- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

‘We’re Killing These Kids, We’re Breaking the Army!’

I’ll admit I was taken aback. This senior officer and mentor—with nearly 28 years of military service—wasn’t one for hyperbole. No, he believed what he was saying to me just then.

“We’re killing these kids, we’re breaking the army!” he exclaimed.

He went on to explain the competing requirements for standard, conventional army units—to say nothing of the overstretched [1] Special Forces—in 2018: balancing [2] Russia in Eastern Europe, deterrence [3] rotations in South Korea, advise and assist [4] missions in Africa. Add to that deployments to the usual hotspots in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was genuinely concerned about the physical and emotional toll on the active-duty force, pushed to its limits by 17 years of perpetual combat. After all, with high military suicide rates now labeled [5] the “new normal,” and a recent succession [6] of accidental training deaths, it seems reasonable to wonder whether we are, indeed, “killing [our] kids.”

The overall effects of this rapid operations tempo on morale and readiness are difficult to measure in a disciplined, professional, all-volunteer military such as the one the United States possesses. What we do know is that despite former president Obama’s ongoing promises [7] that “the tide of war is receding” and that America could finally “start nation-building at home,” nothing of the sort occurred then, or is now, under President Trump. Though the U.S. military (thankfully) no longer maintains six-figure troop counts in either Iraq or Afghanistan, American soldiers are still there, as well as serving [8] in 70 percent of the world’s countries in one capacity or another in what has become a “generational war.” [9] America’s troops are still being killed [10], though in admittedly fewer numbers. Nevertheless, U.S. servicemen continued to die [10] in combat in several countries in 2017, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Niger.

After major drawdowns in Iraq (2011) and Afghanistan (2014), many soldiers, myself included, looked forward to longer “dwell time” at home stations and, just maybe, something resembling peace and even normalcy. It was not to be. Aside from deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, conventional U.S. Army brigades currently support regular overseas rotations [11] to Kuwait, South Korea, and Eastern Europe. To use just one example, the 1st Armored Division webpage currently boasts [12] that the division has soldiers supporting 20 missions on five continents. Of my three former classmates and colleagues in the West Point History Department (2014-2016), two are currently deployed: one in Romania, another to the ubiquitous Mid-East region. That’s just about as busy as we all were back in the bad old days [13] of 2006-2007.

The military—and the Army in particular—brought some of this upon itself. As conventional ground combat elements (of which the Army owns the preponderance) withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan, and President Obama signaled a strategic pivot [14] to Asia, U.S. Army leaders became understandably concerned. The Asia pivot would, logically, lean more heavily on the Air Force and Navy—especially when new military doctrine [15] took the (exclusive) name “Air-Sea Battle.” As the economy struggled and budgets tightened [16], the various service chiefs fought to convince Congress and administration kingmakers of their continued “relevance.” If the Army didn’t appear busy—engaged in a countless number of vital missions—well, it’d be hard to justify its current budget.

It should come as no surprise that around this time the Army touted the versatility of its Regionally Aligned Forces [17] (RAF) brigades—units trained and tailored to support an array of missions for specific geographic combatant commanders. Army leaders also emphasized threats from Russia and North Korea and the need for deterrent brigades on the ground in those theaters. And, with Special Operations Command under strain, the Army also provided six new Security Force Assistance Brigades [18] (SFABs) to carry some of the advise-and-assist workload around the globe. This is not to say that Army leaders fabricated threats or invented missions. It’s all far more complex. Rather, brutal budget squabbles on Capitol Hill combined with increasingly politicized foreign policy [19] threat assessments created an atmosphere where demonstrating “relevance” and “busyness” presented the only sure path to funding at the rates to which the various services had become accustomed. Relevance is a double-edged sword—well-justified budgets require a frenzied operational pace and an overwrought Army.

Some troopers, at least, appear fed up with the scope and pace of deployments in year 18 of the conflict formerly known as the “war on terror.” No one is publicly sounding the alarm, but there are signals—if you know where to look. When Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise holiday season visit [20] to Kabul and publicly praised U.S. forces in Afghanistan, one observer described [20] the crowd as “subdued,” and noted [21]several troops stood with their arms crossed or their hands folded behind their backs and listened, but did not applaud.” Polls also demonstrate [22] that although the current president is slightly more popular among the military than the general public, among officers Trump counts only a 30 percent approval rate. More concerning are the February 2017 polls [23] indicating that military service member satisfaction has dropped 50 percent since 2009, due in part, one assumes, to never-ending deployments and time spent away from families. And, among the ever-strained Special Operations forces, reports [24] indicate that mental distress and suicide are again on the rise.

As it stands, the system just about holds together—no doubt due to the determination of leaders and dutiful sacrifice of soldiers—but one wonders whether the active component force could truly weather even one major regional crisis. Something, it seems, would have to give—a drawdown in other missions, compressed training schedules, or—heaven forbid!—calling up the reserves, something American politicians certainly wish [25] to avoid.

