Jay Reding.com

Friendly Fire

Out of the Race speculates that Democratic control of Congress will take a toll on the American military:

When all is said and done in connection with the Pentagon management shakeup, the Baker commission report and the Dems actively taking control of the legislative branch, I for one will be watching the reenlistment rate among the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I suspect many troops will opt to return to civilian life if they feel that they no longer have support from the policymakers, rather than be jerked around by people who think like John Kerry. And if the re-up rate goes down, original enlistments will probably decrease, too. Nobody wants to fight in a war that the movers and shakers don’t want to win. That was true in Korea and Vietnam, and it’s true now.

I think he’s right there. The troops support the mission in Iraq. They understand, far better than our chattering classes, what we’re fighting over there. The rates of reenlistment, especially among combat units, has been far higher than what the Pentagon expected. By every measure, America’s fighting men and women have done an incredible job of engaging the enemy in incredibly difficult circumstances.

However, they depend on the support of their government back home, and when the message that the Democrats are sending is that they want to end the mission regardless of what the outcome will be, that has a profoundly demoralizing effect. The Democrats have spend the last three years constantly harping on every aspect of this war — and now they’re in a position where they are supposed to be supporting our troops. Those two positions are irreconcilable.

I do agree that reenlistment will suffer. I think that the result of this will be that the military will end up being less capable in a time when we need to be able to respond to terrorism better. Broken machinery can be replaced, but you can’t replace the leadership that comes from an experienced and effective NCO and officer corps. If we start losing combat-tested soldiers because they’ve lost faith in the political culture, our military will suffer.

One of the chief justifications that the Democrats use for their position on Iraq is that pulling out will help the military. That simply isn’t true — look at how demoralized the military was after the disastrous pullout in Vietnam.

The arguments for withdrawal neither overcome the message that they’ll send to the enemy, nor do they overcome the message we’ll be sending to our own troops. Calling Iraq a “failure” is profoundly disrespectful to those brave Americans and our allies who are doing everything possible to win this war. Saying that it is unwinnable when they know better is equally disrespectful. If our political culture doesn’t support our military culture, we will not be able to fight this current war with the vigor it requires — should that happen, we will all suffer the consequences.

9 responses to “Friendly Fire”

  1. Seth says:

    Ok, newsflash–enlistment is down since we started this war and people are being forced to stay longer already. I’m sure that won’t stop you from blaming it on the Democrats in about Febbruary.

    Talk about demoralizing? What does keeping a failure of a military leader around for months because you don’t want to look bad right before an election do? I’m sure putting the GOP’s political future ahead of sound leadership for our troops does wonders for morale.

    I think you righties need to quit whining. We’re actually going to have some accountability now (you righties love that, right) and there will be pressure to do something in Iraq that actually ummm works. And takes into account the reality of what is happening there.

  2. Seth says:

    And maybe now that the Republicans are out of power we’ll actually start spending money in areas that are actually terrorist targets.

  3. Jay Reding says:

    Ok, newsflash–enlistment is down since we started this war and people are being forced to stay longer already. I’m sure that won’t stop you from blaming it on the Democrats in about Febbruary.

    < a href="http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,114502,00.html":>No, it isn’t.

    Talk about demoralizing? What does keeping a failure of a military leader around for months because you don’t want to look bad right before an election do? I’m sure putting the GOP’s political future ahead of sound leadership for our troops does wonders for morale.

    The troops disagree, as the Times of London already noted.

    I think you righties need to quit whining. We’re actually going to have some accountability now (you righties love that, right) and there will be pressure to do something in Iraq that actually ummm works. And takes into account the reality of what is happening there.

    No, the Democrats want to surrender and hand al-Qaeda the greatest victory they’ve ever been given. Too bad the Democrats are too blinded by the level of idiotic, childish partisanship you’re showing now to even consider the consequences.

  4. Erica says:

    Donald Rumsfeld already gave them the victory. There’s no changing that. It’s time to cut our losses, not keep throwing good blood after bad.

  5. Seth says:

    In case this was deleted:
    One–this is the first year since we started the war that we’ve come even remotely close to meeting recruitment and reenlistment goals. I guess all it takes is a $150,000 reenlistment bonus to get people to sign up for more. But neocons throughout this conflict have tended towards rather odd definitions of success.

    Two–because some member of the military somewhere said something, it does not follow that “The troops think such and such.” It means someone who agrees with your ideological bent is in the military. To the contrary, given the reception that troops have given Rummy in press conferences over the years, I’d say there is a strong argument to be made that “the troops think” it was time for him to go.

