This piece is for Doug Miller. His challenge was… well, let me just quote his own words.
…I am worried about the Guard and Reserves running out of Active Duty time….their 24 months have nearly ran out.
I also believe that if you try to extend their Active Duty, you will see a large influx of people leaving the Guard and Reserves.
So, your challenge is to convince me that either I am right to worry, or that Wolfowitz and Rumsfield have the situation covered, and I’m just being silly for worrying about this.
I’m going to cheat a little and pull the politician’s trick of ignoring the question asked and answering the one I want to answer. Doug’s request actually requires a couple things that are impossible: 1) that I possess and pass along inside information about how the government plans to fight this war, and 2) I convince him of something. Instead, I’m going to pretend that Doug asked me to outline some possibilities for resolving the crisis he described.
The first idea I had was to improve retention. Unilaterally extending their active duty time is a rather poor idea. I would suggest replacing the stick of enforced service with a carrot or two. Offer significant incentives to personnel who agree to transfer to active duty from guard and reserve postings. Increase the “combat pay” a bit, and extend it to everyone serving in Iraq, even those not in official “combat” postings. And arrange for further, non-financial benefits — increase the leaves home, arrange for more “rewards” and other morale-boosting activities like USO tours.
The second idea was to give a hard look at just where our forces are currently deployed overseas and re-evaluate our commitments in certain areas. The most recent figures I could find were from 2003, so I’m going to use those.
The first thought I had, even before starting my research, was our forces in Kosovo. When President Clinton first sent our forces into the former Yugoslavia in 1996, he promised that the deployment would be for “months, not years.” We’re right around 100 months since then, so I think it’s time we packed up and left.
Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, we currently only have about 3,000 troops in the region. That’s barely a drop in the bucket to what we need, but it’s a start — as well as a good idea. While we’re at it, we could also pull our forces out of Haiti, too.
Once I actually had the figures, though, I started looking to see where we did have a lot of forces. South Korea and Japan each host about 40,000 US troops, but their main purpose is to remind Kim Jong-Il that he ought to keep his North Koreans North Koreans, and not send them down to South Korea. We might be able to pare off a decent percentage of them, but this is really, REALLY not a good time to show even a hint of weakening resolve over there.
But the biggest concentration of US forces outside of Iraq right now is in Germany. We have about 75,000 troops there, and for no good reason.
Originally, the idea of having that many troops in Germany was to make sure the Nazis were well and truly destroyed. Then, it was to check the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact from simply steamrolling over western Europe. But the Nazis are long gone, as are the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact. In fact, several former members are now members of NATO, and most of the rest want in, too. There simply isn’t a great threat right now where Germany is on the front lines.
Further, the idea was to safeguard western Europe. Most of them simply don’t want our protection any more, and several quite frankly don’t deserve it. Let Germany and France take care of their own back yards. We’ll stick with Great Britain and Italy, where we have over 24,000 troops currently, but the rest can take care of themselves.
I’m no great expert, but I think we could probably yank 90% of our forces out of Germany without putting our security at too much risk. (The harm to Germany’s economy would probably be significant, but that’s not really our concern.) That would put around 67,000 more troops (more than a third of our current total force in Iraq) available for service in Iraq.
Finally, Iraq is having its first national elections this weekend. If the elections turn out to be legitimate (I think they will be, and further I think a turnout higher than our own in the recent national election would be a good yardstick), there will be a valid Iraqi government that can request help from other nations and the UN. (Not that I think that the UN is likely to be very useful, but every little bit helps.) An Iraqi government can push her neighbors in Syria and Iran to cut their support for the “insurgents” currently terrorizing Iraqis. And an Iraqi government can be a lot harder on those terrorists than we, the occupiers/liberators/foreigners/infidels/whatever, can be.
No, it’s not a great solution. But I think it’s workable, and can be a good starting point. Thanks, Doug, for getting me to look at this.
(One final note: I initially promised a minimum of five pieces, and I’ve met that goal. I still have two more pieces I promised — Rightwingsparkle’s discussion reconciling the Religious Right and the South Park Conservatives, and Vanshalar’s questions about gay stereotypes — but I’m not going to get to those before my self-imposed deadline. I’ll try to tackle those by the end of the weekend, I promise.)