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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, September 21, 2006


Grow the force

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, September 21, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Kevin points out that we need to either send more troops to Iraq to butress the force there for victory, or withdraw, but instead we do neither. That's the politically safest and most craven course. Disagree or not with Democrats who favor withdrawal, at least they are standing by their convictions. "stay the course" isn't a plan, its the lack of one.

But even beyond Iraq, it's clear that we do need to have a military capability - in terms of boots on the ground - that can handle Iraq-level stress without falling apart. Maybe more. The world is full of Darfurs and Lebanons and the United States can best play a role by commiting the best resources we have - trained, expert troops. We need more troops overall, not just for Iraq but for the entire century ahead.

And the truth is that we don't need a draft. How quickly we liberals seem to forget the GI Bill's legacy - the vehicle by which millions of households were lifted into the middle class. "Growing" the troops, rather than "building" them (by draft) or "straining" them (by staying the course), is what is needed. We need a new GI Bill for the 21st century to get back to the troop levels we were at during the Cold War - but a different kind of force, than the dogged one-threat focus of the past.

Here's what such a proposal would look like.

- Financial incentives. Signing bonuses, increased salary at all levels. Guaranteed benefits under the same plan that our Senators and Representatives get. Increased funding for the VA, including more funding for mental health.

- Raised standards. Go after the cream of the crop. Recruit professionals too, with graduate degrees, so that we can build up the tail of the force, not just the tooth.

- Emphasis on MP-type training, even for the common infantryman. Given that counterinsurgency will be our primary challenge in every deployment for the forseeable future, we need every soldier to be an MP in a limited sense.

- Reduce the commitment. Make a minimum two-year tour be an option. That way the voluntary nature of the force is preserved and emphasized - and easy to "try it out".

"Grow the force" should be the rallying cry.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.