They'll Be Home For Xmas (2005? 2006?)

|

The Pentagon is increasing U.S. troops in Iraq to a new high of 150,000. That's up from a current 138,000 and media accounts say the boost will come largely from extending tours of duty from a year to 14 months. There's somewhere between 20,000 and 24,000 troops from other allies in Iraq, says the Seattle Times, which includes these cautionary comments in its account:

Lawrence Korb, who was assistant secretary of defense for manpower in the Reagan administration, said the tour extensions could come back to haunt the Army when soldiers in the affected units have to decide whether to re-enlist.

"This is the worst way to do it (increase the force), because by not putting enough troops in there and extending the people who are already there, you really demoralize people, particularly around the holidays," Korb said.

Whole thing here. As you may recall, former (cashiered?) Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was on record saying that 300,000 troops were necessary to secure post-war Iraq.

The issue of troop retention is unclear to me. Intuitively, it makes sense that fewer people would enlist or re-up during an active war that's not unambiguously a defense of the United States mainland. But then there's Donald Rumsfeld's claims on the subject, too:

As it stands today, the active Army and Marine Corps continue to exceed their recruiting goals despite the high pace of activity. Retention is also doing well. Particularly striking are reenlistment rates for units that have deployed overseas. Of the Army's ten active-duty divisions, nine are exceeding re-enlistment goals by five percent or more.

That's from late October, in a talk about why the draft was a dead issue. Read Rummy's whole statement here.

NEXT: D.C. Talk on Dec. 6: Freund on Popular Culture in the Middle East

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “The issue of troop retention is unclear to me. Intuitively, it makes sense that fewer people would enlist or re-up during an active war that’s not unambiguously a defense of the United States mainland.”

    Yes, it would. But this ignores the fact that many of the troops do consider their work in Iraq to amount to a defense of America, even if others are skeptical of the claim. Also, as un-PC as it is to say it, I think some of them (though certainly not all) enjoy the experience. For example, there were many comments from Marines taking part in the recent Fallujah offensive about how they were glad that the fighting had started, because they were getting bored waiting around, and wanted to see some action.

    That said, I still think Rumsfeld is doing a fair amount of damage to the Army and Marines’ future effectiveness by overstretching their forces to the extent that he has.

  2. Its not that hard to understand. These people are volunteers, many of whom joined or re-enlisted since September 11, when they knew they would be fighting in the Middle East.

    They are fighting in the Middle East, which is why they are in the army.

    They are fighting a foe who is unquestionably bad. Evil, even.

    They don’t care about whether Iraq will be seen as the correct strategic deployment in 20 years. They are doing what they joined to do, in a situation where they are unambiguously in the right.

    Why would someone who joined or reenlisted to go to the Middle East to kill bad guys be disappointed when he or she goes to the Middle East to kill bad guys?

  3. So the president runs a campaign in which he swears, on a daily basis, that there are enough troops in Iraq, when he opponent asserts otherwise. Four weeks after the election, he “discovers” that there aren’t enough troops in Iraq.

    Quick, somebody come up with some tortured reasoning why this doesn’t count as a lie.

  4. Well, Joe, it’s because the Democrats wouldv’e been worse! 😉

  5. I heard from a friend who heard it…., so take this with a grain of salt. He claimed that a lot of retention is due to arm-twisting and reminders that you can and will get called up anyway (IRR) so why not stay with your buddies….

  6. I can’t wait for Charley Rangle to get his draft bill passed so we can get some groovy marches going this spring and summer!

  7. So, which do you trust? Your intuition or data? The answer seems clear…until you consider the source of the data.

  8. Anyone who believes Charles Rangle wants to implment the draft, please raise your hand…

    than bring in down on your forehead with enough force to knock some sense into your head.

  9. Well than, joe, let’s hear the load condemnations of his cynical posturing from the Democrats. That sound? It’s a pin dropping.

    I agree with you that Bush was lying about the troop strength.

