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February 29, 2004

40,000 TROOPS....Yesterday I linked to the speech on terrorism that John Kerry presented at UCLA on Friday and said that I thought it was pretty good. But I want to highlight one part of it.

First, though, I want to acknowledge how hard it is to evaluate policy proposals like this, primarily because most of them — from both Democrats and Republicans — are little more than motherhood and apple pie. Kerry, for example, supports better intelligence, stronger international alliances, cutting off of terrorist funding, stronger nonproliferation efforts, more money for homeland security, and so forth. There isn't much to argue with here aside from picking nits about individual phrases — who's opposed to straight talk about "radical Madrassas" after all? — so how can you tell if he's really tough on terrorism or not?

But there was at least one very concrete proposal in his speech: we have a "solemn obligation" to finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at the same time our military is dangerously overextended. Therefore, we need a temporary addition of 40,000 active-duty Army troops, "likely to last the remainder of the decade." That's two divisions.

Is this a new proposal on Kerry's part? If it is, I'm surprised it didn't get more attention. It's absolutely concrete, it's a clear demonstration of increased commitment to fighting terrorism, and it's a direct criticism of the Rumsfeld/Bush insistence that we don't need more troops.

Surely this is the kind of thing that war supporters are looking for when they ask for firm evidence that Democrats are serious about national security? So far, though, I haven't see any reaction.

UPDATE: Commenter Mischa points out that Kerry first talked about expanding the size of the Army at least as far back as December 2003 in this speech in Des Moines.

By the way, I agree with everyone in comments who said that increasing the size of the Army isn't necessarily a sign of being tough on terrorism. It depends on what you do with the troops and on whether you think a larger military is a good way of fighting terrorism in the first place. But even so, this proposal seems like enough of a concrete differentiator between Kerry and Bush and between Kerry and the rest of the Democrats that I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention.

And Tacitus: you must be kidding. Liberals who talk about "root causes" are routinely mocked by conservatives. The Greater Middle East Initiative is, ironically, exactly the kind of thing most Democrats favor, and exactly the kind of thing that would be an object of scorn if a Democrat had proposed it. More here.

Posted by Kevin Drum at February 29, 2004 12:24 PM | TrackBack


No, it's not a new proposal.

Posted by: David Weman at February 29, 2004 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if the press reported on this, then, they'd have to abandon their stereotype of all Democrats as beatnicks...

Posted by: Valatan at February 29, 2004 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting. One view of why some Kerry supporters may avoid calling attention to this kind of talk is that they don't want to alienate the anti-war vote within the party. Take a look at this post over at Baseball Crank.

Posted by: RH at February 29, 2004 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

David: do you have any more detail on when he first proposed this? It would certainly explain why this didn't get more attention.

But it's still surprising that I've never heard this before. It seems like a pretty clear difference between Kerry and Bush and also between Kerry and the rest of the Dems.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at February 29, 2004 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

David Weman said of Kerry's two-more-divisions plan No, it's not a new proposal.

David, can you elaborate a little and give some cites? Is it something that Kerry has pushed in the Senate? Or something that's been in his campaign speeches or website for a while?

I'm curious to know if Kerry believes we could get to that kind of troop strength with volunteers, or whether he favors a draft.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at February 29, 2004 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I was going to say, it sounded like evidence of a draft.

Posted by: John G at February 29, 2004 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's great that he wants to increase the size of the military, but what I'm afraid of is that he won't use it the right way. This is just my opinion, and I don't speak for the Right as a whole, but he says that he wants to treat terrorist attacks as a criminal matter. If that is really his plan, I don't care how many troops he wants to add, we won't win.

[I don't actually believe him when he says that, of course; I think that it's just a way to keep the anti-war vote. But it is what he says.]

Posted by: Mario at February 29, 2004 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

We have a "solemn obligation" my hairy white ass. Our moral obligation is to cut our losses and get the hell out of Iraq, then bribe them with aid contingent on womens' rights, etc.

