(Reuters) – First it was worries over the South China Sea, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and Syria. Then it was Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the hunt for Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Now the United States and its allies find themselves preparing once again for potential military action in Iraq.
For U.S. defense planners already struggling to implement savage spending cuts, the last year has been one of the most demanding since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Almost every other month a new crisis has erupted, each demanding new military deployments and resources. With the United States already stressed by more than a decade of war, some worry the strain is starting to show.
“North Korea and Iran also haven’t gone away,” said Kathleen Hicks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) who until last year was U.S. principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
“For the U.S. Navy in particular, it’s a real challenge,” she told Reuters in May. “With the size of the force, it’s tough to deter in all these places at once.”
The end of troop-heavy, multiyear conflicts will almost certainly yield some savings. It is almost impossible not to, with analysts estimating it now costs more than $2 million to keep a single U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year…