Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bush: Dishonestly Avoiding a Draft by Destroying the Army

There's a certain political advantage to a President in being able to prosecute a war with an all-volunteer military. What it means for most Americans is that their kid (or their spouse, or parent) isn't at risk of being killed or wounded. And those that are undertaking that risk on our behalf, well, they signed up for it; they knew it came with the territory. The war can be at arms' length for most of us: something they report about, but that we're not connected to.

But a draft would be a whole 'nother thing. All of a sudden, the risk would be widely distributed. If it wasn't our friends and loved ones in Iraq before, it could be now. People would ratchet up the attention they paid to what's going on over there.

It's pretty clear that our military has exceeded its design specs some time ago in this war. There may or may not be actual military doctrine on the subject, but there's no question that there's a quantifiability to it somewhere: that our army is capable of providing X boots on the ground indefinitely in the context of a self-sustaining military. And whatever X is, we've exceeded it. We've typically had 138,000 troops in Iraq, plus another 20,000 or so in Afghanistan, and lesser commitments elsewhere. And it's tearing the army apart; we're having to do all sorts of tricks to keep up with it.

Tricks like this: we've made liberal use of stop-loss orders, routinely extended our troops' tours of duty, worn out the National Guard, sent our elite training unit to Iraq, called up the Individual Ready Reserve, we've shifted troops from South Korea to Iraq, we've put nearly 12,000 sailors from the Navy on the ground in Iraq, along with a lesser number of Air Force troops. Enlarging the volunteer army is out: we've allowed violent criminals, gangbangers, skinheads and neo-Nazis, high school dropouts and persons of low I.Q. into the Army, as well as raising the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 42, just to keep our troop strength where it is. He wouldn't have to use these tricks if our military was big enough for the job. Which it clearly isn't: it still isn't enough troops to reduce the violence, lawlessness and chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan's slipping away, and every month, our army's stretched thinner and more worn-out than it was the previous month.

It's put-up-or-shut-up time: if we're serious about staying in Iraq, we need a bigger military, which means we need a draft. If we're not willing to institute a draft, it's time to stop fooling ourselves and work our way towards the exit.

Bush claims that Iraq is the central front in that great existential conflict, the War on Terror. He says we can't leave until the job's done, and we won't be leaving while he's President. And his term has another two years and three months to run.

If he means what he says, then he's got to institute a draft. He doesn't have enough troops there to accomplish his goals. If he doesn't institute a draft, then he's saying that he's unwilling to run the political risk of getting the troops he needs to win, but he insists on sending our troops off to die in an exercise in futility, presumably because he doesn't want to have to admit failure.

How many of our men and women in uniform should have to die because Bush is afraid to ask the country for enough troops to win, and is equally afraid of admitting defeat? There is only one morally right answer: none.


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