James S. Robbins has a piece at National Review Online that totally demolishes a pair of the more pernicious myths being pushed by the anti-Bush crowd: The war has taken away too many troops to deal with the disaster and the federal government has taken too long to respond.
On the issue of manning, Robbins writes:
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.
Thatís 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.
He also notes that only one third of the Louisiana National Guard is deployed, and their rotation ends in about a week.
On the issue of response time:
The New York Times has called the military response ďa costly game of catch up.Ē Catching up compared to what, one wonders. National Guard units were mobilized immediately; 7,500 troops from four states were on the ground within 24 hours of Katrina ó a commendable response given the disruptions to the transportation infrastructure. The DOD response is well ahead of the 1992 Hurricane Andrew timetable. Back then, the support request took nine days to crawl through the bureaucracy. The reaction this time was less than three days officially, and DOD had been pre-staging assets in anticipation of the aid request from the moment Katrina hit. DOD cannot act independently of course; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the lead agency. Requests for assistance have to be routed from local officials through FEMA to U.S. Northern Command and then to the necessary components. In practice, this means state officials have to assess damage and determine relief requirements; FEMA has to come up with a plan for integrating the military into the overall effort; DOD has to begin to pack and move the appropriate materiel, and deploy sufficient forces. This has all largely been or is being accomplished. Seven thousand mostly Navy and other specialized assets are currently in the area directly supporting hurricane relief, and a much larger number of other forces are en route. The process has been functioning remarkably smoothly under the circumstances.
He also points out that some of the more strident criticism is coming from the people who squaked last year about the response to Hurricane Charley, who accused him of trying to sway voters in Florida. Reality is something with which many of these people have only a fleeting acquaintance (despite their claim to the "reality-based community"), and consistency is an impediment to all Bush-bashing, all the time.