How To Break The Military

I remember to a degree the first presidential election I spent while as a young sailor on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Like so many young Americans considering their first vote, I asked the opinions of the elder’s around me.  One seasoned veteran in my division looked me in the eye and said, “You’re in the military now, son.  You vote Republican.”

“Why?” I asked, my brow furrowed in curiosity.

“Because they’re the ones that take care of the military.”

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t vote for Bush in that election.  I took one look at the guy and kinda said, “Yeah, right.”  To my discredit, I hopped on board with all the negative hype about Gore being played up in the media at the time, and as a result simply didn’t participate.  But I still find that little episode in my life particularly funny… especially now.

General George Casey, the Army’s top officer, and Secretary Pete Geren have both requested a public audience with congress to inform them that the Army is being stretched too thin.  The ongoing US presence in Iraq, the longest and most strenuous campaign pushed by an all volunteer American army since the Revolution, is resulting in considerable strain on the uniformed branch, greatly hampering its ability to provide protection from other agressors should the need arise.

The funny bit of Irony here is that the Tough Talkin’ ™ Republicans who equate victory in Iraq with strenght, and our unwavering support for the neverending conflict with safety are making us less safe in more ways than one.  It has long been known that our policies in Iraq do not put our uniformed service members on the front line of terrorism, it merely seeks to fan the flames of terrorism, but now it is General Casey has made it clear that we are also less safe from conventional threats as well.

I’m feeling safer already.

Nor is this a situation we can think of to fix itself.

The strain on the Army has been growing steadily since Bush sent troops into Iraq in 2003 – the longest sustained combat for an all-volunteer American force since the Revolutionary War. The Pentagon and military analysts have documented the signs of the breakdown: serious recruiting problems, an exodus of young officers, and steadily falling readiness rates of nearly every stateside unit.

Serious recruiting problems?  Well, of course.  As service in the military is becoming more and more synonymous with the service in Iraq, it is reasonable to assume that recruitment will pretty much trend with public opinion of whether or not we should be over there in the first place.  Young officers leaving the military is likewise indicative of conditions on the ground in Iraq.  As is too the state of readiness.

With the defeat of the Jim Webb resolution still stinging, it is clear that not only are we stretching the logistics of the military, it is also true that we are stretching the individual stamina of its members.

The point is simple.  Just as with every other aspect of the Iraq war, saying something is one way doesn’t make it so.  The idea that we can just sit in Iraq and wait for it to magically fix itself is ludicrous not only because it won’t happen, but we won’t be able to reasonably keep our military there for a variety of reasons while it persists in not happening.

But, if you want a good primer on how to BREAK the military… stay tuned.

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