The all-volunteer force was always a devil’s bargain: by cutting out the citizenry in the form of a draft out of the equation, presidents, pols, and military leadership could move soldiers around the chessboard with fewer checks on their authority and the decision-making process.

That’s all well and good, until the system cracks. The president’s modest troop escalations [26] in Afghanistan and Iraq, if combined with a (ever more likely [27]) shooting war in Korea, could be just the thing to “break” the professional, volunteer military.

At that point Americans would have some tough decisions to make: ante up some cash and bodies to keep the U.S. military on top, or, just maybe, do less. Let’s hope it never comes to that. In the meantime, count on Congress and the American people to cover their eyes and let the “war on terror’s” third straight president run its cherished heroes into the ground.

What a way to say “thanks for your service!”

Major Danny Sjursen, a regular TAC contributor, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge [28]. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet [29] and his new podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” [30] co-hosted with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henrikson.

45 Comments (Open | Close)

45 Comments To "‘We’re Killing These Kids, We’re Breaking the Army!’"

#1 Comment By LouisM On January 17, 2018 @ 12:53 am

I speak for all the Trump voters that I have spoken. None are neocons. None believe in perpetual wars. All agree that the US is not going to engage our military in Iran. All agree that we (US) simply has too many foreign commitments. The US should consider foreign base closures, ways to shut off foreign aid and military aid where it has proven ineffective toward stability, security and US interests.

There are various opinions but no magical solutions on the middle east and North Korea.

The common ground is that Trump supporters that I have spoken with want less money spent on foreign war, foreign police actions, foreign / military aid, foreign bases AND MORE MONEY SPENT ON TRAINING AND THE UPGRADING OUR WEAPONRY TO BOTH TO CURRENT TECHNOLOGY AS DEVELOPMENT OF NECT GENERATION.

We as a nation are dangerously close to fighting a war of illusion and bluster by projecting a nation of trained high technology soldiers who in reality are operating infield with decades old technology…in some cases its technology that is half a century old.

Should the US ever be engaged in a real war, then these illusions will be shattered with real lost battles and real loss of life and perhaps even real loss of 1 or more US cities.

#2 Comment By Richard Parker On January 17, 2018 @ 2:10 am

I have a 2nd job teaching recently discharged veterans. Listening to them it’s a thin line. Run over an LED and be lifted into the air? Get patched up and back on the road with the bell’s still ringing in the ears.

Many are very bitter

#3 Comment By another turd surfaces On January 17, 2018 @ 4:34 am

Trump promised to focus on America – stop immigration, protect American jobs, rebuild infrastructure. Instead he’s fighting wars for Israel and Saudi Arabia, he’s letting in more immigrants than Obama did, he’s giving more jobs to foreigners than Obama did, and he’s done nothing about infrastructure.

So it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Trump is cornholing long-suffering soldiers, making them endlessly re-deploy. Another broken promise from a New York real estate developer? Sheesh … what else is new.

#4 Comment By Kent On January 17, 2018 @ 6:47 am

Let me quickly count how many of these countries are actual threats to the USA… counting… hmmm… weird, came up with zero.

So these servicemen aren’t protecting America. Then they’re really not heroes per se. So what do we call people with guns who go around murdering other people?

#5 Comment By PAX On January 17, 2018 @ 7:31 am

We need universal conscription so that the neocon burden of endless wars may be shared equally with our “diversities.” No exceptions as in Vietnam where the heavy lifting was done by true patriots and those who could not figure out a good school to protect them. Imagine if Jared had to be front and center in a combat unit – not just funding an IDF unit or pushing dad-in-law to send “others” in harm’s way. Flush out the hypocrites and cowards? PS Please bring Phil Giraldo back.

#6 Comment By Interguru On January 17, 2018 @ 9:29 am

Bin Laden was a student of history. He noted that great empires fell not from military defeat, but from debt. By that measure 9/11 was stunningly successful. The physical damage was small as measured on a national scale, but the overreaction was and is incredibly costly. First, our fool of a president used it as an excuse to launch an incredibly stupid unwarranted multi-trillion dollar fiasco in Iraq. Then we launched a homeland security program whose spending is totally out of proportion to the danger. All this cascaded into Trump whose costs are to be measured.

Bin Laden is looking down (or up? ) and smiling.

#7 Comment By Vern On January 17, 2018 @ 9:35 am

The future must look depressing for the soldiers, you have a president I=who is more interested in making himself look strong at the expense of those who have to do all the work.

Trump was supposed to get America out of these endless conflicts, he seems to be going quickly into the other direction. doing the dirty work of the Saudis and the Israelis doesn’t help.

#8 Comment By Richard Parker On January 17, 2018 @ 9:40 am

“So it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Trump is cornholing long-suffering soldiers, making them endlessly re-deploy.”

Same as Bush II and the same as Obama. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s the bi-partisan mind set in Washington that is the issue.