    BTW, I saw a bumper sticker on a car in front of my favorite lefty coffee house the other day that really made my day: “End the Bush Draft”.

  10. I think RC does a good job getting into the subjective mindset of troops deployed in Iraq. Their physical existence has, at its center, the experience of a fight to death between your buddies, and the other guys. The other guys kill your buddies, leaving their wives widows. Of course they hate the opposition, even if the opposition consists of teenage Fallujans whose primary motivation is ending the occupation of their homes by a foreign army. Unlike us, they don’t have the luxury of pondering the wisdom of this mission, its causes, or its ultimate ends.

    Add to this the fact that deployed soldiers are the most captive of all possible audiences. The Marine general in charge of the operation, in his pep talk, called the taking of Falluja “the clearest fight between good and evil in our lifetimes.” Of course they believe that to be true – it’s what they’re been told every day for a year, and they have the evidence of the enemy’s demonic evil sprayed across their body armor on a near-daily basis. You’d have to be one evil bastard to kill Cpl. Tommy, who has two kids at home and cracks everyone up when the squad plays cards, right?

    I can easily believe that the people in the middle of this mess are completely in agreement with the idea that this is simple, clear cut fight against transcendant evil, and are eager to lay down their lives for such a noble cause. I’m sure the troops burning southeast asian villages in 1970, or massacring captured black Union soldiers in 1864, were just as certain of the nobility of their cause.

  11. “Well than, joe, let’s hear the load condemnations of his cynical posturing from the Democrats.”

    What’s wrong with cynical posturing, Todd? It can be an effective way to put issues on the table.

    Other than making the elitist masters in charge of this war look bad, what’s the harm?

  12. Joe,

    …which is completely unlike how the insurgents feel.

    Todd, another fun bumper sticker:

    “It doesn’t take a war to fuel my bicycle”

    …this was on a car.

  13. Is cynical posturing more or less honest than lying?

  14. Joe,
    Of course, those US soldiers in Iraq are just dumb stooges, brainwashed by their murderous generals, and unable to perceive your cristal clear truth.
    Anyone who thinks differently, must be dumb, since you are so wise… you know God’s own truth, with utmost clarity.

    “Unlike us, they (the troops deployed in Iraq)don’t have the luxury of pondering the wisdom of this mission, its causes, or its ultimate ends.”

    That must be because they are denied access to information, to the media, to home and relatives, and to your superior wisdom, and because they have no brains of their own.

  15. Anyone who believes Charles Rangle(sic) wants to implment the draft, please raise your hand…

    Why shouldn’t I take the authoritarian bastard at his word, pray tell? Almost every statement he makes indicates that he believes we are all the property of the state.

    He may be capable of cynical posturing but that’s not where Rangel’s at on this one.

  16. You don’t get it, Jacob, the insurgents just don’t have anecdotal stories of inspiration about their wise-cracking captains, the battle of good and evil, and their good buddies. They’re inspired by the noblest intentions.

  17. joe,

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/01/07/rangel.draft/

    Dude, don’t harsh my buzz, I’m already getting my gear together for the marches next year!!

  18. wellfellow, I’m sure it’s EXACTLY how the insurgents feel. “You killed Ahmed! You bastards!”

    Good to know Jacob’s posts can be safely skipped.

    Isaac, the transparency of Rangel’s gambit is obvious to anyone who is determined to avoid reality. Blah blah blah “property of the state,” the same old bullshit you write about the evil Democrats. But here’s the problem – the Democrats and liberals, the people you claim believe people are the property of the state – are the ones who organized against the draft during Vietnam, and whose horror at the draft was so obvious in the past election. In the meantime, the strongest language against the draft that Republicans – those stout defenders of individual freedome – could muster amounted to variations of “a draft wouldn’t actually boost our military capabilities at this time.”

    So yes, Isaac, your political model would predict that liberals would support a draft and the conservative right would oppose it on moral grounds. Thank you for such an effective demonstration of the worthlessness of your model of politics.

