Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?


News of an involuntary call-up of Marine Corps reservists and a Defense Department budget so out-of-control that even the Republican Senate Budget Committee chair speaks of Congress’ failure of oversight, is music to my ears.
by William M. Arkin

Not because I’m some fan of a draft or because I want to see America bankrupted.  But an increasing failure of the military to attract young men and women to serve and an overwhelming public rejection of the Iraq war just might finally provoke Americans to demand some real change.

By real change I don’t just mean a change of administrations — as if any Democratic Party hopeful out there has a fundamentally different view of national security.

I mean a demand for results.  Enough already with the pleadings for money, with government officials lamenting the complexity of the world and the slow pace of progress.  Enough with the technological marvels, the contractor bonanza, the endless reorganizations and the greater authorities handed down to bureaucrats and “operators” who live in the fiscal rather than the physical world.

And God forbid the Bush administration’s failures feed the horde of 9/11 nuts and Rove- and Cheney-haters who subsist on a fantasy of government purpose, brilliance and conspiracy when in fact we face the greatest crisis of government incompetence and apathy in our history…


Strain from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are told that the armed services are stretched thin and undermanned, that the coffers are empty; that there is no relief in sight.

Democrats and Republicans alike argue, in another cost-free Washington game because there is not a chance in hell of the proposals being implemented, that more troops are not just needed in Iraq, but in the armed forces.  That was Sen. John Kerry’s campaign position in 2004 and is still the Democratic Party platform that the Army needs to add about 40,000 troops to its ranks.  A conservative military “expert” at the American Enterprise Institute tells USA Today that 200,000 more soldiers are needed.

The “shortfall” the Marines are facing results from an increased hesitancy by reservists to volunteer to go to Iraq. They’re now more interested in their own homeland security.

The Army has shown no compunction in calling up individual reservists to serve in Iraq, but the Marines are supposed to have more patriotic, more driven members and a surplus of volunteers.  I guess the Marines have also been recruiting smarter people.

By coincidence, Emilio Gonzales, the director of the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, writes in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune that record numbers of Hispanics are enlisting in the armed forces to gain citizenship.  More than 40,000 “immigrants” serve in the armed forces today, doing the “job” in which others Americans seem uninterested.

Calling the Bush administration’s portrayal of the Iraq war as “some kind of day at the beach,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says that sacrifices required in Iraq were underestimated and that Americans are frustrated that the war toll is so great.

His Republican counterpart, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), tells Federal Times Congress may have failed in its role of overseeing spending on the war against terrorism.

With $123 billion in “emergency” supplemental budgets this year on top of the $553 billion dollar regular annual bill for the coming fiscal year, Gregg says it is difficult to know whether the money is being well-spent or whether it is receiving sufficient scrutiny.

Gregg isn’t arguing that there shouldn’t be more money for defense.

McCain isn’t arguing that there shouldn’t be more war.

No one, Republican or Democrat, is arguing that there shouldn’t be more troops.

In fact, in the ways of bipartisan Washington, unless there is more money, there isn’t enough social support and housing for troops and their families; there isn’t good enough equipment and fast enough “modernization” for the soldiers, sailors and airmen, which harms enlistment, which then means the need for more money to “attract” the umm patriots for duty, honor, country.

The way I see it, America must recognize that neither Republicans nor Democrats have a clue on national security.

They are happy to endlessly spend the people’s money — if it isn’t Iraq, it’s going to be the black hole of homeland security — and happy never to ask whether the vast sums handed over to the professionals ever pay off, whether results can be shown.




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