Thursday, May 5

On To Damascus!

Reuters: Army misses April recruiting goal by 42%.

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes.

With the Iraq war straining the U.S. military, the active-duty Army has now missed its recruiting goals in three straight months, with April being by far the worst of the three, and officials are forecasting that it will fall short again in May.


This weeks' shocking revelation that Tony Blair and George Bush had decided in the spring of 2002 to oust Saddam Hussein, in discussions which were as free of WMDs as Iraq turned out to be, has certainly taught me one thing: the obvious is so naturally buoyant it may even eventually turn up in the news.

As odious--I would use the term criminal--as the conduct of the Bush administration has been, there's plenty of blame for the Democratic leadership and many a liberal pundit in this war. Democrats in Congress were maneuvered into signing a pre-election blank check for the administration with the barest guarantee that we would consult the UN first. That abrogation should not be forgotten. With our sharp political divide and shallow, faux-balanced, corporate press there is one issue which has been raised, so far as I know, only at the far reaches of consciousness: the now total erosion of the Constitutional requirement that Congress declare war.

We have come to substitute an imperial Commander-in-Chief. We have, without amending the Constitution, hell, without even much of a whimper, chosen to simply redefine war in a way that serves our global aspirations. Real war means destruction of the enemy. In an age where that destruction could be accomplished before lunch, we have decided that anything short of nuclear conflict can be handled by Congressional resolution.

There's a reason to stand on principle even when it's not in your short-term interest: keeping the genie firmly corked in his bottle. Would Congress have actually declared war on Iraq in October 2002? No. Even in the face of genuine evidence of a threat, it would not have taken that step. And furthermore, the election-year machinations that brought us that resolution would have been a part of that debate. If the Congress does not believe that sending Americans in harm's way is too serious a matter to be used as a political football, then let us see to it the sons and daughters of politicians are the first ones on the front line.

It was common in the Vietnam era to hear people say, "It's not a war, it's a police action." Now we simply ignore the distinction. Had we required an act of war we would not have created the mess we made. We would have created a national sense of purpose. No griping about taxes. No profiteering. We are at war, not just our soldiers.

Those shrinking manpower numbers are ordinary citizens taking another de facto vote in the absence of a de jure war. And the seriousness of the situation is directly related to how we got there in the first place. We went to war in the spring of 2003 because of political calculations. We could have spent the time necessary to build a true coalition. We could have taken the time to mobilize the required force to do the job. Neither fit in with the Bush playbook. Waiting until 2004 meant risking early military setbacks which might have cost them the election. Instituting a draft meant open, widespread opposition. 2004 was supposed to be about victory parades.

It still almost blew up in their faces in the short term, and in the long term its consequences are terrible at best. We are going to have to pay the bills sometime. Not just the astronomical costs of our little adventure, but the total fracture of our manpower and material equations, loss of international standing, and the question of how we address our real national defense needs. Fifty-seven percent of us now say the war was a mistake. That's a lot of Johnny-come-latelies, many of whom were waving the flag on their car antennas two years ago. We will never know what percentage might have opposed the war altogether if there'd been a real national debate, if they'd heard the real numbers before it began.

3 comments:

Hokie said...

I'm sure this is some kind of corner we're turning.

KathyR said...

I dunno, hokie, unless it's down a blind alley with a bunch of thugs lurking...

Big "what you said" to Doghouse. I'm worried about what the "instant gratification" policy is going to mean for my pre-teen son. He'll be draftable in six years. I'm doing the math and not liking the numbers I'm coming up with.

Hokie said...

Kathy:

Heh. I'm draftable right now, and not liking it.

And I think I saw something about turning a corner right into a brick wall at Kleiman's blog.