I miss Ron Paul! To our friends on the Left you had a chance to vote for a man who would have stopped this, but he would have threatened your money train. To my anti-war friends on the Left, it was more important to keep the money train going than to vote for peace.

#9 Comment By Patrick M On January 17, 2018 @ 9:57 am

Danny

I was a Navy Physician and served with the Navy and Marine Corps before retiring a few years ago and believe that there is not enough awareness of what you write about.

I would add that the many of suicides that I was aware of were related to a relationship breakdown. It is devastating when rejected by a spouse, especially when one learns of this while deployed or after returning from a deployment. Some cases involved a wife leaving the service member for a friend or even another service member “on shore duty” who was a higher rank. I will give credit to the Marine Corps that they consider adultery a serious offense and will often hold service members accountable. I have heard a Navy JAG officer once give the opinion that what happens between consenting adults is not the business of the military and discipline for adultery in the Navy is not consistent. I don’t know what the Army’s position is regarding infidelity by service members but the report of a very senior military army officer involved with a sex scandal while deployed was very disturbing.

A few years ago I had a discussion with an Army Physician about the effects of long deployments on troop morale.

With the Navy and Marine Corps there has always been a high deployment tempo with frequent shorted deployments typically having three 6-9 month deployments and a couple months at home between deployments.

The Army was having long repetitive 18 month long deployments and many were wearing out. Having multiple shorter deployments is less stressful than an 18-month deployment, especially when after returning the unit starts working up for another 18-month deployment. My Army colleague told me that he has had a few soldiers tell him about a wife saying that if he deploys again, she will be gone when he returns.

Once when I was deployed I spoke with an Army 1st Sargent who had 18 years service and was separating from the Army after his deployment. I urged him to stay 2 more years so he would have retirement benefits, he told me that that there was time for another long deployment and he had already had too many. He told me that he saw many like him who did another deployment for the pension but will never enjoy retirement pay.

The unit where the 1st Sargent was deployed had frequent IED attacks and many always wore sunglasses, even inside because they were very sensitive to light. Since pupil function is at the cranial nerve level, this may be a very bad indication of neurological damage. We are learning more about post concussion syndromes with professional athletes and its long-term effects and it is very disturbing. We may see a lot of cognitive impairment later in life for many of our service members who have had severe and repetitive concussions.

In additional to a smaller military force deploying longer and more frequently deployments, military downsizing has decreased to number of military veterans who have a similar experience as the recently discharged service member. Likewise the Foreign Legion and VFW posts, which have had many military combat veterans, are shrinking as our Korean and Vietnam Veteran populations diminish.

#10 Comment By Dan Green On January 17, 2018 @ 10:19 am

Soon one would expect the draft to be reinstated if we start another war someplace. We don’t go too long between wars.

#11 Comment By Doug On January 17, 2018 @ 10:26 am

I will say it again and keep repeating it until I die. The Republican party and conservative “neo-cons” made it impossible to be a politician, anti-war and against out of proportion increases in the defense spending. The defense industry also contributed by making sure all politicians had a vested interest in the jobs that they create in almost all districts. Demonize the people that want a rational defense, both policy and spending. I am not a patriot and don’t stand for the United States because I think we spend to much money on defense, that our military is overextended unnecessarily, and that we are damaging the international institutions (UN, NATO etc) that ameliorate conflicts. Bring Israeli style conscription to the US. That will decrease the propensity to intervene where it is unnecessary and produce generations of people that have learned to function in a diverse environment with multiple viewpoints, that is compromise to get things done. That is what made the US the post WWII power and drove the increase in our standard of living.

#12 Comment By Will Harrington On January 17, 2018 @ 10:33 am

Interguru

You are wrong in your timeline. First, common Americans were encouraged to buy on credit and given no reason to save. Would you open a savings account with today’s interest rates? It’s not a rational act. This began long before George W. Bush. It’s doubtful that Bin Laden has had a huge impact on our debt load.

#13 Comment By J Harlan On January 17, 2018 @ 10:35 am

Parknson’s Law is alive and well. Officers want & need deployments to punch tickets. The troops need deployments so they aren’t bored out of their minds and to get the extra cash especially if they intend to be “one and done”.

This is what a “professional” army does. It makes work for itself and blows through billions of dollars for no purpose other than it’s careers and to fight boredom.

The answer? Cut active duty forces and increase the reserves. If they’re needed to actually defend the state (not it’s dubious “interests”) they’ll be there. In the meantime most will be part time and will not need to be warehoused or sent off on adventures.

#14 Comment By SteveM On January 17, 2018 @ 10:40 am

Agree with Kent above. Merely wearing a military uniform does not make someone a “hero”.

And slaughtering brown-skinned people immersed in sectarian conflicts that have nothing to do with the U.S. is not “defending our freedoms”.

Moreover, America is still sandwiched by Canada and Mexico with two gigantic oceans on either sides. It’s only enemies are the ones the Power Elites in Washington create with their arrogant and stupid Global Cop shenanigans.

