New Orleans and the National Guard

James Robbins sees no problem with the Louisiana Guard:

So is the war in Iraq causing troop shortfalls for hurricane relief in New Orleans? In a word, no. A look at the numbers should dispel that notion. Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.

So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course — the Left wants you to believe that the country has been denuded of its citizen soldiers, and that Louisiana has suffered inordinately because Guardsmen and women who would have been available to be mobilized by the state to stop looting and aid in reconstruction are instead risking their lives in Iraq.

Not hardly. According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies.

In Louisiana only about a third of Guard personnel are deployed, and they will be returning in about a week as part of their normal rotation. The Mississippi Guard has 40 percent overseas. But Louisiana and Mississippi are not alone in this effort — under terms of Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMACs) between the states, Guard personnel are heading to the area from West Virginia, D.C., New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Washington, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan. Thousands have already arrived, and more will over the next day or so.

The first flaw in Mr. Robbins’ point is that not all soldiers are created equal, trained equal or supplied equal. The 183rd Overweight Women Cooks division is not going to be airlifted to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion because the Marines are occupied in Iraq. It would be more informative to know how many first-line combat troops we have, and how many are currently serving in Iraq.

The second flaw should be apparent from his own words. If the Guard personnel were needed immediately, as it appears they were, then there was no way those thousands of Guardsmen from Utah and Michigan could possibly have helped when they were needed most. Now, given the incompetent nature of the Louisiana leadership, it is extremely doubtful that the presence of the one-third of the missing LA National Guard would have been used anyhow, but as it stands, it was impossible.

The problems of New Orleans are not of the federal government’s creation – except perhaps for the levees, but I don’t know who was ultimately responsible for them – and the tendency to blame the president is indicative of the socialist sickness that infects this country. But the disaster still serves as a powerful reminder that even the most powerful government has its limits, that not all things are possible through it and that a nation’s responsibility to its own citizens must supersede any desire to do something for those who are not citizens.

Defenders of the administration can dance around the reality all they like, but the fact is that President Bush and his administration did not impress anyone with their response to the hurricane and even if their actions were reasonable, they still looked pretty bad to most of the public.