How Much Do We Need Troops?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 31 2012 @ 9:58am


A lot, says Steven Metz. Fred Kagan agrees, arguing it is inevitable that "the United States will again send troops to fight in far-off lands." Peter J. Munson wants us to question that frame:

Given the inherent tensions built into America's institutions, the ability to successfully wage small wars of peripheral interest is nil. It took months, if not years, for these institutions to admit that America was even facing an insurgency in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, much less begin to implement a strategy designed to counter the roots of these insurgencies. Given this analysis, the most logical way to deal with this conundrum is to raise the bar for entry into conflict. If American leadership is forced to make a more honest accounting of the costs, it will enter fewer conflicts. 

He sees a large combat-ready force as part of the problem:

Combat power stands ready in the form of an unparalleled, standing volunteer military with nearly instant global reach. As long as no significant reserve call-up or economic mobilization is needed, the commander-in-chief is relatively unhindered in committing this force to combat.  

Lawrence Korb zooms in on some of Kagan's more dubious claims.

(Photo: A US soldier keeps watching as other inspect the site of a suicide attack near the gate of Kandahar international airport on January 19, 2012. By Jangir/AFP/Getty Images.)