Thursday, June 03, 2004

Volunteers? Not any more

It's amazing how well things have gone in Iraq when the sheer volume of incompetent and ill-advised leadership decisions is taken into account. The latest boondoggle is the Army's decision to expand their "stop-loss" program. This means that if you are getting ready to retire, fullfilled your contractual obligations to the Army, put in for a transfer, made it through Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once...well, it means you aren't going anywhere.

Nope! Instead of expanding the Army, or bringing in other front-line units from Europe, they have decided to make these soldiers stay on through their deployment. Not only that, they cannot be discharged or transfered until they return to their home base. This means that a soldier could be held past his date, do a tour in Iraq, spend R&R time at a base other than his home base, and STILL be held for another tour. This decision basically has the effect of turning our volunteer soldiers into conscripts, being held indefinitely.

Their reasoning is to maintain "cohesive, well-trained units." That's fine, but you'll notice morale wasn't mentioned. That's because this decision is going to send morale spiraling downwards. Imagine surviving in Iraq through one or two tours. You're about to go home when "stop-loss" keeps you there. Oh, I am sure that guy is going to feel all sorts of hunky-dory.

Or imagine the impact if someone, who made it through and is about to retire, gets killed while being kept in Iraq on "stop-loss." How will THAT play?

There is a difference between conscripts and volunteers. Conscripts are meat, essentially. There is no contract. It is an imposition of state authority in response to a threat to the very survival of the country.

In a volunteer force, there is a contract signed between the soldier and the service branch. There is a different realtionship. The citizen is choosing to protect the state. That has to be respected.

Now, "stop-loss" can be necessary. But never has it been used to this extent. And the fact is, this wouldn't be necessary if the Powers-That-Be had commited more troops at the beginning or had authorized more money to expand the Army and relieve the manpower crunch. Forcing these men and women who have survived Iraq on more than one tour to stay there, when this situation was avoidable, is inexcusable.

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