2007 March 20 Tuesday
NY Times Wants Bigger Army

One of the lessons I learned from Iraq? We should think really hard about staffing up a ground force large enough that a US President could try to use it to spread democracy. Not so the Gray Lady. The editors of the New York Times wants to expand the US Army so that it is big enough to occupy countries like Iraq.

The first lesson is the continued importance of ground soldiers in a world that defense planners predicted would be all about stealth, Star Wars, satellites and Special Operations forces sent on short-term missions. Now we know that enemies hunkered down in caves and urban slums can be as dangerous as those in defense ministry bunkers and that rebuilding defeated nations is crucial to lasting security.


As long as United States troops are in Iraq, meeting the recruiting quotas of an expanded force will be difficult. The multiple combat tours, the warehoused wounded, the deteriorating Iraqi security situation are a lot to overcome.

Once that is behind us, the Army can be increased substantially, and should be, so long as Congress can assure the country that it will never again delegate away its war powers as carelessly and recklessly as it did in 2002. And so long as the next president understands that the point of having a large Army is to strengthen American diplomacy, not to launch impulsive and unnecessary wars.

Okay, two points here: First, these editors realize that conditions in Iraq make enlistment in the US Army a much less appealing prospect. So they want to get the US out of Iraq first, better to dupe adolescents to sign up. Why? So these adolescents will be available in larger numbers to conduct large so-called nation-building military operations. You know, like we are trying to do in Iraq.

Second, logic isn't a strong suit of these folks. Earlier on they say the need to fight in urban environments reduces the value of fancy weapons technology and requires more troops. Sounds like they want bigger forces for doing occupations of other countries. But then they zig and zag and end up arguing that we need a bigger military so that we do not actually need to use it. Maybe in their imaginations it is our ability to do democracy-building nation-building invasions that will give our diplomats the ability to credibly threatened the Saddam Husseins of this world so that they'll presumably impose democracy on themselves.

I am curious to know which countries the Times editors would have us scare into their own internal nation-building programs. Just what will we need to do against which particular countries? Force the Saudis to let women drive and vote? Or maybe scare African governments into being less than totally corrupt and incompetent?

Major avoidable debacles should at least teach us useful lessons. I'm afraid that Iraq hasn't taught the editorial board of the New York Times anything useful.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 March 20 08:12 PM  Military War Costs

Anon said at March 20, 2007 9:25 PM:

I don't mean to be crude, but fuck these assholes at the NY Times. They do not know what they want. For years they bitched and moaned that the US should reduce the military and defense budget because they wanted the money to be spent on useless bullshit like public schools, addicts, welfare, money for artists who submerge crucifixes in piss, AIDS, foreign aid to shithole nations and so on. I also recall them whining that the military establishment is essentially facist and a danger to the nation and our freedoms. The NY Times loves the idea of a large military playing babysitter to these wonderful, emerging nations struggling with democracy. Too bad that is a total fantasy world they live in. The again as you say, logic is not a strong point with these people. The NY Times does not want the US military to do any actual fighting, they want them handing out candy and giving group hugs, essentially social work in fatigues. This is also a good way to get shot and have your body dragged through the streets by a savage mob, but then again, I don't think the Times gives a shit about an average white guy who joined ROTC to pay for school and then decided to stay in the Army for a variety of reasons. My experience is obviously limited but I can say that what keeps soldiers from enlisting or re-enlisting isn't the fact you could get hurt or killed, but the fact that we can't kick ass the way we should be. There are other reason why recruitment is difficult. The economy is good, they have made the services softer, etc... We are playing softball with these people and it is wrong. I saw it every day. It is actually quite depressing. In any event, having high tech equipment like nightvision is very valuable in fighting in the cities or anywhere else for that matter. The people that we are fighting know this and believe me, they respect it. The AC-130 gunship is also in use and my friend tells me it is like having a guardian angel. I for one would like to see some stuff that we have had for almost 100 years put to use like flamethrowers, but that kind of decision isn't up to me. If it worked for my unlce in the Pacific, I think it would work quite well in Iraq.
The NY Times wants Congress to act like it has a backbone, but it never will. Bush treats Congress like trash and deservedly so. It is an irrelevant institution and each and every one of them is a goddamn weathervane. They have no interest except to get reelected. If they were truly against the war, they would dry up the money and I would not be redeployed or at the very least there would be an actual debate and some pressure appplied to Bush, but it is a farce. I think the anti-war members are fools too, but at least they have chosen a side. As much as I think Bush is doing a crap job in the White House, I do get a kick out of how he treats Congress, God knows they deserve it. I actually have trouble believing that the NY Times would actually think that Congress would suddenly behave like a branch of gov't. Then again, when I read something so clueless as this editorial, it makes sense.
Now having thrown in my 2 cents, let me say that your site is thought provoking each time I visit, so thanks.

crush41 said at March 21, 2007 12:44 AM:

The op/ed strikes me as more partisan than anything else. Provide the executive with even more manpower to execute various nation-building missions but guarantee in doing so that he won't have as much power to use it.

A better lesson seems to be that nation-building is a bad idea because despite the resources, manpower, and culture we can bring to occupied places, we can't magically change the people already there. Digesting this lesson, however, doesn't jive with interventionist intentions in places like the Sudan, however. Presumably the Democratic President-elect will want to use that expanded force for such operations.

Anon said at March 21, 2007 9:10 AM:


See the link above. They are a bunch of spineless fucks. Buchanan blames the jewish lobby, but he does that on a regular basis. Pelosi lacks any kind of convictions. If she really felt that the war had to be ended and the White House reined in from any more military adventures, she would have kept the provision in. I just hope she got to fly on the nice jet this week.

Ned said at March 21, 2007 10:05 AM:

The wheel has really come full circle. I am old enough to remember the Vietnam war and how the NYT carried on about that. Remember the Pentagon Papers? Remember where they were published? Now this pathetic rag of a newspaper wants us to build up our military so we can continue to make the world safe for democracy, just like we are doing in Iraq. Our Founding Fathers were highly suspicious of a standing army, fearing that it might take over the government. Clearly that's not a threat now. The worry is that a President will cook up a pseudocrisis (Gulf of Tonkin incident, Iraqi WMD's etc.) to lead the nation down the path to another futile exercise in "nation-building". Congress typically wholeheartedly endorses this nonsense and then comes to regret it, but too late (Vietnam, Iraq). What is needed is a hardheaded assessment of the actual military threats that the US faces in the next decade or so. Islamic terrorism? Sure. I'm hard pressed to think of much else. Once the threats have been defined, our military should be configured to defeat them. Carrier battle groups, super high tech fighters and nuclear submarines may not play much of a role. The US spends almost half of all the money spent worldwide on the military. Do we really need so much? Why do we have troops overseas (Europe, Korea, etc.)? What are they defending against? Are these bases, coupled with our large, powerful, mobile forces, not just an invitation to global adventurism? And it doesn't seem to matter a bit whether a Democrat or Republican occupies the White House - they all do it. This type of neo-Wilsonian interventionism usually leads to disaster and only makes other countries hate us. Why continue?

EvocatiPrefectofRome said at September 24, 2011 11:21 AM:

No country should have the need of an army and if it had, the army should exist only to protect its country, not to occupy other countries. The massive expansion of US is more dangerous to the countries than the lack of food or water. If those NY Times editors want more soldiers is because the US army is losing and losing good soldiers in ocuupied countries and even more important: those soldiers shouldn't even die! What the US congress should do is bring their men and women back to their home and keep them for real dangers, not for unnecesary wars.

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