Monday, May 12, 2008

Notes on our overstretched military 

More than six years into a world war, Americans still answer the call:

The Marine Corps far surpassed its recruiting goal last month and could eventually be more than a year ahead of schedule in its plan to grow the force to 202,000 members.

All military services met or exceeded their monthly recruiting goals in April, with the Marine Corps signing 142 percent of the number it was looking for, the Pentagon said.

The Army signed 101 percent of its goal, recruiting 5,681 against a goal of 5,650. The Navy and Air Force met their goals — 2,905 sailors and 2,435 airmen.

The Marine Corps enlisted 2,233 recruits against a goal of 1,577.

"The Marine Corps, if they continue to achieve the kind of success they have had, could meet their growth figures more than a year early," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters. That would mean by around the end of 2009.

Yes, parts of the economy are much slower, so if your first idea was to swing a hammer building McMansions you definitely need a plan B. That said, you still have to marvel at the success of recruitment in the teeth of an unpopular war that is still producing casualties.

I wonder three things. First, we are in the middle of a presidential election in which even the anti-war candidates repeatedly claim to "support our wonderful troops". Perhaps that is rubbing off -- I mean, if you have heard nothing but praise for our military from politicians of all stripes for years on end, maybe you might actually absorb the idea that military service is a meaningful and respectable way of life. Second, perhaps new recruits have become a bit desensitized to the risk of combat. After all, we have been at war a long time against a tough enemy in a very difficult part of the world, and notwithstanding predictions to the contrary the numbers of killed and permanently injured remain relatively low as a percentage of the total exposed to the risk. Perhaps new recruits today are more willing to confront the personal risk than during -- say -- 2005, when recruitment swooned under the press of the war. Finally, I wonder whether the apparent success of the new strategy under David Petraeus is also helping recruitment. It is obviously more appealing to join the military if you can believe that its leadership knows what it is doing.

In any case, it is gratifying to see the good news. How high will its profile be in tomorrow's New York Times?


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon May 12, 07:43:00 PM:

Don't forget word of mouth. People's cousins, brothers, sons, and so forth have had time to enlist, serve a full tour of duty, and re-enlist, and they tend to be infinitely more trustworthy and pro-military than anything the media reports. People notice. Also, life in the Army is better than it used to be.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 12, 09:01:00 PM:

How high will its profile be in tomorrow's New York Times?

When you find the answer to this question, I hope it won't be as a result of buying the paper! Stop giving them money until after they've mended their ways.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Tue May 13, 12:58:00 AM:

It is data like these which so effectively put the lie to the Left's cherished narrative that only deluded, underprivileged chumps would allow themselves to be had by wily recruiters, peddling a Lie. This chestnut is apparently all that the Left has left, having seen the well-deserved blowback from previous troop-smearing tactics.

The alternative --that a sizeable number of intelligent, wide-awake Americans see the need to defend our highest ideals against ruthless, benighted foes-- is wholly unacceptable to the denizens of Leftopia. And so, in the 'finest' tradition of Progressives everywhere, they simply and willfully fail to see it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 13, 11:13:00 AM:

Look at those Marine Corp requiting numbers... I guess Code Pink's action in Berkeley has sorta backfired on them.  

By Blogger mythusmage, at Tue May 13, 11:34:00 AM:

I have to wonder, how many people have the services turned down? We could have so many volunteers our military is able to tighten standards while still reaching or exceeding their goals.

Also, keep in mind that these new recruits won't really be ready for duty for another year. With the Iraqi military improving day by day, in a year the need for American troops in Iraq is likely to be substantially lower than it is now. Where might these new fighting men (and women) be serving? Iran, North Korea, Russia?  

By Blogger The Snob, at Tue May 13, 11:42:00 AM:

IIRC the Marines have more or less met goals throughout the Iraq War. The reason is simple: some young men (and a very few young women) want real Adventure, combat is one of the last places it can easily be found, and if you want to smell cordite, the Corps is probably your surest bet.

It is of course socially unacceptable, even for the military, to talk too openly about this in their recruiting. The only sort of acceptable warrior in our culture is a reluctant one, and of course, War is Hell, but that's hardly a complete and honest picture. I still think the DoD could do a great campaign hitting college campuses with a message of "So you really want to get out there and change the world? You're not going to do it sitting in an office park!"  

By Blogger The Snob, at Tue May 13, 11:48:00 AM:

Oh, forgot to add--was talking to a junior in Army ROTC the other day, who is attending a top-25 university. Very, very smart kid. Told me that he's worried that by the time he graduates, "there won't be any turkey left for me."

From time immemorial up until WWI at least, valor and success in battle was one of the ways a young man could advance his position in society. The US, having been spared the existential horrors of the world wars, has never entirely lost this sensibility, which remains somewhat alive in Britain and quite so in Israel.  

By Blogger Derf, at Tue May 13, 04:18:00 PM:

I have a friend, a New York denizen, who tells me how terrible he feels about the war in Iraq and the people serving there. My arguments that:
1. They are all volunteers (he sent me a book written by one person with an other-than-honorable discharge complaining how he was fooled by his recruiter)
2. The casualty rate is very low ... perhaps even lower than if they were engaged only in training operations
3. It's the time of their lives

My friend is an avowed capitalist who believes in supply-demand and other economic theories. I do not know how he explains that there has been and is a very good supply of people willing to serve. You would think, some how, that if it was all so bad that the supply would be self-limiting, no?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 14, 06:32:00 AM:

Did the lower requirements level (school degree, criminal record, etc) for new recruits are not working here?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 14, 08:59:00 AM:

I proudly served as a United States Soldier for 30years, until I retired in 2006. Leftwingnuts can piss and moan all they'd like, but there are reasons, other than 'economics' as to why kids emlist. Believe it or not many of them, like me, come from families who had relatives who served. When I was a kid, I was taught that if you appreciated your freedom, you helped to protect it. The Army has always taken the brunt of any conflict America fought. The current W.O.T. is no different. In spite of that, kids flock to the recruiting office daily. It's an all volunteer Army and it drives the moonbats crazy.



By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat May 24, 07:08:00 PM:

for something different, see "Army Wrong" http://www.armywrong.net  

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