January 02, 2007

More Troops

The latest fashionable policy idea is to expand the size of the U.S. Army by adding anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 more troops. The president likes it. Democrats like it. All indicators point to go. So it's nice to see Gordon Adams and John Diamond are taking the time to point out that this idea is, in fact, a terrible one.

Or, at the very least, the debate over troop levels is a terrible one. Congress shouldn't be talking about adding more troops until it has a decent sense for why the Pentagon might need those troops. All those new soldiers, after all, won't be trained in time to help out in Iraq. So what will they be for? One could see the case for additional troops if, say, the United States planned to invade and occupy more countries in the future. But if so, that should be stated clearly. As Adams and Diamond say, "If this is about invading Iran, or carrying out a land war with China... then maybe we need to have a debate about that strategy, not slip it in sideways by expanding the Army without agreeing on the mission."

In any case, I tend to doubt that 90,000 more troops would make future Iraq-style invasions feasible—let alone desirable. On the other hand, if the United States government had a bigger Army at its disposal, it would view the military as the solution to an even greater number of foreign policy problems. As Madeline Albright once asked Colin Powell, "What's the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can't use it?" That's some serious tail-wagging-the-dog action there. Why bother seeking out a non-military solution in this or that little corner of the world when we can always send in a couple thousand troops?
-- Brad Plumer 12:27 PM || ||