  19. “It doesn’t take a war to fuel my bicycle”

    LOL. I wonder if the person who came up with that bumper sticker realized that bikes don’t have bumpers.

  20. Yo, idiot, we all know that Rangel put forth a draft bill. The converation is about why he did so.

    Try to keep up.

  21. joe,

    Rangel’s posturing becomes more problematic when you take into account that some anti-war groups have used his bill as “evidence” that the administration is going to resume the draft.

    Also, do you seriously think that if a Democratic president got bogged down in one of his wars, and a draft was needed to replenish the armed forces, that the Democrats would be against it?

    Remember, it was a Republican president who suspended the draft.

  22. Dude, get on board, it’s so we’re all united against the man and his army! Why else would good ole Charlie wanna draft poor kids without even letting them have a college exemption. He’s a brainy old guy, he knows that nazi bush and his evil buddies will keep on killing those poor victims of Evil Amerikkkan guns without the majority of the country marching aginst him!

    man, what a fool you are! See the truth!

  23. A draft is extremely unlikely for all sorts of reasons, among them the fact that it is highly unpopular politically, unwanted by the military, and would be incredibly expensive. The administration, despite its preemptive war policy and the fact that we are already engaged in one major conflict, is not even willing to expand the regular military let alone resort to something as drastic as a draft.

    Virtually everyone not associated with the administration agrees that the Army is overstretched, particularly the National Guard and Reserve elements. But most don’t want to do anything about it. Expanding the military would cost money — lots of money — money that would then not be available to waste on all sorts of domestic programs and pork projects that are popular with both parties. Unless of course taxes were raised, another tremendously unpopular proposition. So instead we will continue to stretch the Army to the limit and hope we can do so indefinitely.

  24. “Rangel’s posturing becomes more problematic when you take into account that some anti-war groups have used his bill as “evidence” that the administration is going to resume the draft.”

    Some of this appears to be just as cyncial as Rangel’s bill itself. Buy yeah, “some anti-war groups” are pretty dense and/or hysterical.

    “Also, do you seriously think that if a Democratic president got bogged down in one of his wars, and a draft was needed to replenish the armed forces, that the Democrats would be against it?”

    First, I can’t see a Democratic president getting into a big enough war that the need for draft could even be a possibility, unless it was directly related to the defense of the US, in which case, there would be no shortage of volunteers. Democrats, being Democrats, just don’t see the expansion of American hegemony via war as legitimate national defense, either morally or strategically, so for your hypothetical to work, you’d have to postulate a Democratic Party completely different from the one we’ve got.

    But if a Democratic president were to move towards a draft, the party would revolt, big time. Think of what happened when GHW Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge; this would be bigger. The opposition within the Democratic Party to the draft is stronger than the opposition in the Republican Party to taxes.

    I am a lifelong Democrat, a patriotic American, and a government employee. If they ever tried to bring back the draft, and it wasn’t thrown out by the courts as “slavery or involuntary servitude,” I’d throw Molotovs into (empty) recruitment offices. What does that tell you?

  25. David, John Kerry proposed increasing the active duty military by 40,000 people, and ending the “back door draft” of IRR callups, repeated tour extensions, and activation of support units as de facto infantry units.

    As ususual in political campaigns, he didn’t exactly explain where the money would come from. Reading between the lines, however, he was talking about shifing funds from hardware acquisition (useless missile defense rollout, anyone?) to personnel.

    But you know, he looked French, so now these guys get to spend another year away from their kids.

  26. If they ever tried to bring back the draft, and it wasn’t thrown out by the courts as “slavery or involuntary servitude,” I’d throw Molotovs into (empty) recruitment offices. What does that tell you?

    That you are a nut? Seriously Joe, get back on your meds.

  27. Blah blah blah “property of the state,” the same old bullshit you write about the evil Democrats.

    I say the same thing about Repuglicons every chance I get.

    I’m referring to Rangel the authoritarian bastard (check his stances on the WOD) not Rangel the Dimmycrap.