All of that comprises the huge myth of warped American Exceptionalism manufactured and sustained by the massive propaganda machinery of the Security State.

Regarding the mental health and well being of soldiers, the easiest preventive measure is for them to get out and find real jobs state-side that provide real value to citizens at home. And discouraging young people from enlisting in the first place.

#15 Comment By Tony On January 17, 2018 @ 11:22 am

As long as people vote mindlessly for candidates (running for Congress or presidency), nothing will change. People must believe that they have the ultimate power to change the system. If Obama and Trump (the hypocritical “change” candidates) did not work, do not be discouraged. There are good candidates out there.

#16 Comment By b. On January 17, 2018 @ 12:22 pm

“This is not to say that Army leaders fabricated threats or invented missions…. brutal budget squabbles on Capitol Hill combined with increasingly politicized foreign policy threat assessments created an atmosphere where demonstrating “relevance” … presented the only sure path to funding at the rates to which the various services had become accustomed…. touch choice … just maybe, do less. Let’s hope it never comes to that.”

What can one say to this?

“several troops stood with their arms crossed or their hands folded behind their backs and listened, but did not applaud.”

What keeps the system going is not what holds it together. Sacrifice might take credit for the latter, profiteering accounts for the former.

The US military has participated in unconstitutional and illegal wars of aggression, it has accepted and strove to implement unconstitutional and illegal policies of “preventive” wars of choice, and it is actively participating in atrocities such as the collective punishment of Yemen, and is supporting illegal combatants such as the CIA drone operations. For every broken body and shattered life, there is another man’s career made by “war”.

Post-war Germany forcefully maintained for two generations a strangely absolute distinction between the SS – which was considered war criminals – and the Wehrmacht – which was made of heroic and honorable defenders of the homeland. The resulting cognitive dissonance came to a head in that vicious phrase regarding “secondary virtues”.

Consider the case of PFC Manning, or the case of Corporal Tillman. Both had doubts about “the war”, whichever of the ongoing hegemonial undertakings their doubts referred to, and both had doubts about its legality. Is it really more “honorable”, in any meaningful sense, to – in Bush’s words – “just follow orders”?

There is a bounty of scholars “disputing” the veracity of the tales regarding Otto Schimek or Josef Schulz, but if nothing else, the “myths” of another kind of ultimate sacrifice – made in refusal of legal orders – indicates that maybe this is the bravery we really hope for in the best of us.

Whether Manning’s acts were ill-conceived, ineffective, or illegal, she did the best she was capable of, and paid a price. Surely, those of us who “serve” as citizens have done far, far less, and whatever might be said of Manning, we certainly have not lived up to our responsibilities. If we cannot bring ourselves to take responsibility for our Congress’ and Presidents’ wars, how can we expect soldiers to do any better? As long as we wave our flags of indulgence and “support the wars”, nothing will change.

So maybe nothing will change until the troops have the courage to “take a knee” whenever they are called upon for a photo op. Their oath is to the Constitution, and the Constitution has enemies foreign and domestic, and to know that difference is maybe the hardest duty of them all.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 17, 2018 @ 12:42 pm

If I understand this article correctly,

the US is over extended and abusing military personnel in the process.

#18 Comment By Professor Nerd On January 17, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

I don’t know why this is a problem. I have a “support the troops” bumper sticker and yell “woooooo” every time the Air Force does a flyover at football games. I’m doing my part.

#19 Comment By Steve Naidamast On January 17, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

Major Danny Sjursen’s report of concern is really nothing new as such reports have been making it into such sites as the AC for a number of years now. However, what Major Sjursen’s essay brings to the table is the fact that since 2003 US troops are still being treated like automatons that can be simply recycled into a harm’s way in a never ending schedule.

Some points to flesh out the major’s essay…

In the 1980s or 1990s, I cannot remember which, a study was done by the Navy to understand decreasing levels of efficiency during extended tours of sea duty. It was quickly found that ship-board crews suffered a loss of a substantial loss of efficiency simply after two months at sea. An infantry soldier being deployed to any hot-spot in the cornucopia of missions that the Pentagon and our politicians incessantly come up with would lose similar levels of efficiency even faster the closer such troops are to being in harm’s way (where combat could more easily occur).

German troops in the Wehrmacht during WWII, even during the most difficult of fighting, would never suffer the same fate of modern US soldiers since they were always being rotated out of front-line defenses on a regular basis until their unites became too depleted to do so. The Japanese Imperial Navy practiced a similar rotational process and was one of the core reasons why US commanders believed they survived the vicious sea conflict at Leyte Gulf in the Pacific.

New evidence has come to light that the lack of use of the Regiment System that is part of the Royal British Army was a major hindrance to troop morale and the cohesiveness of troops during WWII. As far as I know, the US Army has still not adopted any such system that has shown to have a better effect on its troops than simply being made a part of larger components. Yet, our leaders demand patriotism from our troops on an ongoing basis, something that a Regiment System would help in providing.

