Saturday, December 11, 2004

If You're Feeling a Draft...

It really gripes me to hear conservatives claim that things are just peachy over in Iraq. It's not just their inability to provide evidence for their claim nor is it their blindness to the facts. What gets me is that they've gone to the bank so many times with the canard that they support the troops and that we, by opposing the war, are hurting the troops.

Like all things conservative, the palaver about supporting the troops goes into the trash heap. Indeed, it looks like it's the troops themselves who are handing conservatives the bad news:
Soldiers always gripe. But confronting the defense secretary, filing a lawsuit over extended tours and refusing to go on a mission because it’s too dangerous elevate complaining to a new level.

It also could mean a deeper problem for the Pentagon: a lessening of faith in the Iraq mission and in a volunteer army that soldiers can’t leave.

The hubbub over an exchange between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and soldiers in Kuwait has given fresh ammunition to critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

It also highlighted growing morale and motivation problems in the 21-month-old war that even some administration supporters say must be addressed to get off a slippery slope that could eventually lead to breakdowns reminiscent of the Vietnam War.

It's not just the well-publicized swipe at Rummy that's an indication that things are coming apart at the seams. The US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls and legal challenges from its own troops as it becomes apparent to soldiers and civilians that things in Iraq aren't as rosy as the Preznit claims. In fact, an Associated Press poll yesterday found that of Americans polled:
Fewer than half, 47 percent, think it's likely Iraq will be able to establish a stable government, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Just over half, 51 percent, see it as unlikely.

You think this might be the reason that military recruiters can't fill their quotas and can't retain National Guard and Reserve members through re-enlistment? Or that:
The Army Reserve is facing an extreme shortage of company officers, a situation aggravated by a surge in resignation requests.

The shortage — primarily of captains — has seriously reduced the capabilities of the reserves, and continued losses will further reduce the readiness of "an already depleted military force," an Army briefing document submitted last month to Congress said.

Army Reserve resignation requests have jumped from 15 in 2001 to more than 370 during a 12-month period ending in September
If you're not feeling a draft yet, maybe this will give you a chill:
Many experts say that America's 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to the point where President Bush may see other foreign policy goals blunted.

The bleed from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000.

"This is something that the President and the country should be worried about," said Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Reagan and now a military analyst who opposes the war.

A further sign of strain can be seen in the Army's decision this year to mobilise 5,600 members of a pool of former soldiers that can be mobilised only in a national emergency.

More than 183,000 National Guard and reserve troops are on active duty, compared with 79,000 before the invasion of Iraq. Forty per cent of the 138,000 troops in Iraq are part-timers who never expected to be sent to the front line.

What can one conclude from all of this? Obviously, the status quo cannot be maintained if US forces are to remain effective in Iraq. Any player of war games knows there are only two options: either boost up the numbers in Iraq with the use of conscripts or pull out entirely. Since I don't see Bush doing the latter, the former is - must be - the only reasonable answer. Considering Bush has such an aversion to admitting mistakes, and given the relative size of the mistakes he's made (the Iraq fiasco versus saying there would not be a draft), he'll certainly opt out admitting to the lesser mistake.


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