Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where's Our National Guard? Overseas.

By Alan Caruba

Here’s an interesting fact. Between now and the end of President Bush’s term in office, almost half of the soldiers who are scheduled to deploy to Iraq will come from the National Guard.

Here’s another; At least 35 states have deployed more National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan than to any war since World War II.

I learned these facts from the Veterans for America (VFA), an organization that describes its mission as encouraging the American public to support policies that address the needs of those currently in the military, veterans, victims of war overseas, as well as initiatives to make our world more secure.

“VFA builds on the 26-year history of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation—cofounder and coordinator of the Nobel Prize-winning Campaign to Ban Landmines. There is a social contract between a nation and those it sends to war.”

I cannot tell you how much of VFA’s agenda is pro-veteran and how much is anti-war, but I suspect it tilts to the latter much of the time. It should definitely not be confused with the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion.

That said, the statistics it cites are worthy of consideration. For example, more than half of the National Guard combat units deploying to Iraq between now and the end of Bush’s term will be on their second tour.

In the months ahead, units from Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington will send units to these combat zones. In the spring of 2009, by which time the U.S. will have a new President, the following states will send National Guard troops; Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania (again), Tennessee, Texas (again), Vermont, and Wisconsin.

This has got to be highly disruptive to families, employers and communities in the states where this is occurring and it raises the question of why the federal government is so dependent on these men and women as opposed to the full-time military. In our zeal following the Vietnam War to end conscription--the Draft—and create a professional Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force from enlistees, somewhere along the way we have failed to meet adequate manpower needs.

The fallback has been the National Guard whom governors traditionally call upon for assistance in times of natural disasters. Here’s what the Congressional Research Service has to say about the National Guard:

“The National Guard plays a major role in the defense and security of the United States under the federal component of its mission. Although the military reserve component’s responsibilities and duties have increased since 2001, a March 2007 report by the congressionally chartered independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves has found that many Army and Air National Guard units stationed in the United States are rated “not ready.” That rating is based primarily on current military equipment shortages and concerns for long-term operational reserve capacity.”

Not ready? No long-term operational reserve capacity? What’s wrong with this picture?

It has been many decades since I served in the Army and I lay no claim to understanding much about the role of the National Guard, but common sense suggests that the heavy reliance on it for combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan reveals a real need to build up the troop strength in our current, fulltime professional military.

The only other option would be a return to the Draft to meet present and future needs, but I don’t see that happening for a whole range of reasons. The nation currently depends on a fairly thin slice of Americans willing to serve.

For now, the dependence on the National Guard should be a cause for concern. Given the other things Americans are concerned with, it is not likely to be high on the list.


Lee Hazel said...

I think it is about time to once again consider Universal Military Training (UMT). There are some very good reasons.
1. This would end the problems of recruitment and maintaining the necessary personel, particularly at the lower rank levels.
2. We are going to need ever more personel if we intend to be the "Worlds Policeman"
3. It would go a long way toward solving youth gang related problems and give all teenagers and young adults marketable skills learned while serving.
4. I have to believe that this would also be cost effective. The combined cost of law enforcement, legal costs, welfare related costs, counciling, education, at federal, state and local levels is astronomical.

Last but not least, as an old 1950s Air Force Basic Training Sgt I would relish the thought of getting some of these street wise (urban or rural) punks into a military basic training/boot camp environment.

PC is Thought Control

Dave said...

UMT, is this the same thing as Every Citizen a Soldier? I'd be for that, if, and only if the role of the Commander-in-Chief would be reformed, and the role of the federal government would be that which is authorized by the US Constitution, and we would have a truly constitutional government; they would have to accept that the constitution gives no authority to the president or congress to police the world, or nation build, and that the president cannot legally call on civilian militia, or draft, for a war that protects only big oil industries, and eron scandels, and attack nations that did not attack us, and if we did not have standing armies in foriegn contries, and if the fed gov. would change our foriegn policies that create blow-back, (the enemy of my enemy is my friend policies) especially wageing undeclared wars, pre-emptive wars on nations that never attacked us, and if we'd end entangling alliances, and imperialism and the military-industrial complex, and all the other BS in the US stuff we got going on -- then I'd be all for Athenian democracy that calls for every citizen a soldier.