What would have happened to Viet Nam if some idiot politician thought we had a "solemn obligation" to stay in for another decade? Clearing our trigger-happy, agent-orange-(now depleted-uranium-)-spraying butts out of there is the best thing we ever could have done for Viet Nam, and it's the best thing we can do for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by: js7a at February 29, 2004 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I heard him talking about this a while ago and it sent chills down my spine! Let's look at this realistically. Despite whatever faux-patriotic blather that erupts whenever one of the potential Presidents makes reference to these matters, fewer and fewer young men and women are going to be responding to "their country's call". Enlistment is going to plummet, and given that additional 40,000 proposal, a significant draft is going to be required.

Now, personally, I think we ought to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, drop the oil intrests and the desire for military bases, drop them quick and run for the door. Kerry's not going to do that. He's going to do things that will make me, a staunch Democrat, loathe him. He'll keep us in Iraq as we start losing 5 and 10 soldiers a day, and I'm going to be out on the street calling for his impeachment. It's going to be the peak of hypocracy for him to institute a draft, to dig us deeper into the hole and, in four years, to be talking about a "secret plan" for peace.

So why am I going to vote for him? Because I harbor a glint of hope that Bush and Cheney, et al, will be brought up on charges, with as many reversals of their disasterous tenure implimented as is possible. But still, I'll march against Kerry, the same way I marched against Nixon, and Johnson, who each felt a "solemn obligation" to "win" in Viet Nam. History repeats itself, over and over and over.....

Posted by: Thurber Hamm at February 29, 2004 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Can we get rid of the "bomb them to smithereens like a man or be a wimp and choose a 'law enforcement' option" canard now, please?

Posted by: marky at February 29, 2004 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that Kerry talks about Bush's (non-existent) "Doctrine of unilateral preemption" is a bit unfortunate. Sure, make proposals. But he shouldn't lie.

Posted by: me at February 29, 2004 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Kerry didn't originate the idea, the Pentagon has been asking for a force increase for some time.

Both the 82nd and the 101st were deployed to Iraq at the same time. They are the Airborne rapid deployment divisions and it is very unsettling to have both committed. It leaves the US with the Marines, but they and their equipment are not designed for a large deployment by air.

We have also concentrated all of the Civil Affairs units in the Reserves and National Guard, which accounts for the major deployments to Iraq.

The Pentagon and governors may not be quite as concerned as the Guard and Reserve troops about these deployments, but they aren't far behind.

Rumsfeld is seeing his vision of reorganization being disrupted by reality.

Posted by: Bryan at February 29, 2004 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

Makes you wonder if Blair had not supported Dubya last year this time, where would we have gotten 40,000 (the number Brits supplied) more boots on the ground. Eh? I would have to read all of Kerry's piece before I could evaluate --- perhaps he's referring to the Draft and perhaps he's referring to the number needed without our citizen soldiers (Guard) who ought to be home, protecting all of US. We are not going to obtain 'national security' by protecting the oilfields in Iraq. Again, I can't judge his remarks out of context.

Posted by: Grandma at February 29, 2004 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

I see this as one more reason to vote against Kerry in November.

There are negative consequences to leaving Iraq; there are negative consequences for staying.

By following Kerry we get the negative consequences of staying and the negative consequences of leaving.

We should transition to Iraqi leadership soonest. If we're there to promote democracy, what's wrong with letting the Iraqis vote and govern themselves? Will there be problems? Yes. But it's not like any other course of action will be problem free.

Let the Iraqis govern themselves and pump money into rebuilding infrastructure as long as their doing a reasonable job of it.

BTW, we shouldn't expect Iraqis to elect a pro-Sharon government. If we're waiting for Iraqis to elect a pro-Likud government, let's ditch the ruse that we're promoting democracy and just admit were there for selfish political goals.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg at February 29, 2004 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a second. If we are going to get rid of "Radical Madrassas", why not the same commitment to getting rid of "Radical pseudo-Christian Brainwashing Churches"?

I hate Kerry more and more every day.

And 40,000 *more* troops for the rest of the decade?

What happened to "last man to die for a mistake?"

