In short, it's a smart gap-filler, but little more. It won't allow George W. Bush to send more troops to Iraq or Afghanistan, much less to other countries that he might like to liberate.
So, how do we get more troops? A return to the draft? There are plenty of arguments for or against, but they're not worth the waste of bandwidth, because it's just not going to happen. Military commanders don't want a draft; they're happy to have, in the All-Volunteer Army, the best-educated, best-tempered, most easily trained soldiers in American history. Politicians don't want a draft, because they know it's the surest route to losing the next election; millions of supportive voters will turn into raging protesters if their little Johnny—or, worse yet, Janie—gets forced into battle.
Almost no one in the executive branch wants a draft, because it would instantly give every American family a stake in U.S. foreign policy. With a volunteer Army, issues of war and peace are almost abstract; only a tiny portion of the population is directly affected. With a draft, everybody's life is on the line—a turbulent state that can energize and unify a country under serious threat but tear the same country apart in a war of stalemate or dubious motive. President Bush could not possibly want the intense debate that even the prospect of a draft would inspire.
And yet, draft or no draft, the country is headed toward that debate. Does America want to be—can it be—the world's policeman, colossus, liberator, call it what you will? If so, with what resources? By itself or with allies? Through international law or by whim?
Whatever the answers, there is a potentially calamitous mismatch between the Bush administration's avowed intentions and its tangible means. They can print or borrow money to float the national debt. They can't clone or borrow soldiers to float an imperial army.
TODAY IN SLATE
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