You cannot get a full 15 minutes in the spotlight with a list, but you can get a nanosecond or two. Ten best, 10 worst, 100 biggest, 50 lousiest and so forth. Thus Foreign Policy magazine got the briefest of flashes when it brought forth its ranking of the world’s failed states.
Sadly enough for the U.S., our protégé nation, Iraq, was just barely beaten out by Sudan as the most failed state. The score was 113.7 for Sudan to 111.4 for our gang in Baghdad. Please do not give up hope. At the rate things are going, by next year Iraq should have displaced Sudan as the most failed state in the world.
To determine degrees of state failure, nations are ranked on a 1-to-10 scale in a number of categories. Iraq, you will be pleased to know, outscored Sudan in “human flight,” even though the African country has Darfur going for it. Iraq was also the worst in “security apparatus” and “economy,” but only tied in “group grievances.” It was a winner in “external intervention,” if only by a tenth of a point.
Hey, we’ll take it. After all, we are the external intervention in question, along with a few token military delegations from nations trying to get on our good side and many thousands of hirelings under the command of 21st-century corporate condottieri.
When it comes to discussion about the “external intervention” in Iraq, the talk is mostly about what we are doing to Iraq and less about what Iraq has done to us. Our forces are now well into their fifth year there, and in the opinion of some men who are qualified to make the judgment, our Army is disintegrating.
From the start, it was mal-equipped and ill-trained to suppress a complicated insurgency. Having almost no Arabic speakers, the Army has had to rely on local interpreters, who have been killed by their co-nationalists in large if unknown numbers. Other “terps,” as they are called, have been forced to flee.
In addition to the more than 3,500 of our people killed by largely unseen enemies, more than 34,000 have been wounded and injured seriously enough to require air evacuation. In this war, thanks to the high quality of our trauma medicine, many who might have died in Vietnam are alive and suffering horribly in military hospitals here.
Unlike previous wars, there is no respite for those fighting it. There is no safe rear area to rotate into for a few quiet and unworried hours of rest and repair of nerves. No place is safe in that country for our people.
Given the ever-lengthening tours of combat duty there, it is sad but hardly surprising that 111 of our people have killed themselves. In that connection we can see what the recent hullabaloo over military mental-health services is about.
Our Army, which we now all know was and is too small for the campaign assigned to it, has to suck people out of the Navy and the Air Force to fill up the holes, and that is not enough. The stopgap measures there cannot make up for the increasing difficulty the Army has in keeping its people and recruiting new personnel.
Retired Lt. General Robert G. Gard Jr. observes that half of the West Point class of 2002 has left the service at the earliest date they were legally free of their obligation to stay in the Army. Meanwhile, to bolster the ranks, people with minor criminal records are also being accepted. A hundred years ago it was not unusual for judges to give unruly young men the choice of six months in the county jail or joining the Army, but that was a different Army from today’s organization, which still demands stamina and strength but also the capacity to operate complicated machinery.