Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Military duress

While rightwingers continue to delude themselves about the toll the Iraq war is having on our military, the evidence that it has been detrimental keeps piling up.

In order to achieve our recruiting and retention goals we have resorted to offering extravagent bonuses:

There are new signs that an American military in distress is reshaping itself to cope with the destructive fallout of Iraq — and to look beyond it, even as President Bush insists on dispatching Americans to go on fighting and dying there. Young officers have been offered big cash bonuses to stay in an Army struggling to retain them. The Marines, meanwhile, are trying to move out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, a more popular mission where they could focus on America’s real enemies — al Qaeda and its allies, the Taliban — instead of trying to police a civil war.

The unprecedented bonuses — up to $35,000 — are a sign of desperation. Lengthy and repeated tours in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan have created critical shortages of younger officers in such important specialties as military intelligence, aviation — and even in the infantry as more and more men and women choose to leave the service rather than re-enlist. The Washington Post reported that when its expansion plans are factored in, the Army is projecting a shortage of 3,000 captains and majors annually through 2013.

And we have lowered our educational and moral standards for recruits:

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.
During that time, the Army has employed a variety of tactics to expand its diminishing pool of recruits. It has offered larger enlistment cash bonuses, allowed more high school dropouts and applicants with low scores on its aptitude test to join, and loosened weight and age restrictions.
It has also increased the number of so-called ''moral waivers'' to recruits with criminal pasts, even as the total number of recruits dropped slightly. The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army's moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

In the meantime, our military capability is eroding, according to then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace.

Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.
The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

And more recently, the Marine Corps commandant has expressed similar concerns:

Commandant Gen. James Conway said Monday he is concerned about the Marines Corps' ability to respond to security flare-ups around the world on short notice because of the demands put on it by the Iraq war.

But that would be OK if we really had to be in Iraq for the sake of our nation’s security. But is the Iraq war making us safer? Not according to The director of the National Counterterrorism Center:

The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the primary US organization responsible for analyzing terror threats, told NBC News that the nation is probably not "tactically" safer from the threat of terrorism following the invasion of Iraq.
Asked by reporter Richard Engel if the war in Iraq had created a "giant recruiting tool" for terrorists, Center head Scott Redd said that "in the short term, that is probably true. But the question is you've got to look at this, I believe, in the long term strategic view."
"Tactically, probably not," Redd said in response to a question about whether the US is generally safer after having invaded Iraq. "Strategically, we'll wait and see."

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