    Three–The Democrats are two months away from having a gavel and you’ve come up with about ten posts talking about how much trouble we are in and how the world is pretty much over because Democrats won some elections and then you have the balls to accuse me of being “blinded by the level of idiotic, childish partisanship…to even consider the consequences.” Do you even read what you post on this site?

  6. Jay Reding says:

    One: Reenlistment has always been above set levels throughout this conflict. Enlistment only dipped when the economy got significantly better, which is the way it always has been for military recruiting. Your “$150,000 enlistment bonus” doesn’t exist either.

    Two: I suggest you start talking to members of the military, most of whom support this war. Furthermore, you argue that one interview is not emblematic of the troop’s opinion, then use the single example of one press conference with Rumsfeld in which a soldier asked a question critical of him — a question prompted by a reporter. Your own argument contradicts your subsequent one.

    Three: If you don’t like the content here, leave.

  7. Seth says:

    1.) Only a year ago, recruitment was at its ‘Lowest in Years.‘ Missing goals for several years and then hitting them for one hardly means people are flocking towards the military.

    Using your figures, we have to increase reenlistment bonuses 50%, increase the number of recruiters nearly one-third over two years, increase the age at which people can enlist by 7 years, double the maximum enlistment bonus, and increase the ceiling on hardship pay increases 150% to get people to do what they were doing before Bush became president. Again, if we’re paying people $100,000 to do what they were doing for $70,000 to get the same results, one is hard-pressed to find the broad support you’re claiming.

    2.) I talk to members of the military all the time. My sister is engaged to one. Two college roommates are Marines in Iraq. I’m not sure what you were getting at there, but I’m sure in your insulated dorm room you are able to talk to so many members of the military more than I am that you are the expert. Get off it. And if you think only one solider ever asked Rummy a critical question, you haven’t been paying attention. I suppose all of the generals and military leaders and all of the independent military papers calling for Rummy’s resignation is evidence of some left-wing conspiracy for you, though. Wait, I forgot, Jay Reding is the nationwide expert on what the troops think.

    3.) Just pointing out the pot calling the brown kettle black.

  8. Jay Reding says:

    1.) Except that recruiting shortfall was not out of the ordinary for a time when unemployment is low, nor was it what the media made it out to be. Furthermore, military recruiting has been hitting their targets for some time now. Apparently the media only deems it appropriate to cover military recruiting when it’s going badly, not when it goes well.

    Furthermore, what is wrong with any of those things? Your argument that all of this is because Bush is President is wrong. The military also raised enlistment bonuses when Clinton was President — was that his fault as well? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the military raising bonuses — other employers are having to do the same.

    2.) The plural of anecdote is not data. Furthermore, those “independent military papers” are owned by the newspaper firm Gannett — the same as many regular daily papers. There’s no evidence that their editorial position has anything to do with the majority position of America’s troops.

    Moreover, I haven’t lived in a dorm for several years. Furthermore, I have plenty of friends who are active duty military, including several who have been or are now in Iraq. The majority of them, especially those who have been to Iraq, are more fearful that we’ll leave the job unfinished than anything else. The Times of London report further corroborates that position.

    3.) The idiocy of that statement speaks for itself.

    What did I do to attract such second-rate trolls?

  9. Seth says:

    Think that one was eaten. Again:
    1.) The shortfall in 2005 was the largest recruitment shortfall since 1979. That kind of blows the low unemployment theory right out of the water.
    2.) Earlier this year, the military was forecasting missing goals again. Lowering the standards helped us meet the numbers, but I’m not sure what it does to the quality of our fighting force.
    3.) You can’t criticize someone for providing anecdotal data and then refute him/her with anecdotal data. It makes you look (more) silly. Oh, wait a second. Your ten friends in the military generally agree with something? Put it in stone then! The chorus of generals saying otherwise? Polls showing otherwise? Well, I guess that means nothing in the face of your “my friends say so” argument.
    4.) I’m not saying Bush is the cause of the recruiting problems so much as I’m saying his policies and appointed leaders have lost the confidence of the people and there are therefore fewer people willing to follow him into battle. If you have to pay people more to do something, lower the standards of people you let in and spend more resources attracting people to get the same results, it seems pretty clear that people are less willing to do that thing. Except to partisan Republican hacks.
    5.) Second-rate trolls? Zing! We’ll keep that in mind the next time you start whining about those mean nasty Democrats picking on poor widdle Jay and making him sad.