Plus he won't stand up for same-sex marriage.

If it wasn't pro-life, he'd have nothing going for him.

I so despise the Radical Moderate Democrats.

Don't crow over me, little Republicans, I'm a member of the super-wacko left. We vote for communists: write-ins if we have to, and won't make one iota of difference in the vote to keep your precious theocratic leader from being thrown out of office by his ear. Preferably tarred and feathered and ridden on a rail back to Texas. But not after a long stay in a cell in Leavenworth where he *really* belongs.

Posted by: Ananna at February 29, 2004 01:05 PM | PERMALINK

If anybody watched the debate at USC the other night, Kerry was asked by Kucinich about this request of 40,000. So it seems that the info is not new as of middle of last week. Kerry explicitly denied that a draft would be necessary, however, his description of how this was avoided was a bit garbled.

Posted by: Boggs at February 29, 2004 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

Why, after his for and against positions on every conceivable issue (see gay marriage), would anyone think this is a serious proposal?

Posted by: Mike K at February 29, 2004 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kerry's proposal to raise two divisions is not new.

I agree with Kevin that Democrats can not only shatter the stereotypes about their being weak on national security and defense, but that they can show true leadership. National service can be a key piece of that.

[The following is a set of recommendations on Democratic war leadership from my 2/20/04 piece, "The War President?"]

** Democratic Wartime Leadership in 2004 **

Looking ahead, Democrats must do more than highlight the obvious failings of George W. Bush, the “war president.” Whether they supported the war in Iraq or not, Democrats must bring stability to Iraq and defeat Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. Whether it’s John Kerry or John Edwards, the next Democratic president must create the conditions to prosecute and win a global struggle with military, diplomatic, and economic components.

1. Maintain Defense Spending Levels. The new realities of American security will require high levels of defense spending for the foreseeable future. Democrats must resist the temptation to trim a Pentagon budget that has reached roughly $400 billion. This will be necessary in part to fund the Army expansion described below.

2. Expand the Standing Army. As described above, U.S. forces and the families that support them are being stretched to the breaking point. Senator John Kerry’s proposal to boost the U.S. Army by at least two divisions is a good place to start.

3. Create a “Home Guard.” As we’ve elaborated in “The New American Bargain”, there is no better way to raise the needed forces in a democracy, substantively and symbolically, than through national service. Clearly, there is no political support in either party for conscription for our wars abroad. The same cannot be said of domestic security at home. The Federal government should create a Home Guard, drafting at least 250,000 Americans between the ages of 19 and 22 for homeland defense. Funded and managed by the Department of Homeland Security and assigned to relevant federal and state agencies (such as the Coast Guard, Transportation Safety Administration, Immigration, and Border Patrol), the members of the Home Guard would police borders, guard ports, staff airport checkpoints (replacing the TSA personnel), and monitor major events, energy facilities and transportation hubs.

4. Set Energy Independence by 2020 as a National Goal. The Democratic president should implement a national security energy policy; call it the USA Energy Act. A USA Energy Act would focus on energy independence to both limit the U.S. vulnerability to economic dislocations due to OPEC action and provide greater freedom of action in foreign policy in the Middle East. This would include subsidies and a venture fund for alternative fuel sources. Just as important, it would include critical conservation measures, including conservation tax credits for businesses, a fuel price floor, and a fuel consumption surcharge on purchases of new, low efficiency vehicles.

5. Rollback the Bush Tax Plan. The Bush tax cuts are fiscally irresponsible, perverse subsidies to the wealthy that are morally unacceptable, especially in wartime. The next Democratic president should rollback the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes over $200,000. At the same time, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) should be increased, perhaps as high as $50,000. The plans of John Kerry and Wesley Clark are good starting points.

Posted by: Jon at February 29, 2004 01:19 PM | PERMALINK


I'm curious how you see adding 40,000 soldiers as an "increased commitment to fighting terrorism." At first, I thought you were accepting the Bushism that Iraq=terrorist threat. Then, when I thought about it more, I realized that now there is evidence of terrorist activity in Iraq, even if everyone and their sane mother now admit that Iraq wasn't a terrorist threat in the first place.

