"Troops are paying the price for arrogance"


Stephen W. Stromberg
June 30, 2004 11:27PM (UTC)

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and former Air Force Gen. Tony McPeak had some choice words for the president a day after the Bush Administration announced that it would dip into the Inactive Ready Reserve to fill gaps in active military units. On a Kerry campaign conference call, both described it as a "failure of planning," calling the Administration's approach to preparing for reconstruction "faith-based." Levin accused the president of "trying to [rebuild Iraq] on the cheap," and hit home the inconsistencies between Bush's campaign rhetoric in 2000 and his practice after his inauguration. Remember how Clinton had "hollowed out" and "overextended" the armed forces? As Levin puts it, "if it was overextended then, it is way, way overextended now." The Michigan senator also complained about Bush's past resistance to increasing the size of the armed forces.

Gen. McPeak, who headed the 1996 Dole-Kemp campaign in Oregon and served as a veteran for Bush in 2000, was just as incendiary. "Troops are paying the price for arrogance," he said. He also labeled the troops stationed in Iraq an "in between force" -- too small to do the job, but too large to be serviced by the existing military support structure. "The Administration has managed to createa situation where we are both ineffective and overextended." He added, "From the beginning, this administration has been determined not only to pursue bad policy, but to be as unpleasant about it as possible." Asked about the possibility of a draft, the general said that the Bush administration needs to either "double the force," which would require conscription, or "get out" and appeal to allies to provide a large, stable troop presence in Iraq. McPeak says he is now a registered independent and a foreign policy advisor for John Kerry.

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But Gen. McPeak isn't the only one raising the specter of a draft lately. From the San Francisco Chronicle today: "[Republican Sen. Chuck] Hagel, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, said he agrees with President Bush that the duration of the war on terror might be measured in generations and that to sustain the badly overstretched military for the struggle, a new draft may be needed.

"'We are seeing huge cracks developing in our force structure,' he said. 'The fact is, if we're going to continue with this, we're going to have to be honest with the American people.'" A draft may be politically infeasible, but the fact that it's being seriously discussed as a solution to America's thinned ranks says something about the kind of trouble we're in.


Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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