Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The US Has Just Begun To Fight

It's in the nature of warfare that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the rabbits bolt. Hence the wailing about US military "overstretch". VDH has performed a comprehensive demolition of this (my emphases). Turns out the US has just begun to fight and has ample capability to fight elsewhere.

But surely, the sky is falling!

Recent dips in Army enlistments also fueled a new conventional wisdom: that the U.S. military is almost dangerously undermanned, exhausted, and overstretched. An unpopular war, domestic opposition, televised casualties, extended service, divorce and social dislocations, an improving economy, and supposed disparity in the sacrifices made by troops of different races and classes have all, it is said, conspired to cut recruitment to the volunteer army and reserves to alarming levels.

You'll be amazed to hear that this alarmism is misplaced!

First, the recruiting problem is overstated.

(The Marines) are about 30 percent of all combat deaths, yet make up only 11 percent of current American forces. But in May the Marines slightly exceeded their recruitment goal. The Air Force and Navy likewise met 100 percent of their requirements. The Army traditionally has had the hardest time meeting its targets, given the reputation — warranted or not — that the other branches offer more specialized training and skills that will better enhance civilian careers without the same level of risk as ground combat.


Second, the (recruiting) year is only half over.

But surely the US army is just too big? No it is not.

...on demographic grounds, our current troop mobilizations are hardly a drain on the U.S. population base. In a country of about 300 million residents, we have about 1.4 million troops deployed worldwide. Yet in 1974, during the first full year of the all-volunteer army, the United States deployed 1.9 million soldiers, drawing on a population of more than 210 million.

OK, but isn't the $ cost unprecedented? Nope.

... in the first full year of the volunteer army (in 1974), military expenditures accounted for 58 percent of discretionary spending, or about 5.5 percent of the gross domestic product. In 2003, when we invaded Iraq with 200,000 troops and conducted reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, we allotted only 49 percent of discretionary spending to defense, some 3.7 percent of GDP.

Yes, but ignoring that, what if the US really cannot afford to spend more?

We still have around 110,000 soldiers in various places in Europe, and these could be cut or deployed closer to the Middle East.

OK, so there isn't a recruitment problem or a people problem or a $ problem and even if there were, there are plenty of soldiers kicking their heels in Europe. But that's not the point! The ones being killed are disproportionately citizen-soldiers and minorities! That's not true.

National Guardsmen constitute about 24 percent of all military personnel but accounted for 16 percent of those lost in Iraq.

Some 95 percent of the fatalities had high-school diplomas, though only 85 percent of all Americans have finished high school.

Blacks and Latinos made up 10.9 and 11.5 percent of the dead, respectively — about their same percentages in the general population, but in the case of blacks less than the 18.6 percent currently serving in the military.

Twenty-nine percent of those who died attended high schools in poverty-stricken areas, versus about a 30 percent poverty rate for all high-school graduates. Seventy percent of those lost were white men, although they currently make up only about a third of the U.S. population.

(I frowned at the last sentence too, then remembered all those white women).

Alright, granted all the above. But surely the losses are just unprecedented? Actually, they are negligible by the standards of our fathers & grandfathers (and that's not to minimize the sacrifices of the men and women who have died).

D-Day cost around 3,000 Allied dead, and another 6,000 were wounded. During the Battle of the Bulge, some 19,000 Americans died and another 60,000 were wounded, missing, or captured. In the first few minutes of Pearl Harbor, about 2,400 Americans perished. And so far the 1,700 killed in action in Iraq make up about 60 percent of those lost on the first day of this war in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

So, I would advise the new Iranian mullah not to relax too much.