Back Bush's war strategy? Then bring back the
By Joseph L. Galloway
Newspapers" -- -- Here's a question for those who
still support President Bush's strategy to stretch out the Iraq
War until after he's left office, and for those who think we
should be prepared to continue our bloody occupation of Iraq for
five or 10 more years:
Are you ready to support reinstating Selective Service - the
draft - even if that means your sons and daughters or your
grandchildren will have to put on the uniform and go hold the
cities and towns of a nation in the middle of a civil war?
Until now, the burden and sacrifices of military service in
Afghanistan and Iraq have been borne by volunteers - young men
and women who in large part hail from small towns and counties
of our nation.
But the volunteer military, especially the Army and the Marine
Corps, has been ground down by endless combat deployments that
began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and may continue
The president's "surge strategy" of adding 30,000 or more troops
in Iraq may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. There
weren't 30,000 extra troops sitting around doing nothing when
the call came.
The surge is being manned by extending the combat tour for Army
troops to 15 months, with a "guarantee" of 12 months at home
before going back. Soldiers who've been yanked back into combat
after seven or eight or 10 months at home - resting, refitting,
retraining and getting to know their children - know better than
to believe such a promise.
The administration's new plan to add 95,000 new recruits to the
force over the next five years is too little, too late, and it
can't be achieved without big increases in the cash enlistment
bonuses that recruiters wave in front of youngsters whose
choices are already limited by who they are and where they live.
The demands of the wars on our troops and their aging, worn-out
equipment already have pushed the annual cost of enlistment and
re-enlistment bonuses above $1 billion and of recruitment
advertising to $120 million annually.
It's becoming clear that the current pace of deployments cannot
continue unchecked. All the cheap fixes have been used. Peter
has been robbed so often to pay Paul that he has nothing left in
Our nation for the first time in many years has no strategic
reserve available to respond to a crisis elsewhere in the world.
The Army division that was the tripwire in Korea has dwindled
down to a brigade of 3,000 troops. The Ready Brigade of the 82nd
Airborne Division is standing down after decades of being ready
to parachute into a trouble spot on 12 hours' notice so that it,
too, can shuffle in and out of Iraq or Afghanistan.
The brigades and divisions home from a deployment cannot be
counted on in a major crisis. Most are immediately whittled down
to 65 percent or 70 percent of their authorized strength upon
their return home as hundreds and thousands of troops complete
involuntary extensions of their enlistment or are assigned to
military schools to study or teach. Most of their combat
equipment, including armored vehicles, is left behind in the war
zone to be used by their replacements.
The barrel has been scraped so hard and so often that it no
longer even has a bottom.
On Capitol Hill this week, the subject of restoring the draft
after more than three decades of the all-volunteer force was
gingerly raised in a House subcommittee hearing in the face of
near-unanimous opposition by the Bush administration, the
military chiefs in the Pentagon and politicians afraid of the
consequences of embracing an unpopular solution even if it's the
only one left.
All of them know that a fairly administered Selective Service
system that distributed the burden of military service to rich
and poor alike, with deferments limited to physical and mental
disqualifiers, would ensure that 99.5 percent of Americans would
suddenly have a huge investment in any suggestion that going to
war is a quick and easy solution to a foreign problem.
Does anyone really believe that the war in Iraq would have
dragged on for four-plus years if draftees from all over the
country were doing the fighting and dying and suffering quietly
absorbed by today's volunteer troops and their families?
If you aren't prepared to invest your son or daughter in
continuing this war, then it's time for you to give some serious
thought to how and when it can be ended, and what the candidates
for president in 2008 are saying about an open-ended commitment
of other Americans' sons and daughters to a war we can't afford
and can't win.
Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent
for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national
best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may
write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail:
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