    The draft, of course, if it comes will be that delightful combination of RepubliCRAP and DemoCRAP, namely BIPARTISANSHIT. And that stuff always stinks.

  28. “…the Democrats and liberals, the people you claim believe people are the property of the state – are the ones who organized against the draft during Vietnam, and whose horror at the draft was so obvious in the past election…”

    That’s pretty funny joe, the guys that wanted to draft me were LBJ and the Democrat liberal establishment. The guys that were protesting might have been leftists but the weren’t part of that.

  29. And as long as we pretend the Democratic Party hasn’t changed its stances on anything in the past 30 years, we can pretend you make some sense.
    If you have go back before my birth to prove your point, you’ve pretty much conceded it.

  30. I am a lifelong Democrat, a patriotic American, and a government employee.

    That’s priceless.

    Seems a stretch to equate the anti-Vietnam activists with the present-day Democrats. Or, maybe not, as the conventional wisdom has the Dems under the spell of the more lefty wing of the party. I imagine some of those antiwar youths grew up and turned Republican. Maybe one or two even went libertarian. 🙂

    The left seems resistant to accomodate the sizeable minority actually thinks Iraq is a good idea. Good non-crazy people can see the same situation differently.

    I suggest the long-term effects on recruitment depend on the outcome of the war. If we “win”, the suffering will be seen justified.

  31. So the president runs a campaign in which he swears, on a daily basis, that there are enough troops in Iraq, when he opponent asserts otherwise. Four weeks after the election, he “discovers” that there aren’t enough troops in Iraq.

    Quick, somebody come up with some tortured reasoning why this doesn’t count as a lie.

    I’ll be happy to oblige!

    To begin with, our Leader, Brave and True, has Moral Clarity and would never….

    Aw, hell, let’s just skip that part.

    OK, let’s say that every day somebody tells you “It’s going to rain.” Most days it doesn’t rain, but eventually it does. That doesn’t mean our weather prophet actually had any special insight that led him to the right conclusion on the days when it rained.

    Likewise, when John Kerry said we needed new troops he was wrong. At the time we didn’t. But things have changed. Now we do. So Bush was right then and right now!

    What’s changed since Election Day? Well, this might sound cynical to all you wimpy liberals, but the simple fact is that Bush was re-elected so now he can make tough choices without having to worry about the Democrats’ fanatical obsession with bringing down our Commander in Chief during a time of war! And the 2 worst offenders, who have been more wrong more often than any others, are the 2 liberal Senators from Massachusettes.

    Oops, channeled a little Zell Miller there.

    Anyway, I think it’s obvious that the Dear Leader didn’t lie. He simply responded to changing circumstances. But I guess that’s too nuanced for you Democrats!

    ;->

    (And if anybody thinks I was serious in that post, you need to understand that I am the second most sarcastic person on this forum, the first being Douglas Fletcher.)

  32. Shinseki wasn’t cashiered. Somebody stripped of his rank by a court martial has been cashiered. The term was derived from depriving an officer of his pension–Shinseki retired with full honors and benefits (modulo some snubs).

  33. Oh, and it must be true that the Democrats would support a draft. Why? Because the Democrats would be much worse! 😉

  34. “So the president runs a campaign in which he swears, on a daily basis, that there are enough troops in Iraq, when he opponent asserts otherwise. Four weeks after the election, he ‘discovers’ that there aren’t enough troops in Iraq.

    “Quick, somebody come up with some tortured reasoning why this doesn’t count as a lie.”
    –joe

    I believe the correct term is “November surprise.”

    And BTW, they don’t need a draft because once you sign a piece of paper of any kind with the armed forces, you’re their property for life.

  35. First, I can’t see a Democratic president getting into a big enough war that the need for draft could even be a possibility,

    Are you freakin kidding me? Iraq didn’t look like much more of a “big war” than Kosovo. What if there had been an insurgence there?

