Military Recruiting Crisis

Michelle Malkin highlights the concerns of a milblogger in Iraq called greywar about the shortfalls that the Army and, uncharacteristically, the Marines are having in meeting recruiting goals. He argues that the reason we need such a large force at all is poor intelligence,

If the intelligence picture of Iraq had been more complete the former regime elements who jumpstarted the insurgency would have been captured or killed within days or weeks of the fall of Baghdad largely obviating the need for extensive occupation forces. More extensive intelligence would also result in a smoother occupation by zeroing in on insurgents before they can carry an attack plan to fruition. Success against asymmetrical forces depends more heavily on intelligence indications by an order of magnitude than conventional warfare operations do.

While improvements in the intelligence community are certainly needed–when haven’t they been, really–this oversimplifies the problem. Even phenomenal intelligence doesn’t substitute for the need for manpower. Take, for example, World War II, when the Allies had the ability to intercept and decipher both the German military code and Japanese naval code, Enigma and Magic, respectively. Even with that tremendous advantage, we still had to fight the war at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

Further, it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll ever have the level of intelligence knowledge greywar expects. Even if we had a robust human intelligence (read: spies) program in the Arab world, we’re unlikely to be able to achieve the degree of penetration into terrorist groups and loosely-formed guerrila organizations that would be necessary to give us the information needed to stop attacks before they occur.

Phil Carter analyzes the recruiting situation quite well in two posts on “The limits of the all-volunteer force model [I and II].” He explains quite well the difficulty in recruiting a large force during wartime. Even with increased financial incentives and lowered enlistment standards, we’re not hitting our goals.

While, as outlined in this post and this TCS article, I disagree with his call for a permanent peacetime draft as the solution, the problems are not likely amenable to simple solutions.

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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. ken says:

    This war was lost the day Bush launched it. A report by the official US Army historian says that the US lost control in Iraq three months after the invasion and has never regained it.

  2. SSG Dean, Gregory says:

    What everyone forgets is that the last time we had a draft, the Army was over 1.6 million soldiers. The whole active military today is only 1.5 million service members plus another million reservists and Guard memebers. During the Vietnam era, over 14 years, one out of three males was in the service. That is 11 million out of 27 million (less than 3 million served in Vietnam).

    We do not need more active duty. At best the active side needs to only be no more than 2 million. What we do need is more reservists, about 5 to 7 million. With a larger reserve force we have a surge capacity in times of war or stress. And a larger reserve force means that all troops, both active and reserve, would not have to have the current Op Tempo but rather have tours spread out a bit more.