TROOPS….A few days ago Max Boot asked George Bush about a recently leaked report suggesting we needed several more combat brigades in Anbar province alone if we want to maintain security in Iraq:

He dismissed it as just a “data point.” He won’t send more troops to Iraq unless asked to do so by Gen. George W. Casey, the U.S. commander on the spot, and Casey has not made any such request. “I’m certainly not a military expert, nor am I in Baghdad,” he said, so he will leave those decisions to the “experts.”

Well, the experts are apparently talking among themselves, and the experts are worried:

According to Pentagon officials, senior officers in the Army and Marine Corps in recent weeks have begun warning that without a reduction in Iraq, the present schedule of combat tours would be difficult to sustain without an increase in the number of forces.

….One senior Pentagon official involved in long-term planning said the concerns had reached such a level that top Army leaders broached the issue of changing deployment rules to allow for more frequent call-ups of National Guard and Reserve units to relieve pressure on the active duty Army.

….”If we’re going to have an active duty force that’s only going to be so big, you have to have access to the Reserve,” the senior official said. “If you want to stay in this and never have to accelerate [Guard deployment], you’d better grow the [active] force.”

Casey’s not asking for more troops because he knows perfectly well that he can only barely maintain the force he’s got ? and neither Bush nor the Republican Congress are interested in increasing the Army’s end strength or in changing rules to allow more intensive use of Guard and Reserve units.

In other words, they don’t want to withdraw, but they don’t want to send enough troops to have any chance of succeeding either. Both options are too politically risky. Instead, they will continue following the one path guaranteed to fail. Apparently that’s what passes for leadership these days.