    And as long as we pretend the Democratic Party hasn’t changed its stances on anything in the past 30 years, we can pretend you make some sense.

    While at the same time you assume that the Republican party has changed its stance, despite its statements to the contrary.

  36. Ok joe the dimmycraps will never bring back the draft (if they ever get back into power). But that NATIONAL SERVICE will blow just as bad.

    I’m not saying the repuglicons won’t bring back a draft it it suits them (they probably would). You apparently are such a true believer that you are convinced in spite of historical evidence that your beloved dimmycraps won’t.

    “And as long as we pretend the Democratic Party hasn’t changed its stances on anything in the past 30 years…”

    I’m sure that everyone else noticed that you were the one who brought up the Vietnam era draft.

  37. I am a lifelong Democrat, a patriotic American, and a government employee.

    joe, not only do I disagree with you frequently, but I think you could use a better PR guy. 🙂

  38. The Bush=Liar thing continues to trouble me. Sure, he’s weasly, but by the non-satirical version of thoreau’s jab, he’s not a liar. I wish there was a different, more accurate term.

    But screaming Liar! plays well in the sandbox. Guess I’ll have to accept it.

  39. crimethink,

    I’m as skeptical of joe’s assurances that everything would have been peachy under a Kerry Administration as the next self-respecting libertoid, but Kosovo was clearly a much more limited war, fought entirely from the air. While it wasn’t impossible that it could have devolved to the kind of situation we now have in Iraq, it didn’t and that wasn’t any more suprising than the current situation in Iraq is surprising.

    OTOH, you’re right about The Phantom Planet, it does rock! 🙂

  40. So the president runs a campaign in which he swears, on a daily basis, that there are enough troops in Iraq, when he opponent asserts otherwise. Four weeks after the election, he “discovers” that there aren’t enough troops in Iraq.

    Quick, somebody come up with some tortured reasoning why this doesn’t count as a lie.

    So in the run-up to elections in Iraq, the president maintains the current troops levels there in spite of evidence that insurgents plan to bring violence to a climax at the end of January in order to cause maximum disruption.

    Quick, somebody come up with some tortured situation in which joe doesn’t describe this as evidence that ‘the president won’t admit mistakes.’

  41. “Quick, somebody come up with some tortured situation in which joe doesn’t describe this as evidence that ‘the president won’t admit mistakes.'”

    Why would Joe need to point it out? Not admitting mistakes is one of Bush’s best known character traits. He said himself that a leader should never admit mistakes. It’s one of his “philosophies.”

  42. Thanks, Les.

    So for every policy Bush is currently pursuing, our playbook is as follows:

    If he continues on the same policy, accuse him of being unable to admit mistakes.

    If he makes a change, accuse him of lying previously.

    It’s a win-win!

  43. “Iraq didn’t look like much more of a “big war” than Kosovo.”

    I think you must have typed something wrong. You can’t possibly be saying the Iraq mission and the Kosovo mission looked like they would require the same amount of military force. How do you carry out an insurgency against air power, anyway?

    “I’m not saying the repuglicons won’t bring back a draft it it suits them (they probably would). You apparently are such a true believer that you are convinced in spite of historical evidence that your beloved dimmycraps won’t.”

    Isaac, please remind me, who was the last Democrat elected to the presidency? Oh, yeah, a draft-dodging anti-Vietnam War protestor – you know, the one with the reputation as a political moderate. And who was the last Democrat nominated to run for president? Oh, yeah, a big league anti-Vietnam War protestor. Um, yeah, I’m going to go way out on a limb and say the Democratic Party has changed its foreign policy and military positions since Lyndon Johnson.

  44. Thus the “Blue Dogs” feeling abandoned by their party.

  45. Josh,

    I think we should accuse Bush of lying only when he does so (and he has, rather often). I wouldn’t accuse him of being unable to admit mistakes just for sticking to his policies. It’s not that he’s “unable” so much as he’s unwilling. He told the Bush family biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, that a leader should never admit mistakes. I don’t agree with that point of view, but I don’t think it’s really controversial that he feels that way.

