I see that Rudy Giuliani is joining Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton in calling for a larger Army. One can't help but wonder where these troops are supposed to be conjured up from.
Look, they're obviously not going to come from the ranks of the Atlantic Monthly. But Giuliani went into this last night. His theory is that we can expand the size of the army because potential recruits are nowhere near as gloomy about the military as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, when we had a much larger army. From his speech:
The war is not controversial at West Point or the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy. In fact, their applications are up. They told me at the Citadel that they now get a significantly higher percentage of men and women volunteering in the infantry, because they want to be where the action is. … Even the critics of this president would have to admit that whatever the reaction to this situation is, it is not nearly at the intensity of the reaction to the Vietnam War. I hope they would say that, given the level of protests and demonstrations and we don't have soldiers coming back with the lack of morale. Even after the Vietnam War we were able to build that army of 775,000 that we had in the Reagan era. If we could do it then, we could do it now.
Spot the flaw? That's right: in the Reagan era we weren't at war. Grunts who signed up after 1975 and before 1991 figured knew* they would be spending their tours in relatively cushy bases in Western Europe, in Hawaii, in Japan, etc and etc. Giuliani seems to understand this, since he salutes that small population of 18-25 year olds who want to plunge into the suck. There aren't anywhere near enough people like that to build the army back up to Cold War levels.
Also, as Yglesias points out, high school graduates were confronting far darker economic times in the first seven, eight years of the period Giuliani is discussing.
*changed this word on the advice of commenters