The budgets that are often spoken about in such articles have little to do with the welfare of our men and women in uniform but instead are oriented towards the big budget projects that many senior generals and Pentagon officials line their pockets with; people who should have long ago been retired and brought up under charges of treason.

Down to earth arts of soldiering, seamanship, and airmanship have long been subordinated to big budget technology projects, which nearly always never produce acceptable results for the troops that must rely on them. It has gotten to the point where Pentagon contractors cannot supply the troops with a decent bullet with quality control being nearly non-existent and project overruns inherently designed as the cost of doing business to extract ever more monies into the pockets of those who arrange such projects.

While our troops across the services are paid many times barely subsistant-level wages, many senior officers live like kings but have no knowledge on how to fight legitimate conflicts.

The list can go on but in short, as the reports of such declining mental and physical capabilities of US troops continue to bode bad omens for the integrity of our Armed Forces there is a rising possibility that US troops will eventually react the same way the French Army did in 1917 where mutinies broke out in several front-line divisions within an army that was already spent and had lost the conflict to superior German Forces.

Unfortunately, nothing will happen to change the situation with the current spate of loons in Congress and the mental midgets inhabiting the Executive branch until US troops decide to do something about it on their own. The fact that so many field officers feel the same way as their troops is an indication that this may very well happen…

#20 Comment By Fabian On January 17, 2018 @ 2:05 pm

One question this officer doesn’t ask; do the troops feel their mission is necessary and productive? In some places, maybe and in some places maybe not. It must be tough to be away for months on end to do something that amounts to fecal matter for a meager pay when everybody home has a new car and enjoy his life.

#21 Comment By UGA Oldtimer On January 17, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

I believe we need a draft. Here’s a description of how a good one would work:
Each year the services would figure their personnel needs for the following year and a draft board would total them up. Then the draft board would take the US News Best National Universities and Best National Colleges list for that year and, alternating between the best university and best college lists, start at the top of the list and take all the students from each school going down the lists who had completed their sophomore year (or use a number of credit hours) of college, going down the lists until they had the numbers needed ( and taking all the rising juniors at the school where the last needed draftee was taken). Draft them all, man, woman, and child, the deaf, dumb, and blind; the crippled, the disturbed, the Democrat. Draft them all—that is the key provision—draft them all. Draft them for 24 months and pay them $85/mth. in 1968 dollars. (This would allow a significantly larger portion of the defense budget to be used for equipment and research). A 4 year inactive reserve requirement after the active duty time. No deferments and no exclusions—if they are smart enough to go to those schools, the services can find something they can do. Don’t even bother giving them physicals before they are inducted. Physical fitness before being drafted could be encouraged by providing that those found physically unfit for combat arms service would have to do 30 months instead of 24. This would encourage college sophomores to get in shape.
From those to whom much has been given, something should be required. So don’t give them any GI benefits either. They’ll do fine. Save GI benefits for others who volunteer for service. I suspect that many AIT schools could be shortened with this group, giving the draftees more time in actual units. I know the services would say they don’t want the draftees, but the services will adjust and do fine, too. And the country will be a lot better off. Many of these kids’ parents would be influential, and they’d be down at the congressperson’s door if there was any move to enter some crazy war. And the effect on the nation’s colleges would be salutary, also. I know from experience that returning veterans are not much impressed with the professoriate. Not much at all.

#22 Comment By Irwin On January 17, 2018 @ 2:47 pm

Shoddy incompetent shower heater wiring was ELECTROCUTING our hero soldiers in Iraq in 2008 under Bush. Supposedly KBR refused any responsibility beyond installing the showers.
I didn’t hear of ONE instance with President Obama as Commander in Chief.
Whoevers fault it was it stopped. Full out inspection ordered – shocking failure rate of 90,000 showers in Iraq in early 2009.

#23 Comment By David Nash On January 17, 2018 @ 3:06 pm

@Professor Nerd
Waiting for the reaction from the satirically impaired in 3…2…

Back in the (19)60s, there was a song, “Waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the damn fool says to March On.” Back then, it was sung by pinko-commie-hippie-beatnik protestors, and soundly reviled by the Right. Today, it is being sung by liberals and conservatives, while the Left and the Right pump for their particular wars, whether Libya, Iran, or wherever we don’t yet have boots on the ground. (The Elites never yet saw a country they didn’t want to invade — and make a big profit therefrom.)

#24 Comment By Whine Merchant On January 17, 2018 @ 4:58 pm

I appreciate this article and would love to see it on WP and NYT. Of course, Faux will just call it ‘Fake News’ because it would discomfort their Tea Party audience raised on WW II Hollywood propaganda.

We also need to keep in mind that the military sucks-up America’s underclass and spits them out dead, demoralised, and medically and psychologically maimed. It’s the military or prison for the underclass born in the USA, and ‘keep your mouth shut’ for the immigrants doing the dirty jobs.

MAGA – hah hah hah!

