Healing a "Stressed" Armed Forces
The President considers a permanent increase of the US Army and Marines. He admonishes the US that the global war against jihadists warrant it. The Joint Chiefs of Staff favor such an increase. Will the public?
President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin to cope with the demands placed on it."I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops -- the Army, the Marines," Bush said in the Oval Office session. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."
The president's decision comes at a time when he is rethinking his strategy in Iraq and considering, among other options, a short-term surge in troop levels to try to secure violence-torn Baghdad. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are resisting the idea during internal debates in part out of the conviction that it will further strain already-pressed forces.
A substantial military expansion will take years and would not be meaningful in the near term in Iraq. But it would begin to address the growing alarm among commanders about the state of the armed forces. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, warned Congress last week that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations. Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, a retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "the active Army is about broken."
The Army has already temporarily increased its size from 482,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 to 507,000 today and soon to 512,000. But the Army wants to make that 30,000-soldier increase permanent and then grow an additional 7,000 soldiers or more per year. The Army estimates that every 10,000 additional soldiers will cost about $1.2 billion a year.
The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee spoke out forcefully today for increasing the size of the Army and Marines, noting that their leaders describe the services as "stretched and strained." "We're going to have to pay attention to this," Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) told reporters. Saying the two services are "bleeding," he added, "I think we have to apply the tourniquet and strengthen the forces. I think that will be a major part of our work."
If the leadership of the US military asks for more soldiers, we the people had better listen. The Iraq war may well be a mess. It's not the only front in which the Jihadists will confront the West. If we want to safeguard our shores and protect our interests--while adhering to the mandates of Just War Doctrine--then we must have an armed forces capable of doing the job.
We can't exercise the unconscionable option of nuking any state that we suspect harbors or enables terrorists. If our armed forces lacks the manpower to adequately protect us, then our leaders may face the choice to defend our society at the cost of all of our souls.
I'm not willing to pay that price. The US must do whatever it can to ensure our military has the assets to accomplish any mission. We would do well to support the request of our armed services for more personnel.