In a serious blow to peace-mongers, reports of the Army’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The active Army has achieved 98 percent of its year-to-date mission, the Army Reserve has achieved 96 percent of its YTD mission. The National Guard has retained almost 130 percent of its YTD mission. A percentage of the Army Guard retention numbers include involuntary extensions due to Stop Loss, National Guard officials said. [emphasis mine]
I’d be curious to know exactly how much of that 130 percent in the National Guard is due to Stop Loss, but in any case this is extremely good news.
And it pretty much shoots down Col. David Hackworth’s worries. Hackworth, in an article entitled Voting With Their Feet, piled up anecdotal evidence of a looming mass exodous from the Army, peaking next year. Yes, there’s still time for him to be right, but only if things change in a major way.
One thing that Hackworth is completely correct about is that our Army is stretched pretty thin. He’s obviously right, as demonstrated by the decisions to deploy forces from Korea and the National Training Center to Iraq, and the quick turnaround for redeployment of many units which have already spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, Senators Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham spent quite a bit of time on FoxNews Sunday this past weekend discussing this very topic. From the transcript:
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC: Well, send in more troops, absolutely.
I think we need more people in the military. When I went to Iraq last year, you could see that there was a lot of ammo dumps that needed to be guarded. Forty percent of the people, by the end of the year, are going to be Guard and Reserve members. And we’re moving people out of Korea.
So I thought for a long time that we needed more people, but when your combat commanders tell the secretary of defense we have enough, then, you know, what’s the secretary of defense to do?
But it’s clear to me, not just Iraq, but when you look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and all of the obligations of this country, we’re putting too much pressure on the men and women in uniform. We need more of them, sooner rather than later.
CLINTON: And I agree with that 100 percent. And, you know, I reached the same conclusions when I was there last year. And a number of us on the Armed Services Committee have been sounding this alarm, not only asking that we get more troops in Iraq, and in Afghanistan I would add, but that we have to face the fact we need a larger active- duty military. We cannot continue to stretch our troops, both active- duty, Guard and Reserve, to the breaking point, which is what we’re doing now.
WALLACE: I know you’re not sitting in the defense secretary’s chair in the Pentagon, but 25,000 more troops, 50,000? Give me a scale of order.
CLINTON: Well, Chris, the way I would talk about this is that, at this point, General Abizaid has asked for additional troops, and we’re going to see those troops brought in, some from Korea. We’re going to end up with what the last number was, 140,000. That’s fine, but it’s still late, and it’s been a little slow.
I’m supporting an effort to increase the end strength of the Army, increase the size of the military. This is a big decision for our country to make. It is expensive, but I don’t think we have any alternatives. [emphasis mine]
I believe that they’re right, and I’ve said so before. But none of that indicates any need for a draft.
If we were to suddenly start drafting kids, there’d be nowhere to put them. The military is full. Of volunteers. If the Army were expanded by a division or two, they would still probably be able to fill all positions with volunteers. And remember that the need for bodies would have to be DIRE to reinstate the draft. If targets are missed by a few thousand, there’s not a chance it would happen. Reinstating the draft would be political suicide for everyone involved, as well as an end to the Army as we know it. No one wants a draft, and everyone will do anything they can to avoid using one.
Let me repeat. There is not room in the military for a single draftee right now. IF the military is expanded AND there are far fewer volunteers than are needed to fill the new positions, THEN we can start talking about a draft.
I expect that the biggest problems in retention will be in the National Guard and Reserves. The decision to deploy Guard units to Iraq for a year is definitely going to hurt reenlistment. But I think this will be manageable, especially if the Iraqi military begins shouldering more of the load and we can begin to draw down our forces in Iraq.
Although those Stop Lossed into remaining in the military may not be particularly happy about the extension of their service, Stop Loss is actually a reason why Iraq ISN’T Vietnam. During Vietnam a major problem was under-motivated two-year draftees and the fact that when enlistments were up, the men were jetted home that day. Stop Loss is how the Army keeps its units from becoming splintered and less than ready to perform their missions.
While I sympathize with those stuck in the military when they wanted to get out, and I sympathize with those in units whose tours in Iraq have been extended, this is right thing to do. Are our forces in Iraq better off with or without the seasoned, experienced troops that have been there and done that? Without question they are better WITH them. The military is serious about performing its mission, so the men and units need to stay.
I wrote last month
The decision to extend the stay of some units in Iraq is the right one, though, and in the long run we will be better off for it. However, it underscores the need to rethink our force levels and the way they’re organized. Two or three divisions of infantry would be nice, but then so would two or three capable Iraqi infantry battalions…
On Monday Bush said there were five active battalions in the Iraqi Army, and that eight more would be activated by June 30th. That seems incredible, but if it’s true, and the Iraqis perform well, it will take a lot of pressure off our guys. Let’s hope it works out.
Things seem to be going fairly well in Fallujah since we handed over most of the duties to Iraqi forces. How do I figure that? Mostly because we have barely heard a peep out of Fallujah since the Marines pulled back. If things weren’t going well, you can be sure that we’d be hearing all about it.
At this point, and for the foreseeable future, any talk of a draft is nothing more than political grandstanding.