Monday, September 25, 2006

Can We Cut Out the "Sole Superpower" B.S.?

This speaks for itself.

The Army has a stated goal of giving active-duty soldiers two years at home between overseas combat tours, but it is unable to achieve that "dwell time," as the Army calls, because it does not have enough brigades to meet the demands of simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would not be a problem now if the situation in Iraq had improved enough to allow the Army to reduce its presence as originally planned.

We are facing insurgencies in two Third World states; we aren't fighting land wars with major powers. And the closing line is critical. Yes, the situation in Iraq has worsened. It is not because another great power has intervened a la the PRC in Korea.

I know, I know, I am a broken record on this. But let's decide, people. A citizen's army--which means more citizens have to join and the missions we undertake affect vital interests; or we do what the Portuguese, the British, and others did--an overseas army recruited largely from non-citizens and leavened with some regular forces, if you want to police the world.

This week's weekly standard editorial calls for increasing the size of the army and then says how so many think tanks support this. So does that mean we'll see a lot of new recruits from the beltway? Propose all you want, people have to want to join.
You present a false choice.

Jim Webb supports a 5 percent break on income tax for military personnel -- I am not certain if that is a lifetime boon, but his language on Meet the Press indicated do.

There is also the option of a draft.

Then there is your choice of the present citizen dynamic or a foreign force with native elements.

We could also raise recruiting targets and standards, develop a different plan with more infantry and combat power, pay those people more, and fight our wars better.

There's that!
Thanks for your comments.

Is there any evidence that suggests that increasing benefits and so on, under the present circumstances of combat, will increase volunteer enlistments?

The draft is always a theoretical option but one that is political suicide so I don't see it happening.

So this leaves cutting back our military commitments, increasing the number of citizen volunteers, or finding new sources of personnel.
US should get out of Iraq, Europe, and Northeast Asia.

US has no strategic reasons to remain in those places.

Then this problem will disappear.
"Is there any evidence that suggests that increasing benefits and so on, under the present circumstances of combat, will increase volunteer enlistments?"

I don't think so. We were able to recruit a much larger volunteer army in the 1980s and through the first Gulf War without the high enlistment bonuses of today. But military actions were more carefully chosen and executed back then. For commitments like Afghanistan and Iraq, it may be increasingly difficult to persuade our citizens to volunteer.

I wonder why we would want to admit foreign mercenaries when we exclude highly qualified gay citizens who are willing to serve. But I don't see much use in getting new people to serve if they are sent to fight wars that are needlessly mismanaged.
It might almost be easier to fight two major land wars than to try to juggle two peace keeping operations - after all, land wars are what our military is trained for. They are, to use Thomas Barnett's language, closer to a Leviathan than a SysAdmin. It's easier to break things (like a rival state's military) than to build things (like civil society and a functioning democracy).
Nikolas, thanks for your response. I am aware of no such evidence to support the idea that a tax break would lead to more enlistments, and high quality recruits. It might be worth a shot, insofar as it could draw people from higher incomes to the armed forces for a period of time.

General Schoomaker agrees with you on the need for either a change in the present all volunteer force or a reduction of our commitments, the Guardian.

It is interesting that the draft is deemed just a theory. If we are to believe all that the president says, then the situation in Iraq is of great import. So, it's worth the end of his administration to save that country, is it not? He should institute the draft and resign.
Nick, to link in your most recent post with this discussion--FDR reinstituted the draft in 1940, and was prepared to take the political heat for it, because he was someone prepared to LEAD.
FDR was indeed a President who led the country in a way that it needed to be led at an extraordinary moment when we faced two menacing empires in Europe and the Pacific and an isolationist public at home. But even his efforts were hardly sure of success; though we were not at war, the draft got through the House by only one vote.

Resumption of the draft today would mean sending draftees immediately to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where at present our troops would be under-equipped. In Afghanistan they would also be unable to attack enemy sanctuaries in a neighboring country. Before we resume the draft, we need to improve the material condition of the Army and Marine Corps and rethink how we would use any new troops to greater effect. The draft should not be a way by which civilian leaders sidestep deficiencies in supply and strategy.
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