April 11, 2007
Well, this is hardly unexpected news: SecDef Bob Gates announced that soldiers currently in or going to Iraq and Afghanistan will have to serve a tour of 15 months, rather than 12 months, as in the past. Gates said, "This recognizes . . . that our forces are stretched. There's no question about that." See Washington Post. Before long, it will become hard to retain skilled NCOs and mid-rank officers, who are critical in maintaining discipline and conducting effective combat operations. How much longer can our armed forces sustain the building strain before some key component "snaps"? Meanwhile, President Bush seems blissfully unaware of the urgent need to provide more funding for our troops and wounded veterans, which probably means -- unfortunately -- higher taxes. That is what usually happens in war time, believe it or not. One way or another, American civilians need to do more to make life more bearable for military families, not just waving flags and putting up signs.
Sen. John McCain paid a visit to Virginia Military Institute in Lexington today, with a major speech on war policy. He acknowledged that the United States had pursued a "flawed strategy" in Iraq, but insisted that we need to persist nonetheless, saying he has "cautious optimism" about the war prospects. He also expressed deep thanks for the VMI cadets who have already served in Iraq, and those who will be doing so in the future. See www.vmi.edu.
In the Washington Post, David Ignatius recently expressed hope that a semblance of national consensus on war policy might yet be possible by going back to Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. That would certainly be nice, but I think he is being overly optimistic.