Bill O'Reilly launched an assualt on President Bush and the war effort in Iraq. After announcing his intention not to listen to the President's speech on the war, he went into a diatribe regarding troop training. (Loose transcript from memory) "We put our guys through basic training for six weeks, give them a little more specialized training, and they're ready to be sent to Iraq. How come we have to train Iraqis for two years and spend billions of dollars?"
That sounds impressive, as long as you accept his spin. But the reality is that the American military has two assets that cannot be replicated in six weeks--or even two years. We have a competent, professional, well-educated, dedicated officer corps. These men are leaders par excellence. Anyone in Iraq under Saddam who showed the kind of initiative and creativity that our officers do every day would have been drug off and shot as a threat to the regime. Further, we've got the sergeants. Our NCOs are the backbone of the force--the ones who pass on knowledge and wisdom to the new recruits, keeping them alive until they learn enough to do the job on their own. (Can you tell my dad was an Army sergeant?)
That is what we need to duplicate for the Iraqi Army to succeed. And that is what we're doing. We're teaching and developing a generation of leaders (and trying to cram that process into a very short time frame by historical standards) who will be able to develop and train their own troops in the future. The only hope for Iraq (and for victory in the war on terror) is for us to succeed in this effort. For bloviators like O'Reilly to carp and cavil at the time and cost involved puts all of us at risk.