Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will “temporarily” expand the size of the U.S. Army from 547,000 to 569,000. The new boots on the ground will relieve the strain on overworked combat units.
Of course, the first question is, where are they planning to get 22,000 additional recruits? The Army has already lowered recruiting standards to accept criminals and high school dropouts who wouldn’t been allowed to wear a uniform 10 years ago. Now white supremacists in all their hideously tattooed glory are being allowed to enlist, so that our ambassadors of counterinsurgency and nation-building will be the White Aryan Resistance. What’s left at the bottom of the recruiting pool? A “Dirty Dozen” campaign where prisoners receive pardons in return for fighting in Iraq? Some people have seriously suggested forming an American Foreign Legion from illegal immigrants who would be rewarded with citizenship.
Yet the more troubling question is this: When can we ever expect a peace dividend? The U.S. military has been operating at maximum for six years. Our Vietnamization (I mean Iraqization) program to hand over security responsibilities to the Iraqi military should mean fewer American forces are needed. More troops are headed for Afghanistan, but it seems unlikely that the U.S. force would grow much beyond the current 60,000, if only because of the logistical difficulties of moving supplies through an unstable Pakistan and erratic Central Asian nations.
So if we’re really serious about getting out of Iraq, then the overload on our combat brigades should start to ease. So why the need for 22,000 additional soldiers who may very well be marginal human material? Gates says the increase is temporary. Does that mean we’re going to expand the Army and then chop it down three years from now? I don’t think so.