U.S. military “unravelling”?

Is there a draft in your future? That is the obvious implication of this July 23 story from Economic & Political Weekly, tho the author does not mention it.

Unravelling of the US Military
Newspapers describe the US army as facing one of the greatest recruiting challenges in its history, despite the enormous incentives now being offered to join the military. A study commissioned by the army found that resistance to recruitment was due to popular objection to the war in Iraq, the casualties and media coverage of the torture at Abu Ghraib. Solutions include a bill that was introduced in the Senate but that has not yet been voted on: offering legal status and eligibility for citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants residing in the US. The nightmare of war is offered as the prelude to the ‘American dream’.

by Zia Mian

In a recent speech at Fort Bragg, a major US military base, president Bush declared, “There is no higher calling than service in our armed forces.” It seems fewer and fewer young Americans and their parents agree with him. The US military is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain itself. This is despite what at first sight should be fruitful conditions for military recruitment: the events of September 11 and the fears about terrorism; the argument by the Bush administration that the global war on terrorism must be fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and other such faraway places, or it will end up having to be fought at home; and America’s ongoing wars that bring to the screens daily stories of heroic ‘warriors’ liberating and defending the innocent.

Newspapers describe the US army as “facing one of the greatest recruiting challenges in its history.” The US military is deeply worried. General Barry McCaffrey, now a professor at the Military Academy at West Point, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the US is in a “race against time” in Iraq because of the strains on the military — the military is “starting to unravel”. He argues that “The US army and the Marines are too under-manned and under-resourced to sustain this security policy beyond next fall.” The consequences are great. For McCaffrey the US military in Iraq is “the crown jewel of our national security guarantee to the American people in the war on terror.” This threatens the future of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as McCaffrey puts it, “Failure would be a disaster for US foreign policy and economic interests for the next 20 years.”

Sending in more troops, the American solution year after year in the Vietnam war, does not seem to be an option. President Bush has said that he would send more troops to Iraq if the military commanders in the field asked for them. He claims that they have not done so. But others suggest a more serious obstacle. Senator Jack Reed, the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, has said that US military commanders in Iraq have told him that they need more troops but they know none are available. Reed has said, “The conclusion I reach is that they know the soldiers aren’t there, so why ask for something you know doesn’t exist?”

A recent study by the RAND Corporation, a military think-tank, ‘Stretched Thin: Army Forces for Sustained Operations’ found that the troop shortage in the army is so severe that it calls into question the Pentagon’s policy of being able to fight two major regional wars at the same time while also having sufficient soldiers for the war on terrorism and providing security in America. A recent meeting of the National Governors’ Association, that brings together the governors of the states, registered their concern that deployment of National Guard soldiers in Iraq was leaving their states unable to deal with possible natural disasters and other emergencies, with one governor exclaiming that “we don’t have personnel — whether it is full time or part time — to take care of all the needs and concerns of Americans.”

Some of these GIs in Iraq are clearly getting an unintended political education:

The story is told of a marine soldier who returned to California after a tour of duty in Iraq and was invited to speak at a ‘gated community’ in the Malibu, as a war hero. He told his audience “I am not a hero… Guys like me are just a necessary part of things. To maintain this way of life in a fine community like this, you need psychos like us to go and drop a bomb on somebody’s house.”

Read more.

See our last post on Iraq and growing disconent within the military.