So it seems that a significant part of the Obama military anecdote that so many have denounced as nonsense that shows Obama’s ignorance of such matters was independently confirmed by the officer in question (the weapon shortage element was not confirmed). According to the report of the officer’s story, his platoon had 15 of its members reassigned before their deployment in mid-2003. One of the standard lines of attack I have seen leveled against this anecdote is: they would never split up a unit, because this hurts unit cohesion. The more appropriate response would be, as far as I can see, grave concern that the anecdote might be true, given the administration’s reputation for incompetence, and anger if it was confirmed. After all, this would be one of those concrete examples of how the obsession with Iraq directly, measurably harmed not only the Afghan war effort but also the cohesion and effectiveness of military units. That’s the sort of thing that ostensibly “pro-military” people would have (correctly) found outrageous and appalling if it had it happened on Clinton’s watch, but which they regard as a legend when it brings disrepute on the administration and U.S.. Iraq policy. What’s even more strange is that we already know that intelligence and linguistics personnel were pulled away from Afghanistan to be used for the war in Iraq, so why would it surprise us that a similar hollowing out of combat units sent to Afghanistan took place, at least in certain cases?
Update: When the critics aren’t accusing Obama’s source of lying, they are emphasising that he didn’t support every detail of the story as Obama recounted it and that reassigning soldiers from a unit is so perfectly normal that there’s nothing to see here. Which is rather different from the legions of geniuses who said that it never happens. The point of the story, of course, is not whether it is normal to reassign soldiers to units that are going into combat, but that the one military campaign pulled personnel away from the Afghan war and that this has put the units deploying to Afghanistan at more of a disadvantage than they would otherwise be. The point of the story is that full-strength units were important enough for Iraq, and not important enough for Afghanistan, which confirms the larger argument that Iraq has diverted resources away from Afghanistan. Resources have been diverted, and the unnecessary war in Iraq has detracted from the necessary one in Afghanistan. That is the argument these people don’t want to have, because they are no closer today to having a compelling rationale for being in Iraq than they did in 2003.