Thank you –

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 17, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

Both cases: Patrick Tillman and Loretta Lynch are serious tragedies because they are both cases of manipulative story telling in causes that needn’t have been fought.

The issue of Pfc Manning is tragic for very different reasons.

#26 Comment By J Harlan On January 17, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

“New evidence has come to light that the lack of use of the Regiment System ….”

For the record the “regimental system” means you serve in the same battalion for most of your career and the unit is recruited geographically. It doesn’t matter if the battalion is called the 1st Rifles or the 1/375th or 16th Bavarian reserve. It’s all about serving with the same guys for years on end. Having all sorts of SOF to aspire is also detrimental to building regimental spirit.

For the downside of recruiting entire units from the same county or town look up what happened to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on 1 July 1916.

#27 Comment By Anonymous On January 17, 2018 @ 6:17 pm

I believe we need a draft. Here’s a description of how a good one would work:
Each year the services would figure their personnel needs for the following year and a draft board would total them up. Then the draft board would take the US News Best National Universities and Best National Colleges list for that year and, alternating between the best university and best college lists, start at the top of the list and take all the students from each school going down the lists who had completed their sophomore year (or use a number of credit hours) of college, going down the lists until they had the numbers needed ( and taking all the rising juniors at the school where the last needed draftee was taken). Draft them all, man, woman, and child, the deaf, dumb, and blind; the crippled, the disturbed, the Democrat. Draft them all—that is the key provision—draft them all. Draft them for 24 months and pay them $85/mth. in 1968 dollars. (This would allow a significantly larger portion of the defense budget to be used for equipment and research). A 4 year inactive reserve requirement after the active duty time. No deferments and no exclusions—if they are smart enough to go to those schools, the services can find something they can do. Don’t even bother giving them physicals before they are inducted. Physical fitness before being drafted could be encouraged by providing that those found physically unfit for combat arms service would have to do 30 months instead of 24. This would encourage college sophomores to get in shape.
From those to whom much has been given, something should be required. So don’t give them any GI benefits either. They’ll do fine. Save GI benefits for others who volunteer for service. I suspect that many AIT schools could be shortened with this group, giving the draftees more time in actual units. I know the services would say they don’t want the draftees, but the services will adjust and do fine, too. And the country will be a lot better off. Many of these kids’ parents would be influential, and they’d be down at the congressperson’s door if there was any move to enter some crazy war. And the effect on the nation’s colleges would be salutary, also. I know from experience that returning veterans are not much impressed with the professoriate. Not much at all.

I have a counterproposal: For every day that American troops are deployed on foreign soil, draft one student in the method you describe above and out that student in front of a firing squad and shoot them.

#28 Comment By Tomonthebeach On January 17, 2018 @ 7:06 pm

As long at Trump is CinC, we will be at war because in his view Americans are NOT LOSERS, and leaving the battlefield without victory (mission impossible) would make him President Loser – hard to see an alternative to that.

#29 Comment By Huckleberry On January 17, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

This isn’t hard.

No more wars for Israel.

They’re not an ally, or a friend. They are a millstone around our neck.

#30 Comment By Cesar Jeopardy On January 17, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

And much of this is done w/o the knowledge of the American people. The MSM does not report on any of the U.S. military operations around the world.

#31 Comment By Ken T On January 18, 2018 @ 12:38 am

Richard Parker:

What I remember from the primaries was Ron Paul being anti-war on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then sucking up to the neocons (to keep his own money train going) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. So spare me your sanctimonious drivel about the “anti-war left”. Come up with a candidate who really is consistently anti-war, instead of just saying the words when it is convenient, and I will happily consider him. Ron Paul wasn’t it. You Paul supporters are just as bad as Trump supporters when it comes to cherry-picking which of your candidate’s words you choose to hear while ignoring the rest.

#32 Comment By E.J. Smith On January 18, 2018 @ 9:52 am

“And much of this is done w/o the knowledge of the American people. The MSM does not report on any of the U.S. military operations around the world.”

That’s not really true. Just real the “World” section of the Washington Post and the catalogue of intervention is in plain view. It’s all there: Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Somalia, Colombia, Korea. The problem is that on one questions it.

99% of Americans have no ‘skin in the game’, so to speak, and until we do no one appears to care all that much. Our representatives in Congress are sheep, beholden to whichever support group subsidized their seat. No one holds any elected official accountable. Four solders were killed in Niger, it upset a few people, and has since been basically forgotten except by the families of the four who died.

Rex Tillerson tells the world at Stanford that the U.S. is in Syria for the long-haul and no one really asks how intervening in Syria’s civil war is in American interests other than the usual justification for protracted Middle Eastern interventions. Iran has replaced Iraq as Enemy No. 1 since Iraq, like Libya, and Syria, is basically a basketcase.

Meanwhile, pretty much every televised sporting event and some video games have very slick advertisements telling us how cool and challenging joining the military is. The Marines are targeting hard-charging high school females. With the post 9/11 G.I. Bill attending state school is basically free. We’re all on autopilot.

