Friday, January 12, 2007

Pentagon proposes more troops

It's about time.

The Pentagon ... is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.

Other sources say the cost will eventually be $15 billion a year.

The military doesn't really measure things by division anymore, but that's about four divisions worth of troops. The boost will occur over five years, and in any event it will take time to recruit, train and equip the extra forces, so this won't mean a quick boost in deployment capability. But it's good to see resources finally starting to align themselves with strategic goals.

What'll we do in the meantime? The Pentagon also said it was abolishing limits on the amount of time a reservist could serve on active duty. Translation: more reservists will be used to relieve the strain on active units until more active units are available.

The interplay of timetables here should prove interesting. It could take two years before the first of the extra forces make themselves felt. Barring some unexpected successes in Iraq, that means there's a real chance that our large-scale involvement in Iraq will be over by the time the troops necessary to sustain it are ready. The prospect for that is only increased by the interim plan: the extended deployment of reservists will increase both opposition to the war and the economic impact of taking workers out of the civilian economy and sending them overseas.

While the larger military is needed and welcome, the proposal is part and parcel of the administration's recent style: proposing plans that would have made a difference in Iraq had they been adopted two or three years ago, but which they opposed at the time and are likely to have marginal impact at this late date.

Meanwhile, another poll -- CNN, this time -- shows 66 percent opposition to sending more troops, which matches up well with the 70 percent cited in an earlier AP survey.

Given those numbers, if Bush's "surge" doesn't work, he's done. We'll be out of Iraq by the end of the year.

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