Thanks to pandora from BCF for pointing this out to me:
While the secretary of defense's long-standing goal of transforming the planet's most powerful military into its highest-tech, most agile, most futuristic fighting force has, in the words of the Washington Post's David Von Drehle, "melted away", the very makeup of the armed forces has been mutating before our collective eyes under the pressure of the war in Iraq. This actual transformation has been reported, but only in scattered articles on the new recruitment landscape in the United States.
Last year, despite NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), professional bull-riding and Arena Football sponsorships; popular video games that doubled as recruiting tools; television commercials dripping with seductive scenes of military glory; a "joint marketing communications and market research and studies" program actively engaged in measures to target for military service Hispanics, dropouts and those with criminal records; and at least US$16,000 in promotional costs for each soldier it managed to sign up, the US military failed to meet its recruiting goals.
The use of IRR and stop-loss are hurting recruitment numbers more than anything else. Recruiters were able to gloss over the IRR commitment in the past (back in the day when I first enlisted) because it was never used. "World War III" was listed as the circumstance under which I'd get called back under IRR. This is hardly WW III, despite Newt's contention that it is, but we're still pulling people back from IRR. People see that.
I think there are a number of people out there who would be willing to serve in the Army and even go to Iraq as long as they know how long their commitment actually is. IRR being used takes that away, and if they really want to improve recruitment numbers they need to start by doing away with the standard eight year IRR commitment so that people know that they're done when their contact expires.
But the things that trouble me are the recruitment of gang bangers and white supremacists, which I've covered in earlier entries, and the hiring of mercenaries by DynCorp and Blackwater, et al. Here's an article from October of last year in The Nation:
Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.
My heart swells.
Mercenaries are a natural result of manning shortages in the military. Traditionally though, governments only rely on mercenaries after they've maxed out potential conscripts. This is because the problems associated with mercenaries outweigh the short-term political fall-out from holding a draft. No less an authority than Nicolo Machiavelli writes in The Prince:
Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were.
But apparently this isn't a problem to this crowd. Losing Congress to the Democrats is.
Again, I hate to be redundant, but we've got a lot of chickens waiting to come home to roost. As bad as things are now, they're going to get a lot worse, and they're going to stay that way for the next twenty years. We have no idea what the fall-out from George and Dick's Excellent Adventure in Iraq is going to be, but I'm starting to see some potential troubles already.
This kind of stuff is why I can only blog with some wine in me. Most of the time, I'd just rather not think about it.