#33 Comment By crusty SGT On January 19, 2018 @ 2:22 am

Wars and rumors of wars.

After all the fighting its time to bring people home.

The middle east and a zillion other ‘sh*thole countries’ will never be at peace… and thats is ok.

Personally I’m sick of war and yea.. ive served.

#34 Comment By JX On January 19, 2018 @ 3:33 am

Great article. Unfortunately this has been endemic since Dubya’s ROE and Rumsfeld’s calling up reserves. What do the JCS say about this now?

#35 Comment By Potato On January 19, 2018 @ 9:13 am

It’s bipartisan. Obama was going to get us out of foreign wars. Instead he got us into a couple new ones. Trump, same song, second (or tenth) verse, apparently. (Hillary would probably have been the worst of the three. She never met a foreign war she didn’t like.)

When politicos of such disparate views behave exactly the same, follow the money. Both parties are being paid off, probably by military contractors, etc.

Probably the best hope, and it’s a slender one, is to re-institute the draft in some form. Whatever that form is, it must be made difficult or impossible to evade, so that the wealthy cannot just duck out on one pretext or another. (“Bone spurs” and so forth.). Male and female (and transgender), gay and straight, no excuses. Even if you are in a wheelchair we can probably find something useful for you to do. Not all service members must be in the infantry.

The American public doesn’t seem to care about rational foreign policy; let’s see if we care about our children.

#36 Comment By charrob On January 19, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

There has not be one single war since the Revolution that has been fought for the defense of the United States. Those who sign up to fight need to do their due diligence by understanding this. Since they obviously do not and, instead, embark on “missions” to “advise and assist” in order to create civil wars in countries that are no threat to the U.S. and put in place puppet governments, or in the case of Iraq and Libya, directly topple governments in countries that are no threat to the U.S., why should I care about their well-being? They are _choosing_ to be terrorists for a paycheck!

No one is asking them to enlist. I would prefer that they didn’t enlist: obviously that is the only way to stop the slaughter, insanity and complete destruction of entire countries that are no threat to the U.S. And, no, a draft should not be re-instantiated: why should kids who choose not to murder for a paycheck be forced to do so?

As a taxpayer, I am, and have been, angry that these young people who clearly can see U.S. militarism is not on the right side of history, enlist. _THEY_ are the problem. Why don’t they get a real job and produce something beneficial to the country and humanity rather than destroy things? Why don’t they have real courage and say “No!” to terrorizing the rest of the planet in unnecessary wars? Oh that’s right… because they like their free taxpayer funded college, their 20-year careers and pensions. Feel sorry for them? Oh cry me a river!

#37 Comment By Jeremy Williams On January 20, 2018 @ 1:43 am

I feel way too much time and publicity is given to this “active duty Major” in these online news forums. It is hard to stomach some of his recent postings on this site and reposted to Zerohedge. I have to say that while I do appreciate that he chose to serve in the armed forces of the greatest military in the history of mankind, he seems quite determined to undermine those same armed forces he served with. They say history repeats itself or things come around again at a later time. I feel that the current generation of military officers and senior enlisted fail to remember and learn from not only our military history but our nation’s history. The current “down with the man” attitude of the 30 somethings and younger generations are a hollow reflection of the antiwar generation of the 60’s-70’s. This attitude is seen throughout society which reflects upon our military. The people serving in the military are not “right wing gun nuts” as most left leaning Americans would have you believe, they are just like the average civilian. All of this leads me to this “West Point Major”. While I am not a fan of West Pointers like most soldiers in the Army, we deal with them like our weird relative. The War on Terrorism has proven that these braniacs like this smart Major don’t know what they’re talking about. The vast majority of Americans that have served over there during this BS “war” are poor or middle class Americans of every race and religion from all parts of our great country. They know by now, 16 years in, how to win this war. It is not by playing nation building games in countries that don’t respect the USA or care what crazy social justice cause is making the rounds in western countries. We know that if you are going to send us to war, then you better let us win. The politicians and our very own military leaders (major) have failed the rank and file military in allowing them to “win” the war on terrorism. I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan and back to Iraq and the same mentality is there year after year. Kill the bad guy, don’t kill the rest. How do you know who is who from 100 yards away? These wars are a joke, and unfortunately people like this major want to talk about how our kids are being worn out by non stop deployments. How about talking about how leaders like yourself not questioning senior leaders about the constitutionality of this BS war. I also take issue with your uneducated statements about reserve components participation in the “killing and breaking of the ARMY”. The reserves and National Guard have been participating in the missions, foreign and domestic, since this county was founded. You act as if your Active Duty peers are the only ones that sacrifice and suffer in America’s wars. This is misleading and reflects your narrow agenda when you write about your adventures. I’ll tell you who is breaking our kids, it’s leaders like yourself. Leaders with political agendas and leaders that don’t put their Marines and Soldiers before themselves. Seems a lot of people that have fought in the war on terror want to get famous for some insignificant battle or fight or attack on a fob just to get their 15 minutes of fame. I would just like to say that most people I served with did not publicly criticize any President while I was in, and fought for their countrymen and fellow soldiers/Marines. I will say that I went to war for more years under the previous President than any other. I joined the military in 1990, and the last guy was not a peaceful President. To even throw the current President into any of your articles is a joke. He has given control to the DOD for how the wars are run. So ultimately leaders like yourself are the ones killing “our kids”. Get off your high “West Point” horse and go talk to your friends working in the Pentagon about your concerns. You are part of the problem my friend, stop playing the victim.

