Would you support a draft if it is necessary to meet US Army manpower needs? Need for More Troops a Taboo Topic BY DAVID WOOD NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE September 29, 2004 http://www.freep.com/news/nw/pols29e_20040929.htm WASHINGTON -- Nearly everyone -- generals, Pentagon strategists, politicians and soldiers -- agrees the United States needs more troops, the key to waging war against Muslim insurgents in Iraq and around the world. But on the campaign trail, President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry, hardly address the need to put more American youths in uniform. Although both support a slightly larger military, neither Bush nor Kerry has mentioned the added cost or how he would press tens of thousands more young Americans into service. Under Bush, the Army is quietly working to add 30,000 soldiers to its active-duty force of half a million. Kerry has proposed adding 40,000 troops. That's less than half what's needed, most experts agree: 100,000 new soldiers. And they are needed quickly. The cost could top $10 billion a year. "The U.S. military has been heroic and resilient -- but strategically, they are woefully inadequate for the threat we are facing," said Eliot Cohen, director of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. A study by the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group, has concluded that even with another 30,000 troops, the current force cannot meet "our current and projected global stabilization commitments." Within the Army, there is deep concern that the manpower demands of Iraq and Afghanistan have left the United States with no strategic reserve of ground forces, short of a total mobilization and deployment of all active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops. At present, about 21 percent of the Army reserves and National Guard are mobilized, according to a Sept. 22 Pentagon report. And the Bush administration's strategy of aggressively promoting global democracy to prevent terrorists from building strongholds in failed nations will require significant new ground forces, said Thomas Donnelly, analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "In the simplest terms, this requires the expansion of the active-duty component of the U.S. Army," Donnelly said. Then why don't Bush and Kerry discuss it openly? "Part of it is muddled thinking," Donnelly said in an interview, "and a reluctance to say that this is a big war and we will be in this for a long time." Inevitably, some political experts say, mere mention of a larger army reminds voters of the draft -- a hugely unpopular subject for military-age youths and parents, even if the military has discounted the need to conscript young Americans. In May, pollster Peter Hart concluded that 73 percent of today's college students oppose a draft. "You can't talk about sacrifice in an election year," said Peter Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University who has written about the public's attitudes toward war. "I don't think our electoral system is responsible enough" to make judgments on such technical issues as the number of combat troops needed and how to get them. That leaves military officials and strategists struggling for solutions. The top U.S. commander for Iraq, Army Gen. John Abizaid, acknowledged last week that more troops are needed there than the 138,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines now deployed. But he said he hopes the additional manpower could come from allies and from the Iraqi security forces in training. But efforts to train and equip new Iraqi security forces are lagging far behind schedule, U.S. military officers have said.