But let's be honest. Two divisions aren't about Iraq, at least not solely. They're about the American empire, or whatever you want to call it. There as much about needing to maintain a presence in Columbia and Korea and (kind of) the Phillipines and Nigeria and Kazakhistan and Romania and Afghanistan and so on as it is about fulfilling our solemn duty in Iraq. And these other locations have nothing to do with terrorism (well, maybe the Phillipines does, but you'd find some people who disagree). You fight terrorism by adding two divisions of firefighters and policemen and FBI agents and people who will actally cut off funding to terrorists, not by sending more soldiers. And where are we going to send them? We've removed soldiers from the single greatest source of terrorists, Saudi Arabia; we have restricted movement from the second biggest source of terrorists, Pakistan.

I guess I'd prefer if we didn't conflate the war on terror with the other military commitments we have. I think you can have honest debates about the best approach to dealing with both of these security challenges. But by conflating them, we avoid evaluating them on their merits.

Posted by: emptywheel at February 29, 2004 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well of course he is talking about a draft.

There isn't 40,000 Americans stupid enough to join the war for oil currently being waged.

Worse yet is everyone seems to forget Kerry is no better than Bush and answers to the same masters. That's the reason the bought and payed for hirelings we call the media ran Dean out. He wasn't owned in the same way Kerry and Bush are. When I saw the Skull and Bones connection between Georgie and Johnnie, I already knew it was buisness as usual. Shame is others believe it'll make a difference which Bonesman is in office, when in all truth they are both leading us down the path of an agenda cooked up long ago.

Posted by: IXLNXS at February 29, 2004 01:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hi -

If Kerry is in favor of improved intelligence, then why oh why has he consistently voted against improvements in intelligence?

A case can be made that the gutting of the CIA in the late 1970s is directly responsible for the lack of humint we have today...


Posted by: John Opie at February 29, 2004 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

KERRY: No, I'm not going to have a draft. Yes, I will get us out of Iraq.


KERRY: None of those troops are going to Iraq that I've talked about, that 40,000.

That is a reflection of the fact that our military is extraordinarily overextended. Our Guards and Reserves have been turned into almost active duty. When we bring the rotation of these four divisions back, over the course of the spring, we'll only have two divisions actively prepared to do what we need to do in our country.

KUCINICH: How are we going to get another 40,000 troops, John?

KERRY: Dennis, I laid out -- I think I was the first United States senator to stand up and lay out a very specific plan for how you approach the rest of the world and bring them to the table with respect to Iraq.

And the way -- you can't just cut and run, Dennis.

Posted by: swivel head at February 29, 2004 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

It's on the platform at his campaign site, and as for a datable statement of it--from Kerry's Dec. 16 speech in Des Moines:

As we internationalize the work in Iraq, we need to add 40,000 troops – the equivalent of two divisions – to the American military in order to meet our responsibilities elsewhere – especially in the urgent global war on terror.  In my first 100 days as President, I will move to increase the size of our Armed Forces.  Some may not like that.  But today, in the face of grave challenges, our armed forces are spread too thin.  Our troops in Iraq are paying the price for this everyday. There’s not enough troops in the ranks of our overall armed forces to bring home those troops that have been in Iraq for more than a year. 

President Bush’s policies have overextended our military – and turned reserves into fulltime soldiers.  Iowa, with a population of less than three million people, is in the Top 10 states in the proportion of National Guard troops on active duty;  more than 2,600 of Iowa's 9,500 Army and Air Guard soldiers have been activated.  George Bush and Don Rumsfeld say we have enough troops.  I think they’re putting politics and pride ahead of what is right for our soldiers, our reserves, and our security.

Posted by: Mischa at February 29, 2004 01:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not making any particular observation here about whether the troops are necessary, whether they really have anything to do with the war on terror, whether Kerry is the first person on the planet to suggest this, or how Kerry would use them. I'm just pointing out that this is a very concrete proposal that most people (especially war supporters) would consider being "tough on terrorism," and one that has been specifically rejected by Bush. So what's the reaction from the pro-war crowd?

