March 18, 2009


Readers of this blog will have grown used to me running my mouth off about some policy or another. But it wasn't always so. The first time I ever opened my cakehole about something in a public forum was not too long ago -- June 2004, to be exact, and in the New York Times:

Announced shortly after the 9/11 attacks and authorized by President Bush, the stop-loss policy allows commanders to hold soldiers past the date they are due to leave the service if their unit is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Military officials rightly point out that stop-loss prevents a mass exodus of combat soldiers just before a combat tour.

But nonetheless, the stop-loss policy is wrong; it runs contrary to the concept of the volunteer military set up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Many if not most of the soldiers in this latest Iraq-bound wave are already veterans of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have honorably completed their active duty obligations. But like draftees, they have been conscripted to meet the additional needs in Iraq.

Secretary Gates took steps toward ending this nonsense today as part of a larger effort -- started by him, in 2006, and continued by the Obama Administration -- to be more honest about the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both in terms of material and personnel costs. We are fighting these wars in an environment of scarcity. Being honest about that scarcity is important. (Which is why it is not unimportant that President Obama has put the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan where they belong, in the actual budget.)

Note: I was supposed to speak about this on CBS earlier tonight, but they canceled. Probably to talk about Rihanna instead. Or octuplets. I'll be on the Diane Rehm Show tomorrow, though, to talk about the status of the armed forces in general.