Kevin Drum links an interesting article by Michael O’Hanlon calling for more “boots on the ground” in Iraq.

Past experience in the Balkans and elsewhere shows that, in late 2004, we will probably need about two-thirds the number of international troops in Iraq as we have there now. But our rotation base will be depleted by then. That means we will have to take the unthinkable step of sending back to Iraq people who returned from there a year before. Many American soldiers, as dedicated as they are, will choose not to reenlist rather than accept such an unpalatable–and, frankly, unfair–demand upon them and their families.

The Army’s brutish deployment math specifically works like this. Sixteen of its 33 active-duty combat brigades (there are typically three brigades per division) are now in Iraq; another two are in Afghanistan; two more are in Korea; one more is in the Balkans. That leaves only 12 available for other missions, and most of those are now preparing to go to Iraq.

O’Hanlon thinks we need another division to handle this.

In related news, WaPo reports that the 3rd ID is home after 9 months in Iraq. They apparently got out in thenick of time, as CENTCOM has now announced standard one year tours.

Expanding the size of the Reserves isn’t the answer, as what’s needed is actual folks on active duty. Reservists are for emergencies and doing occupation duty isn’t an emergency, it’s an everyday manning requirement.

But even if we decide the answer is a larger active duty force, this isn’t something we can conjure out of thin air. Assuming we can provide sufficient recruiting incentives, we can get the necessary privates in a matter of months. But where are the NCOs and officers going to come from?

Further, we don’t want our force to consist of large numbers of people who stand around doing guard duty. That’s rather a waste of a 4th Generation military. Clearly, the “answer” is to recruit massive help from friendly forces, preferably from the LDCs. This answer, of course, brings with it some feasibility problems of its own that will need to be solved, but it’s the only logical solution I can think of. Obviously, we’ll still have to pay for the cost of their deployment, but they’re cheaper than U.S. forces, could conceivably already speak Arabic, and would add a certain legitimacy to the occupation that Western forces can’t bring.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John says:

    That was essentially my argument for why we needed the UN all along. It’s absolutely insane to think we can manifest the resources from wishful thinking (on both sides of the Bush).