Friday, June 21, 2002
Stanley Kurtz thinks the military is against an attack on Iraq because we don't have enough manpower to handle that war and the rest of the war effort, plus deterring attacks on Taiwan, South Korea, etc. He thinks that the reason we're in this bind is that the political class doesn't think America will support a draft, and that a draft would be necessary to achieve the force levels needed to conduct the war properly.
I'm skeptical. First, there's plenty the President could do short of a draft to increase the number of men under arms, and he hasn't done them. Has the President called on our young people to enlist? (Only in the context of various other kinds of service, such as mentoring children or visiting the elderly.) Has he called out the National Guard for domestic duties like protecting nuclear plants, a mission to which they are perfectly well suited, freeing up the regular Army for overseas missions? (Only a small fraction thereof.) Has he called up the Reserves for active duty overseas? Has he asked for appropriations necessary for a larger force structure? The regular Army continues to have recruiting problems, but not the Navy, the Marines or the Air Force. We have nearly 3 million men trained for combat between the active military, the Reserves and the National Guard. We are a long way from needing a draft, and have many ways of increasing the numbers of men in the active military short of picking people off the street at random.
Moreover, the U.S. military would have to completely reorganize to even handle a draft. We'd have to devote far more personnel to training than we do currently. We'd significantly degrade the capabilities of those parts of the military that were inundated with ill-trained and ill-equipped draftees. Frankly, if we need a draft to invade Iraq, we'll have to wait a year even if we instituted a draft today - and even so, I suspect the bulk of the undertaking would be shouldered by Special Forces and Marines who would be least affected by a draft, and are ready for combat now. If you look around the world, there is little correlation between countries with universal conscription and countries with strong militaries. The U.S. has an all-volunteer force and the strongest military capability in the world - by far. Germany has universal military service and has an armed force virtually incapable of combat. The European countries that have universal conscription do so for ideological and cultural reasons, not for reasons of manpower - the programs are largely a drain on readiness rather than a military asset.
Eleven years ago the United States defeated an Iraqi force three times its current size in 100 hours with virtually no casualties to hostile fire. It was a turkey shoot. Unless we are absolutely unwilling to take casualties - which would make this whole discussion of the draft truly superfluous - we could take down the Iraqi military with far fewer troops today. Saddam Hussein may personally have his neck on the line this time, but why should that matter to his military forces, who surrendered in droves when brought face to face with American armor? The high-end-estimates that are being thrown around are that the United States would need 200,000 troops to defeat Iraq. That's less than half the deployment of Desert Storm, and in 1991, while we had a larger force overall, we also had substantially more reason to retain large forces in Europe that are far less crucial today.
Occupying Iraq for a lengthy period would indeed require a great many troops. That's one major reason why we want to have a positive diplomatic environment for the war, and support of a broad coalition: we want to be able to draw on these nations' troops, under American command, to police Iraq after a largely American force conquers the country. We most likely would need a draft in the event that the "Clash of Civilizations" materializes: the whole Muslim world unites to fight the United States. Avoiding such a scenario is indeed another reason why we are being so delicate about pre-war diplomacy. It is a scenario that we would want to avoid regardless of whether we had the force structure to handle a world war; the United States had a far larger force in Vietnam, composed to a great extent of draftees, but we still didn't invade the North for fear of involving the Chinese and/or the Russians directly.
But the biggest reason, I'm convinced, of why we have not attacked Iraq yet is: our President is relying on the advice of people who are responsible for the failed Iraq policies of the past decade, and these people have a psychological and institutional interest in portraying an Iraqi campaign as dangerous to hopeless. If taking on Iraq turns out to be easy, these people will look like fools for temporizing all this time. So, while these individuals would never consciously act against American interests, they convince themselves that their individual and bureaucratic interests are in fact in-line with American interests. Until folks like George "Kimmel" Tenet and Colin "McClellan" Powell are cashiered, it will be clear to those who have their own reasons for opposing war that reflexive opposition to the use of American force is no impediment to advancement. And we'll continue to get leaks about how America is not ready to take on a two-bit dictator with no allies whose military has been decimated and whose territory is already half controlled by hostile forces.