Sincerely
CW4 AVN
MEDEVAC Iraq, Afg, Kosovo, Kuwait/Iraq
Sgt USMC

#38 Comment By Another Army MAJ On January 20, 2018 @ 10:28 pm

This is one MAJ’s perspective and is a bit off the mark. He taught at West Point, so he had at least 5 years without a deployment. Complaining that 2 out of 3 friends are deployed after 5 years without a deployment isn’t really supporting his argument. The majority of Soldiers are deploying every 3-4 years. Even in the quoted 1AD, one brigade has its first deployment in 6 years. Just look at the numbers. There are about 500k active duty Soldiers in the Army today. We don’t have 100k Soldiers deployed without their Families around the world. The SF units are over stretched a bit, but everyone of these Soldiers volunteered for this mission knowing that they deploy much more often. This was a problem in 2010ish, which ironically was the last time this MAJ probably deployed.

#39 Comment By george Archers On January 22, 2018 @ 5:19 am

Wrong–these are kids in the military.These are grown ups.
Let’s cut out the chase. America does not need a military.Police yes!
USA has/is a terrorist state since it’s inception.Invaded countless countries on false premises.Worst of the lot–Sept 11

#40 Comment By Ivy Mike On January 22, 2018 @ 7:20 pm

We need to improve public education to the point our young people know enough about both history and current events to realize that all of our ongoing wars are unconstitutional, unnecessary, illegal under international law, and stupid. I no longer thank the troops, what why are doing around the world is so clearly wrong that they are also culpable.

#41 Comment By Forearmed On January 23, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

Of course we’re killing our kids. Governments and politicians have always killed the young and strong because they can weather the storm of war better than girls and the aged.

Every nation and country on earth for all eternity have always done so, and they all convince their young that it is patriotic to die for their country.

If the young ever wake up, they may just start killing the politicians instead of killing a supposed enemies of the state.

Guilting someone into believing that dying for their patriotic duty is the oldest lie in the book. Don’t ever buy into this bull from someone who has something to gain by your death.

#42 Comment By furbo On January 24, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

SteveM, Kent, please reserve your resentment for policies and not the soldiers who carry them out. Most soldiers don’t want to be called ‘heroes’, or even ‘warriors’ just…soldiers doing that their country has asked. Their country…that’s YOU Steve M & Kent. You vote for politicians, they get elected, they send your neighbors (tho I doubt you actually KNOW anyone serving) to do violence on YOUR…yes YOUR behalf. As to the Army breaking – nonsense. We lose fewer people to combat than we lost in the 80’s to ‘training’.

#43 Comment By robert On January 24, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

I’m surprised at how few soldiers and citizens seem willing to question the basic bargain all of them signed up for: an incredibly damaging military industrial complex. Come on, they all participate in this it and cheer on, but they never question its purposes, scope,and ambitions, then they pretend to be dismayed, or wonder why its not working and dysfunctional? The Congress and the President will have these stupid expensive manpower issues as long as they cheer for more overreaching, and trying to run a spider like military Empire with a 1,000 oversea military bases is overreaching. I also am sure that the Congress and the military brass, and especially the wealthy and influential [corrupt] arms industry, are laughing– they love the money! Why would they ever give up their longstanding easy profits and massive CEO perks? Following the old Eisenhower #ColdWar plan, in lieu of troops, Arms makers/Congress/Presidents will borrow billions increasing the deficit and forcing taxpayers to sacrifice on social needs to buy more of their filthy evil hardware, bombs, planes, missiles, nukes and more nukes.

#44 Comment By robert On January 26, 2018 @ 9:56 pm

I think we need to hear alot more from the vets– they know the Empire and are the only part of our society who can fix the mess called America. Vets saw first hand how our vast American Military Empire operates overseas. Vets, if you come home bent and angry then tell it, speak out! America needs to hear it! If you think the overseas Empire of 1,000 bases are necessary, explain why; if not, if its unnecessary, or worse, speak up to your Congressman, your wife, your sister, to press, friends.
The public is clueless; the arms industry, media and the politicians make sure of that. The only people who can fix America are the watchful vets- if you’re a patriot, you can’t be silent!

#45 Comment By Richard Graham On February 21, 2018 @ 5:57 pm

This is great news. I hope that the slaughter continues as the fewer ignorant armed bigots there are, the more chance civilization will survive.