As for the draft, don't be silly. Nobody wants the draft, and we could easily add two divisions without it. It would cost a bunch of money, but I don't think we'd have trouble getting recruits. Remember, we had 20 divisions in the 80s and managed to fill them all.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at February 29, 2004 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a new proposal on Kerry's part? If it is, I'm surprised it didn't get more attention. It's absolutely concrete, it's a clear demonstration of increased commitment to fighting terrorism, and it's a direct criticism of the Rumsfeld/Bush insistence that we don't need more troops.

Kevin is really missing the point. Raising an additional 40,000 troops is ABSOLUTELY NOT "a clear demonstration of an increased commitment to fighting terrorism."

The appropriate question is: what are you going to do with those troops? Are you really going to have them fighting terrorism? Or are you going to cut and run, like Clinton did in Haiti, and have an extra 40,000 troops sitting around Fort Hood? With Kerry, it is always difficult to tell, since he gives 7 answers to every question (depending on who he is talking to) - but it seems pretty clear that Kerry is more a "cut and run" kind of guy than a "fight terrorism" guy.

I'll give credit to Clinton - he eventually learned that you can't cut and run. He ruined Somalia and Haiti with his horrible cut-and-run policies. He initially committed to cutting and running from Bosnia. But he slowly turned around in his Bosnia policy (turned around meaning - he lied when he initially said we'd leave in 1 year, and thank goodness for that). Finally, after 6 years, when it came to Kosovo, re learned that you just can't cut and run.

If anything is blindingly obvious, it is that Bush is NOT going to cut and run (hence the 110,000 being put INTO Iraq right now).

Posted by: Al at February 29, 2004 01:50 PM | PERMALINK


In case it isn't clear: He's NOT proposing to increase troop strength in Iraq by 40,000--the addition is to the overall US military.

Posted by: Mischa at February 29, 2004 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is just another reason why Kevin's earlier speculation about Bush staying in office to clean up the mess he started seems all that much more reasonable. Kerry better have a crack team of political, military, and policy advisors to help him deal with an overextended military, an economic slump, a large deficit, and terrorism concerns. Moreover, he'll have a host of other issues he'll have to deal with too: social issues propounded by the Right, tax issues (such as the alternative minimum tax), and of course health care. It's hard to know how he's going to juggle all these issues; putting 40,000 troops in the mix just adds to the cake.

Ultimately, if he's going to expand the military he really needs to make an argument concerning the importance of backing our commitments to Iraq and Afgahnistan. He's also going to have to make an argument for money, lots of it, to back these commitments. Inevitably, I see him facing a double-edged sword: a left that will (perhaps rightfully) denounce him for wanting to "see" Iraq through and a right that will (hypocritically) denounce him for money spending internationalism. With all the issues he'll face, I hope Kerry's prepared for tough decisions and many, many beatings.

Posted by: CK at February 29, 2004 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bryan said Actually, Kerry didn't originate the idea, the Pentagon has been asking for a force increase for some time. ... Rumsfeld is seeing his vision of reorganization being disrupted by reality.

I've been following this Pentagon debate for a while, but missed the moment at which Kerry picked a side. Boggs, thanks for the info about the topic coming up in the USC debate. I'd still like to know how, where, and when Kerry took up this proposal.

emptywheel expresses my thoughts to a T. But the American empire is so taken for granted in mainstream political discussion that I never expect any Dem. nominee to challenge it in my lifetime, much less this year.

I'm just looking for sanity. For instance, I'd be able to live with two more divisions in the army if it meant we would abandon the corporate-boondoggle / first-strike-from-space that is "missile defense." And re-join the ABM treaty, rejoin chem/bio nonproliferation compacts, etc.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at February 29, 2004 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

Question answered; thanks for the link, Mischa.

