I seem to have struck a chord with the Ritual of the Streetcorner. I thank everybody who wrote in, both online and off. And yet, I suspect I am not reaching enough people to make this kind of thing worthwhile, timewise. I mean, who is listening, even at blog levels?
Still, opinionating is as addictive as indignation... and indeed, they are cousins. So I doubt I’ll have the will-power to stop.
Hence, the political lamp is lit.
For about two years I have been railing that military readiness should be an issue for the democrats, as it was for JFK in 1960.
Only with a difference. In 1960 the "Missile Gap" turned out to be overstated. But today's hollowing out of the US military -- chivvied and purged, attrited and drained -- is blatant and utterly treasonous. While contractors wallow at the trough, our actual levels of readiness have plummeted to levels not seen since before Pearl Harbor.
Can anyone claim that we would be ready to deal with a surprise attack, a call for help from some ally, or any other kind of emergency now? Better than, say, in the year 2000?
And now this.
Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer Tue Jan 24, 6:43 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.
Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.
As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. "You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan..."
What isn't mentioned is something even worse -- the near demolition of our nation's military reserves and National Guard. The plight of these working men and women, who have trained on weekends and sacrificed their summers, perfectly willing to leap to their country's need in an emergency... who are instead being used as sepoys, sent away from their families -- and the states that might need them in a real crisis (e.g. Katrina) -- is simply awful.
Even those who believe in the Iraq Intervention should admit now that it's "elective surgery" and not an "emergency". After collapss of the WMD and terror arguments, their only remaining rationale is "spreading democracy." Perhaps commendable, but critical?
We can argue the merits of this intervention on that basis. Fine. The professional units are for implementation of national policy. That policy may be ill considered and the top leadership incompetent, but at least one can envision it.
(My own view is “moderate”; I can see both the Balkans Intervention and Afghanistan as legitimate moves in a dangerous world. In both cases, the outcomes justified the judicious application of competent force. Indeed, I even felt that we had a duty to deal with Saddam, eventually, by coming up with a plan that would be calm, efficient, unhurried, ethical, overwhelmingly persuasive and smart.)
Having said all that -- and with a willingness to discuss judicious application of professional units in the skillful pursuit of legitimate national policy -- we are still left with the following observation. By no possible excuse is it forgivable to expend and use up our reserves without a genuine emergency.
Certainly this does not include the administration artificially invoking the words “war” and “emergency,” simply to suit its own purposes. (Would conservatives have swallowed that from Bill Clinton?) Not a self declared excuse, but the real thing.
The kind of crisis that unites a nation, instead of dividing it. (If half the country does not see “war”, or a critical foreign threat, then doesn't a burden of proof fall on those who do?)
The kind of emergency that republicans used to say our military was for, while decrying “adventures overseas.”
The kind of war that -- in all times past -- the rich cared enough about to be willing to help pay for.
The kind of war that we can conceivably fight clear of, with hope that normality may plausibly return. Instead of something so vague -- e.g. a “war on terror” -- that it can be extended forever, so long as anyone out there dislikes us.
The kind of emergency that might suddenly befall us, without warning, out of some semi-random direction. The way those 9/11 planes seemed to crash in upon us out of nowhere, taking by surprise. The kind of shock that we were told we would become MORE ready for, after 2001, instead of much less so.
That kind of emergency is what the reserves and National Guard are supposed to be for.
The Guard and reserves are not meant to be instruments of administration policy, but the robust manifestation of a united citizenry. They are noble remnants of the milita of old, eager to defend, though history shows that militia are far less useful in the projection of imperial power. They are the resiliency that America relies upon, in case we are struck by something that the professional anticipators failed to detect in time.
(Or are Cheney-Rumsfeld telling us that now their grasp of all potential threats is perfect? Need I ennumerate the times they have said that, across forty years, and proved wrong? Oh, tell it to Louisiana. Tell it to the Gulf cities.)
If they are used in the proper way, with maturity and true awareness of what they are for, the Guard and reserves cannot be depleted! Because an aroused America will refill the ranks, the way a unified country always has, whenever real crises erupted in the past! But not this time. Re-enlistments in the reserves are plummeting. More proof that most of us don’t see a crisis. No “war.” We're unconvinced.
What we see is brave and noble and decent militia men and women being used, spent, expended on international elective surgery. On a project that at-best is optional and should be done professionally, efficiently, and ethically, or not at all.
So why are almost no democrats raising these points? These arguments would be effective almost across the breadth of the political spectrum. And thus, they offer a way around Karl Rove’s contrived, artificial and treacherously divisive "culture war."
But political reflexes are dismal. Except for Representative Murtha, and maybe Senator Clinton, who else is speaking up for the abused Guard, or decrying our eviscerated state of readiness? Or standing up for the militia? Are liberals really so reflexive that they cannot even perceive an opportunity to win, the way JFK did, through patriotism?
Alas, it appears they might be.
So Rove is left with his flank protected, knowing that his opponents will not even try exploiting his most calamitous weaknesses, nor turn attention upon his most heinous treason.