145,000 Strong


Note to Howard Dean (who famously had trouble reciting military personnel numbers a few weeks back on Meet the Press): The Pentagon plans on keeping around 145,000 troops in Iraq.

This may be easier said than done. As the AP notes,

Stretched thin by other commitments around the world, the Pentagon has been hard-pressed to find ground force replacements, either American or foreign.

Here's a chart covering active military personnel from 1950-2002. If nothing else, it's a stark reminder that, despite the current activity, our society is still much less-militarized than it used to be.

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  1. The start date of the graph is also interesting, and necessary to be readable. Five years earlier, and the US had 16 million men under arms.

  2. Whether or not one would want to include the armed forces of WWII would depend on what you?re trying to prove.

    Anomalies on the scale do not, in the end, prove an accurate mean. Its kind of like including airline pilots in the average of pay of union labor. It may be technically accurate while not giving a true picture of the norm.

  3. “What happened in the ’70s to the Marine Core? ”

    just so you know, its marine Corps, not core. its an easy mistake to make given the funky pronounciation.

  4. Somebody get Ray a flag and an island to plant it on already!

  5. Evil

    Was it something I said?

  6. Pretty impressive, especially when you consider the growth in population.

    But this also reflects a change from a labor intensive military to a capital intensive one.

  7. These are not as drastic as they may seem. Given that the draft was reinstated in ’48 (before this graph begins) and continued until ’73, those numbers are inflated. Even the 1950 levels appear quite similar to today’s. Granted, given the difference in population, there is a smaller percentage in the military, but given the dramatic peaks for the Korea and Vietnam, this is merely a subtlety of this graphic display (better would be to show percentage of appropriately aged that are in the military, now versus other years with no draft.

    The slow receding of numbers after Vietnam is interesting. Were there a lot of people joining at this time? Or were there reasons that many stayed in (incentives, lack of job skills at home, “shit I don’t know what else to do”)?

  8. What happened in the ’70s to the Marine Core? Yes, my modern military history isn’t very good…

  9. At a time that the media were reporting varying figures, Howard Dean’s guess was off by 7 percent. The man must be stoopid or somethin’.

  10. Sean:

    I think those numbers do show that there was a fairly steady maintenance of troop levels from immediately after Vietnam until 1990. That includes the post-draft period and reflects how much the US Government spent on military personnel (still the most expensive part of the military budget). Draft or no draft, they were only willing to field as many personnel in 1950 as they are today.

    I think a percentage chart would actually show a more dramatic drop, including a drop over the 80s. However, this graph more accurately reflects manpower over that time. Interesting that Iraq was knocked over with a tenth the troops that Vietnam was…er, tied with.

  11. Plutarck,

    What exactly was your question re the Marine Corps? Their proportionate enrollment followed, essentially, the same line as the military as a whole.

    Their numbers are smaller because they are designed to be a smaller, more efficient outfit i.e. the few, the proud.

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