Posted by: Nell Lancaster at February 29, 2004 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

mike k:

Why, after his for and against positions on every conceivable issue (see gay marriage), would anyone think this is a serious proposal?

if you have to parrot somebody, I suggest you make it someone with a better handle on reality than George W. Bush.

Or you could try thinking for yourself. But be forewarned that that can be tiring.

Posted by: xfrosch at February 29, 2004 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Shortly before 9-11, didn't Rumsfeld counsel Bush to threaten a veto on defense spending that didn't favor missile defense over intelligence improvement?

Let's get over this idea that one side was more vigilant than the other against terrorism. The truth is, we were caught with our pants down then, and everyone looks messy in retrospect.

Posted by: Fred Arnold at February 29, 2004 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, after reading the comments, I guess I really aint a liberal.

After the repuglican talking heads kept saying that dems had no plan for the war on terror, I sat down and made one

I am a bit reactionary, I want to draft 2 million new troops, train 500,000 language translators, build 5 aircraft carriers and 10 space shuttles, about 100 million tomahawk missiles and the factories needed to produce about 1 million missiles a month. The plan went on, but was short on detail.

the real point of my list is the contrast of my list to the list of our President. George Bush has no such list or plan. Or, closer to the truth I think, George will not tell us what his true plan is

In his enthusiasm to invade Iraq, George Bush missed the boat. Most of today's news should have been printed in early 2002, i.e.; Increased Effort to Catch Osama, Is The Army to Small ?

George Bush could have used 9/11 to increase security, instead he spent our collective good will to invade Iraq. Now we have a 1 division "Ready Force". Are we safer, HELL NO

I could out think the President any day of the week, and most of his advisors too. Let's hope Osama doesn't have someone like myself working for him. Better still, lets vote for someone smarter than me to be the leader of the free world, if we ever recover our leadership position.

Posted by: Free American at February 29, 2004 02:06 PM | PERMALINK

If anything is blindingly obvious, it is that Bush is NOT going to cut and run (hence the 110,000 being put INTO Iraq right now).

Please notice that none of the sons and daughters of GWB or his "advisors" are included in the 110,000 just as there have been none involved in either Afghanistan or Iraq up until now. GWB sees no need to "cut and run" as long as someone elses kids are being maimed and killed.

Posted by: ____league at February 29, 2004 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, after reading the comments, I guess I really aint a liberal.

I do not know if you are a liberal or not. You do seem to have two basic skills. You observe what is going on and then you think about it.

While both political parties contain people who observe and think they also contain people who do neither. At the present time this country is being run by a non-observing non-thinking segment of the Republican party and in only three years they have been responsible for more destruction that I would have thought possible.

Posted by: ____league at February 29, 2004 02:18 PM | PERMALINK

Al: You seem to forget that, until our current president decided to change course dramatically, nation-building was tantamount to homosexuality in the conservative mind. Clinton got pounded by conservatives on this after the somali gangs were dragging that dead American soldier around on TV.

Keep that in mind when you're creating new reasons for the war, e.g., humanitarian reasons, liberating Iraqis, etc.

Posted by: Boggs at February 29, 2004 02:20 PM | PERMALINK

To Ananna
If you think "it won't make one iota of difference" for whom you vote for listen to most of the people who voted for Nader In 2000. I'm thinking of Bill Maher and Michael Moore specifically. They, along with thousands of others, voted for Nader because they couldn't stand Gore and thought their vote wouldn't make "one iota of difference" in the outcome. Guess what. Those votes made all the difference. Maher said that he was embarrassed over his Nader vote in '00, that he and his fellow-Nader voters didn't think their votes would matter and a non-Gore vote made them feel good. Because of these people George W. Bush sits in the White House today. and will again in 2005 if everyone who can vote for Kerry doesn't.. Anyone who seriously wants Bush OUT will vote for the only person who can beat him, John Kerry. If Kerry is beaten by voters to whom it's more important to make a "statement" than booting Bush then so be it. But the Republicans will be crowing loud and long if Bush wins again and he will if the Democratic vote is split again.. Please think about long and hard. It matters.

