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By George S. Kulas
Since Sept 11 the military services have not experienced a dramatic increase in enlistments. This is what military recruiters told the Senate Armed Services military personnel subcommittee on March 20th. Senator Max Cleland, D-Ga, chairman of the subcommittee expressed concern, not only because military leaders have told him they are having difficulties meeting current goals but also because they would have to meet much loftier goals if authorized personnel strength is increased due to expanding military missions/requirements.
As it is the military is so short handed in some specialties that many of those who have already served out their enlistments are being forced to stay on involuntarily. Even some service members who have served over 20 years are being told they cannot retire. In the U.S. Army alone the "Stop-Loss" Order has affected over 10,000 soldiers in over 30 occupational fields.
There are probably many reasons some young people are not willing to step up and join up to fight the war on terrorism. Sadly one of the reasons may be that in the past our government hasn't been completely honest with the American people and their soldiers.
Recently secret audiotapes President Lyndon B. Johnson made during the early years of the Vietnam War were released. The tapes reveal that in early 1965 President Johnson told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, "I don't see any way of winning" in Vietnam. The next month, he sent two Marine battalions into battle and a year later he called up 600,000 additional troops. Again and again President Johnson stated privately that he did not believe the war was winnable. Yet publicly, in an August 1965 speech, President Johnson said, "America wins the wars that she undertakes. Make no mistake about it!" By the time the war ended ten years later 2.6 million Americans had fought in it, over 58,000 of those died and 304,000 were wounded.
One would hope that with the Vietnam experience history never repeats itself. Our military is the best trained and equipped in the world and we need many more of our best and brightest to want to have the honor and privilege of serving in uniform. After all if we can't get young Americans to serve when the homeland has been attacked how can we get them to enlist to fight for and defend a place like South Korea? Unfortunately, it appears politics continues to be played with the military.
During testimony in mid-March to the House Armed Services Committee Navy Admiral Dennis Blair commander-in-chief of the Pacific Command and Air Force General Joseph Ralston, commander-in-chief of the European Command both indicated it would be a very close call with their current strengths to carry out military action against Iraq while maintaining their existing operations. However, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted a week later that the military is prepared to do that. Rumsfeld also was agitated by remarks by Army General William Kernan, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, who told the committee that our troops were tired. Rumsfeld said Kernan's claim showed a "fundamental misunderstanding".
It's sad to see Mr. Rumsfeld rebuking his military commanders who are in the best position to know the status of their commands. Military commanders are right and just for telling the truth to their soldiers and the American people.
Karl von Clausewitz, the great Prussian General and military strategist said, war is the extension of politics by other means. Unfortunately, most politicians don't fight the wars. If they had to there would probably be a lot less extending of their politics and a lot more peace in our war torn world.
George S. Kulas is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major who now lives
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