Today, I offer a conundrum for which I have no easy answer or satisfactory solution. Specifically, in a time when we are fighting two and a half wars, is it now time to consider a return to the military draft? I also wish to preface all of this by urging you to read my earlier blogs arguing against our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not advocating for a larger defense force; I'm simply saying that, if the U.S. intends to continue to pursue these adventurous wars, they are simply not equipped to do it!
During the later stages of my military career I served as a war planner at a major command headquarters. At that time, our foreign policy planners formulated the "maximum capability" level of our military forces which was a 'two and a half war' scenario. I'm not giving anything away here; this was a well publicized strategy and known to anyone who wished to study American foreign policy. Note: Keep in mind these were two "major wars and one regional war"! (Both Iraq and Afghanistan would, historically, be considered "regional" wars.
Without going into detail I will say that, as of the late 1980's our forces were "strained" at best to meet that kind of multi-war potential. Shortly after that the Clinton administration and Congress affected huge defense level reductions which made the "two and a half war" scenario obsolete. Huge troop reductions and base closures and the implementation of an "All Volunteer Force" forced Defense planners to implement strategy that would call for highly mobile troop contingents and an expansion of equipment staging areas in "areas of concern".
When President George Herbert Walker Bush provided an armed response to Sadaam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he was forced to wait for an international contingent of international forces to form in order to assure a successful campaign. This should have been both the State and Defense Departments first "wake-up" call that our forces were not sufficient to meet both department's foreign policy objectives.
The first breakdown came as George W. Bush began waging wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While Senators like McCain argued that insufficient forces were being brought to bear against Iraqi oppostion, it should be noted that the truth is Bush simply did not have sufficient forces available to meet those needs. That's why such heavy participation of National Guard forces were used to meet the war time needs. Even these forces proved insufficent as the Bush adminstration wore out our forces in multiple war time deployments for many units. These shortages also took away our ability to wage full scale efforts against terrorists in Afghanistan.
Contrast our present force stucture with that which existed during the Vietnam War era, a time when the military draft was in force. When I deployed to Vietnam the U.S. Air Force had over 800,000 active duty troops in the force. Today, the Air Force is barely one quarter of that number! With the exception of the Marine Corp, most of our other military services experienced similar drastic reductions in force.
It's obvious that we cannot continue to expect to wage any war succesfully with current troop levels. While it is true that the quality of the active duty force is superior to that during the draft era, there is simply not enough to go around.
I expect the current budget problems are going to cause a serious re-examination of our capability to fight any further sustained wars as we have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully, some one will wise up and bring our troops home and let those in the Middle East sort it out for themselves. We could more reasonably protect our nation by bring our troops home and beefing up our harbor and border security. Barring that option, the U.S. is going to have to seriously consider a military draft. Our troops have been abused enough, as evidenced by the high suicide rates and frequent social problems associated with too much time spent in an intense combat environment.