The American Interest

Reforming the Military

A Modest Proposal

On August 25, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that he would look into ways to strengthen U.S. combat power without increasing the size of the military.  While the “end-strength” of 1.4 million should stay the same, he intends to rebalance the active and reserve components, sending underutilized

active-duty personnel to the reserves and moving to the active force such high-demand reservists as civil-affairs specialists.  In Rumsfeld’s estimate, 300,000 active-duty personnel could be freed up for combat-related duties if noncombat jobs were contracted out.

The following day, the number of American soldiers who had died in Iraq since President Bush declared the war over on May 1 exceeded the number of fatalities during the preceding six weeks of combat operations.

The Bush administration hopes to deal with the problem of a thinly stretched military and of mounting casualties by deploying soldiers from such countries as India and Turkey in Iraq and by training a new local force for security duties.  It may not work: Other countries are weary of sending their men to Baghdad after the bombing of the U.N. headquarters there, which sent the message that every foreigner is fair game as long as the Americans stay.  Every Iraqi who aids the Americans is also a potential target, which deters would-be recruits whose reliability would be doubtful in any event.  If the...

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