With all the recent discussion on foreign policy, in particular some rather disturbing rhetoric towards war with Iran from President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, along with some very disturbing recent votes supporting this rhetoric by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, I thought it would be good to focus some on a related issue that hasn't got much attention lately - Bush's push, joined by some Democrats to increase the number of our active military. Which isn't surprising from Bush of course, but it is suprising that Democrats are joining in, including some of our presidential candidates also promising to end the war in Iraq.
If we are committed to ending the war, what the hell do we need more troops for? Increasing our military without a legitimate purpose doesn't help us and sends the wrong message to the rest of the world. Fortunately among our presidential candidates there is at least one who isn't buying the Bush/ Pentagon propaganda.
Bush has vowed to increase our military
When Bush first started to talk about increasing the size of the US Military he did it it in the context of Iraq, linking it to the idea of the surge - otherwise known as the "McCain Doctrine":
George Bush says he wants to increase the size of the US military - currently the second largest in the world - to allow America to take on a "long struggle against radicals and extremists".
Speaking at an end-of-year press conference, Mr Bush said he was "inclined to believe" a permanent increase in the size of US forces was necessary. Previously he indicated he wished to boost the Army and Marine Corps.
On the option of sending more troops to Iraq in the short term, he said: "I haven't made up my mind yet about more troops. We're looking at all options, and one of those options, of course, is increasing more troops, but in order to do so there must be a specific mission that can be accomplished."
Of course King George made up his mind pretty quick; the escalation in Iraq happened despite overwhelming public disapproval and little real Congressional opposition. And now it seems doubtful that the so-called surge will end until Bush is out of office. So much for that "specific mission". And Bush's plans to increase the miltary have continued as well - even with the recognition that this troops won't be ready for Iraq and even after abandoning the Pentagon's policy on length of service for reservists.
The Pentagon also announced it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.
So Bush wants to add 92,000 troops. Is that a good thing? Well abstractly it might be as long as we avoid asking why. There are some real problems and a lot of people are wondering what these troops will be used for:
From the Boston Globe:
Despite broad political support for President Bush's plan to expand US ground forces by 92,000 troops, a growing number of military strategists and defense specialists are questioning the need for so many more conventional combat forces.
They say the additional troops will not be available in time to relieve the strain on the Army and Marines from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there has been virtually no discussion in Washington on the purpose for the largest military expansion since the end of the Cold War.
The specialists, who represent a diverse set of viewpoints, fundamentally question whether maintaining a larger standing military -- 547,000 active-duty Army soldiers and 202,000 Marines once the new troops are added -- is the most effective way to fight smaller but lethally innovative groups of Islamic terrorists and other less traditional security threats.
"The global war on terrorism and Iraq are being used as lame rationales for enlarging the military", said retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hoffman, a researcher at the Marine Corps Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities in Quantico, Va. "Unless you think we will have more than six brigades in Iraq in 2012, I don't see how this is relevant."
Even the Washington Post weighed in as well:
This proposal is a bad idea. It is irrelevant to the stresses the Army is experiencing in Iraq. It would build enormous long-term costs into the defense budget, and it presumes a role in the world for the U.S. military that the voters emphatically opposed in November.
And of course as the Globe mentions this all comes with a price tag - spending more money we don't have while we keep giving tax breaks to the richest 1% of Americans who don't need them. More debt on the backs of America's working poor and middle class: