Sunday, March 20, 2005

Soft Support and Recruitment Issues

I am sorry if this past week has been a one note week about military recruitment and retention problems, but that is what is driving my interest right now. I am personally safe as I am aging out of the prime potential draft range in the near future and I have too many things floating in my knees and ankles anyways. However I have a younger brother in good health who is soon to be entering prime draft age, and I also have concerns in general about the draft. And given the information that the Army and Marines are short on recruitment and retention, the Army National Guard and Army Reserves are approaching catastrophic mission failure on recruitment, and everyone else but the Air Force Reserves is below quota for the first four months of the fiscal year, AND given that the Bush administration has no exit strategy and a willingness to continued saber rattling, this is something to be concerned about. The draft is a non-zero probability event.

In the European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, General Cody, vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said the following:

" “We’re seeing right now mothers and fathers and school teachers and other influencers that maybe are not talking about service to this nation,” “So, when you say, ‘Army, you have a recruiting problem,’ I say, ‘America, you have a recruiting problem.'.....What kind of Army do you want to have? Is service to this country important to you?”


That is true if you believe that the youth of America must respond to the sound of the guns no matter when or why they were fired. If that is the case, then it is America's problem. If this is not the case, then it is a problem of why are we in Iraq and why do so many people who nominally support the war not run down to the enlisting station.

Ol' Froth summarizes the basic reasons why the recruitment problem is here:

I do not think that Americans are reluctant to serve their country in a shooting war, but I do think they are very, very reluctant to put their asses on the line for an administration that sends our armed forces into ill-advised conflicts with nations that did not present a significant threat. Hence the recent problems with Army and Marine recruitment.


The Iraq War was not an overwhelmingly popular war, as this December, 2002 LA Times poll demonstrates. There was not overwhelming public and political support for this war (thus violating part of the Powell Doctrine's criteria for employment of force); popular support was only gained when the Bush administration decided to scare the everliving daylights out of the American public with a combination of misleading but technically true rhetoric, faulty information and outright lies. It gets hard to recruit people for wars of choice that were embarked upon for fuzzy, and changing justifications and do not have a clear exit strategy. It is hard to recruit people to bear the entire burden of sacrifice upon a very narrow base, while asking very little of the American populace.

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll", a small majority of the country believes that going to war, overall, was a mistake as the benefits have been exceeded by costs. To paraphrase John Kerry -- why would you want to be the last man to die for a mistake ---

Iraq was sold to the American public as a cheap, short victorious war of necessity and national defense -- the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force contained one reference to democracy or democratic government, and five pages of a national security argument for war; senior Bush administration officials stated that the war would be short with troops greeted as "liberators", and it would finance itself as the remnant force would be down to 30,000 by September 2003.

The Bush administration blew its credibility in both the creation of a threat and its prediction of what would happen. America has a recruiting problem only if the citizens of this country do not see the social contract is upheld by its leaders. If that is not the case, then we have a mission alignment problem, and not a recruiting problem.

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