Mike the Mad Biologist has some thoughts about some things that Nancy Pelosi said on Face the Nation over the weekend. In particular, Mike is concerned about Pelosi's declaration that the Democrats support increasing the size of the military:
Do we really need to expand the military? If we weren't bogged down in Operation Iraqi Clusterf**k, we wouldn't need 30,000 additional troops.
[Emphasis in original; minor edit for family-friendliness mine]
Actually, we'd need the troops even if we weren't involved in Iraq. Following the end of the cold war, we massively decreased the size of the military. This was a good idea at the time, and it was, for the most part, well-executed. Unfortunately, in the case of the army the drawdown went just a bit too far - mostly because nobody planned for the possibility that we might need to get involved in long-term peacekeeping operations.
Just so we're clear, I'm not trying to categorize Iraq as peace-keeping. When I use that term, I'm talking about situations like Kosovo - where we still have troops today. (That mission, due to the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, has been taken on by the already overstretched National Guard.) Even before 9/11, the Army had troops in so many different places that people were already concerned about the effects of ever more frequent deployments. Since 9/11, the frequency of deployment has gone from bad to insane.
In my wife's unit (she's now on her second yearlong deployment in three years), there are a number people who are currently on their fourth deployments since late 2001, and there are a couple who have been deployed almost continuously during that period. Iraq is the reason for a lot of that, of course, but Afghanistan has also played a large role. Getting out of Iraq will decrease the deployment frequency somewhat, but not enough.
In the aftermath of Vietnam, the United States moved away from the as-needed conscript force and towards a professional military. In general, this has been a very good idea, but it has also resulted in a need for more people willing to commit to a career in the service than in prior peacetime periods. It's hard to get people to remain committed to a career in uniform when they are forced to be away from their loved ones more than one out of every three or four years. Even if we completely abandon Iraq (and I somehow have problems seeing any scenario that doesn't wind up leaving a few brigades in the Kurdish territory and/or Kuwait as an emergency reaction force), we're still going to have quite a few brigades deployed in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan. Unless we want to keep depending on the Guard for routine active duty in foreign territory, we're going to need a bigger army to sustain that sort of mission.
Although I'm squarely against just about all the aspects of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, and the upcoming Escalation there, and of the planned crushing of Iran...
(Disclosure: I'm not a US citizen)
I agree that the US is free to set its troop levels at whatever it judges adequate to meet its security needs and military comitments at home and abroad.
It is an open secret that the US military has been stretched thin by the Iraq quagmire, and that the WH obsession with Iraq has created equipment shortages, deferred maintenance, and a host of other problems (apart the dire personel situation) in all other US deployments.
For example I expect that US units deployed in South Korea are in sadder shape than they were 5 years ago. Fortunately, there is no nearby country run by a mad dictator armed with nuclear weapons, so unit readiness is none too important there.
My "objections" are purely practical; it would be hard to raise 30,000 new recruits in excess to the current recruiting efforts. And it will cost a bunch of $$$ Billions in wages, equipments, and whatever else a Division costs.
And, of course, those fresh divisions will be used in Iraq, if there's still a country named Iraq in 2008, or could be used in mildly useful endeavors, like peacekeeping in Somalia, or Darfur, or foolish ones, like subduing Iran ...
More Divisions = more US weight to throw around.
Other than that, I have no objections.
IMO, enlistment rates will go up if the military gets back to defending the US instead of demonstrating the infeasibility of neocon world-domination schemes.
I have not followed the subject closely, but I gather that the National Guard performed rather well, giving the lie to the "week-end warriors" clichÃ©.