Call for More Troops II
The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) missions and challenges.
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. . . There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces. For example, just late last month, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, reported that “overuse” in Iraq and Afghanistan could be leading to a “broken force.” Yet after almost two years in Iraq and almost three years in Afghanistan, it should be evident that our engagement in the greater Middle East is truly, in Condoleezza Rice’s term, a “generational commitment.” The only way to fulfill the military aspect of this commitment is by increasing the size of the force available to our civilian leadership.
The administration has been reluctant to adapt to this new reality. We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government. . . We can afford the military we need. As a nation, we are spending a smaller percentage of our GDP on the military than at any time during the Cold War. We do not propose returning to a Cold War-size or shape force structure. We do insist that we act responsibly to create the military we need to fight the war on terror and fulfill our other responsibilities around the world.
The men and women of our military have performed magnificently over the last few years. We are more proud of them than we can say. But many of them would be the first to say that the armed forces are too small. And we would say that surely we should be doing more to honor the contract between America and those who serve her in war. Reserves were meant to be reserves, not regulars. Our regulars and reserves are not only proving themselves as warriors, but as humanitarians and builders of emerging democracies. Our armed forces, active and reserve, are once again proving their value to the nation. We can honor their sacrifices by giving them the manpower and the materiel they need.
I was initially against increasing the troop levels, but a better understanding of the way the military operates, such as how people are cycled in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, has made me rethink my initial assumptions. Before the War on Terror, before 9/11, and in the aftermath of the Cold War, a solid case could be made for “downsizing” the military. Since 9/11, our foreign policy goals have changed and it seems it would behoove the Pentagon and the Bush Administration to also adjust. Am I saying that more troops will enable us to be a more effective (gasp) EMPIRE? No, and I refuse to get into semantical games over the definition of empire. (I think the recent elections in Iraq and Afghanistan give proof to the motives of the “American Empire.”) Instead, as one who believed in the ideal of spreading freedom as expressed by the President in his Inaugural Address, I think that all of the tools for effecting that spread of freedom — be they diplomatic, political or military — are necessary. Simply put, more ground troops will allow the U.S. to cover more ground.