  46. To be serious for a moment, I wouldn’t be calling Bush a liar if I thought that this decision truly was based on events that happened between Nov. 2 and today. I wouldn’t even be calling Bush a liar if I thought that it was a reaction to new insights achieved between Nov. 2 and today.

    However, in the absence of any evidence of a genuine change in the situation, I default to the assumption that a politician lied. (I realize this may come as a shock to some people on this forum.) I think the administration knew, or at least suspected, that more troops would be necessary, but refused to discuss the possibility during the campaign, and instead insisted that no more troops were needed to achieve the administration’s goals.

    Sure, this would hardly make Bush remarkable (a politician who made unrealistic promises? Gee, what were the odds?), but since Bush and his sycophants are incapable of admitting that the Dear Leader has ever deceived anybody about anything, I shall continue to revel in pointing out that he is no better than any other politician when it comes to honesty. Face it, folks, Captain Flightsuit is not some super-human hero possessed of Moral Clarity, Great Vision, Supreme Courage, and Infinite Wisdom. He’s just another politician who has somehow persuaded you that he’s going to transform the world into a Utopia. And you kiss his ass while claiming to be skeptical of the government.

  47. The great thing about posting on Hit & Run is that defending Bush against any one charge is automatically evidence that you would defend him of all charges and are incapable of admitting any fault of his.

  48. Josh-

    I wasn’t referring to you. I was referring to the steady stream of denials that have been posted for the past year and a half by various people every time Bush is criticized for anything related to Iraq. Are some of the criticisms unwarranted? Probably. But the steady stream of denials on every criticism has become a bit much.

    I apologize for including you in the mix.

  49. “Isaac, please remind me, who was the last Democrat elected to the presidency?”

    joe, it WASN’T Charles Rangel, about whom I asked, “Why shouldn’t I take the authoritarian bastard at his word, pray tell?” without ever mentioning his party affiliation*.

    You have chosen to not answer. Instead you litter the path with a bifurcated Evilrep vs Gooddem arguments which have no place for me to take a real position. I think they’re all fucking evil, but I didn’t think I needed to spell that out after all this time

    *Or is this some Freudian slip where you conceded that all Democrats are authoritarian bastards 🙂

    “The great thing about posting on Hit & Run is that defending Bush against any one charge is automatically evidence that you would defend him of all charges and are incapable of admitting any fault of his.”

    You don’t have to even defend bush at all to get joe to call you a bush sycophant, all you have to do is criticize a democrat.

  50. Isaac: That’s joe’s job here. I’ve finally found a lefty forum where I can be the turd in their punchbowl. It’s kind of fun.

  51. Oh for the love of fucking Christ. YES HE KNEW WE NEEDED MORE TROOPS.

    Everyone knows we need more troops. Retarded SIX YEAR OLDS spend their recess talking — very slowly — about how Iraq would go better if we had another 100,000 soldiers there.

    It just wasn’t politically convienent to admit it. Just as it isn’t politically convienent to admit that we never had enough troops for occupation in the first place.

  52. Morat: I agree. If everyone knows you’re “lying” are you really a liar? Maybe you’re an actor instead.

    Part of the political convenience does have, I think, an effect on the military campaign. Telling the public the lies it needs to hear in the face of wartime hardship is part of making war. Those “lies” help keep morale up, etc.

    Would it have been wise for Churchill to tell Britain, “The Nazis have us by the short hairs and if they keep bombing our air defenses much longer, we will lose our capacity to wage war in the skies.”

  53. A hypothetical.

    My cleaning lady comes for two hours a week. This is what we have agreed to.

    One week, my house is particularly messy. I order her to stay in the house and clean for a couple days. If she refuses, I will lock her up in the basement.

    May I do that?

  54. If the contract sez so you can.

    Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, Mr C was a ball buster!

  55. If the contract sez so you can.

    Oooo cool. Sort of like bonded labour.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.