Kerry For More Troops, Against Troop Call-Ups

Boston GlobeKerry blasts Bush for military call-ups

Senator John F. Kerry’s campaign yesterday seized on the Pentagon’s call-up of thousands of former soldiers for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to step up its charge that the Bush administration’s management of the military has left the Army spread dangerously thin. The move demonstrated the Kerry campaign’s increasing willingness to engage Bush on what had been the president’s perceived strength, his handling of national security.

Kerry advisers contend that the call-up of the Individual Ready Reserve is the result of a series of bad decisions and poor war planning by Bush and his top advisers. His campaign released a ”fact sheet” and brought forward a retired Air Force chief who campaigned for Bush in 2000 to reinforce its claims. ”The troops are paying the price for arrogant mismanagement and poor planning at the civilian policy level,” retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrilll ”Tony” McPeak, a Kerry adviser, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. ”The force we have in Iraq today is part of what I call an in-between force — too small to solve the problem and too big to be supported by our force structure.”

While I’m sure McPeak understands strategy, I’m not sure that an Air Force guy is the one to talk to about troop levels, since most blue suiters spend their entire career managing nothing bigger than a flight crew.

Regardless, Kerry has been calling for more troops in Iraq for months. Where is it that he thinks they’re going to come from? It’s not like we can simply crank out experienced soldiers in critical skill levels. The IRR is a repository for just such a purpose: a short term shortage caused by an operational surge.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor 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. Jem says:

    To be fair, most Air Force GENERALS (because about 70% or so are pilots) spend large parts of their careers managing no group larger than a flight crew. Many other Air Force officers, however, who have no hope of reaching such exaulted status, are experienced in managing significant groups of people. Further, virtually all officers who become generals serve as commanders at squadron and group level (and many also at wing level) before they get their stars.

    Few in the Air Force, however, get as much opportunity to lead large groups as their Army and Marine Corps peers do…

    Finally, there are plenty of retired general officers who have greater respect from the people of the Air Force than “Crypt Keeper” McPeak…

  2. DC Loser says:

    Amen to Jem about McPeak. I was there when he instituted the “manly man” V-neck white T-shirts, the airline pilot uniforms, etc. That was the signal that the fighter pilot mafia was back in charge after the Cold War was over and the SAC guys went into terminal decline.

  3. Jeff Begley says:

    It may be true that an Air Force General has managed a large number of people sometime in his career. However, the man has no concept of ground force operations to the extent that he should be a presidential advisor (God forbid Kerry get that far). The IRR call-up is an Army call-up.

    The Air Force has little part in stability operations and is primarily a damage and transport tool. It’s very hard for a jet to provide round the clock security or rebuild a pipeline.

    I have to agree with Mr. Joyner on this one. McPeak is not qualified to be speaking on this matter.

  4. DC Loser says:

    I’ll cut McPeak some slack here. By virtue of his seat on the JCS, he had insight into how the entire DoD operated as a whole. He had a say in how operations were run at the joint staff level so his knowledge about how the different services worked together is better than any of ours here. He might be vain and arrogant, but he’s not stupid.

  5. Jeff Begley says:

    I’m going to have to argue that one, too. McPeak had only four years experience at the joint level. He does not have a single stability operation under his belt. His only experience with modern combat operations was Desert Storm where we didn’t stay and rebuild.

    I’ve had seven years of nothing but Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. I believe I could make a good argument that I have more experience in this arena that a JCS Air Force General. I know I can win an argument about current experience.

    He’s smart but out-dated. His last class attendance was in the late 70s and his last published article was in 1990 with his career ending in 1994. The man is now out of his depth to be speaking about ground requirements and policy. The entire face of war and SASO has changed since 9/11.