Posted by: Mary Alice at February 29, 2004 02:20 PM | PERMALINK's a clear demonstration of increased commitment to fighting terrorism....

Sort of. More accurately, it's a clear demonstration of an increased commitment to fighting the two wars we are engaged in right now, plus maintaining capacity to meet our defense commitments elsewhere.

A clear demonstration of an increased commitment to fighting terrorism per se would involve some serious talk about root causes and how to address them. The Bush Administration is doing just that, albeit a little too obliquely for my taste, with things like its Greater Middle East Initiative. While Kerry doubtless would say he agrees with that sort of thing, I've yet to see anything in his record -- to say nothing of new or bold proclamations on the campaign trail -- to indicate that his rhetoric would be backed with any serious purpose.

Posted by: Tacitus at February 29, 2004 02:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just pointing out that this is a very concrete proposal that most people (especially war supporters) would consider being "tough on terrorism," and one that has been specifically rejected by Bush. So what's the reaction from the pro-war crowd?

I'll bite, Kevin. Concrete proposal, yes. As much as any campaign speech by any candidate of any political stripe is "concrete." But Kerry threw out an actual, concrete number of 40,000 additional troops. I would like to know more about the reasoning that resulted in that number. That's right around two divisions in size, but those troops won't all be tip--some will be support staff in the tail. So the end result will be less than two divisions of combat strength.

Do I consider the addition of 40,000 troops to be "tough on terror?" No. Fighting terrorists does not require heavy formations, which are actually the worst option for the war on terror. They're too big and slow, and a small, highly mobile enemy has plenty of warning that they're coming. Small units of special forces, which can move unnoticed and strike swiftly, are vastly superior in the anti-terror role.

At the same time, the war on terror's military aspect is about as well-developed as it's going to get. There are only so many physical locations American troops can operate in, or where terrorists can be engaged as military targets. We can engage terrorists in remote camps easily, but troops aren't the answer when the terrorists are living in apartments in friendly cities. As for the places we CAN go, we're pretty much there already.

That's not the end of the story, though. The military's capacity to respond to multiple contingencies has been reduced with its size, starting in the early 90s. (Under Bush I... just so you don't think I'm about to Clinton bash.) In the unlikely event that tensions increased on the Korean peninsula or across the Taiwan Strait, or if some other unforseen event required a military response, that response would stretch the force thin, but it would be doable for a short period. More troops would add flexibility to the total force and as a result, might even reduce the chance of their being needed by virtue of creating a deterrent force in reserve.

So, short version: More troops = tough on terror? Not necessarily, because the fight against terrorists is a small-unit special forces effort. (On the military side, anyway, understanding that the intelligence community and American and foreign law enforcement play key roles as well.) But a good idea? Sure, because it gives the nation more options.

Now, about that price tag...

Posted by: BD at February 29, 2004 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

2 additional divisions? Where are they coming from? Isn't the CW that our Army is overextended? If that is the case - where are 40,000 new troops going to come from?

Do we have enough troops to pull out of Europe? Is someone stupid enough to think that the 18-25 year olds of America would sit for another draft?

Posted by: Gatchaman at February 29, 2004 02:27 PM | PERMALINK


Yes, of course the 40,000 aren't all going to Iraq. That wasn't my point.

My point was that it's being posited as a way to fight the war on terror (or, in Kevin's case, posited as a way to respond to those who want to have evidence that we're fighting the war on terror; I accept that). And it is made necessary, at least in part, because of the number of troops who will have to be in Iraq for an extended period. But if Iraq is not part of the war on terror (which an abundance of evidence suggests it is not), then the real reason we're increasing troop strength is not because of the war on terror, but because of the US imperial project. And I think there are some very plausible arguments for why we would want to do this (I might not agree with them, but I certainly would admit the debate exists). But rather than debating that, we're avoiding that debate by pretending it is all about fighting the war on terror. I'm asking for a little honesty about what our real security issues are so the citizenry can assess such proposals for what they are, rather than accept them blindly out of a vague fear of terrorism.

Posted by: emptywheel at February 29, 2004 02:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think the point of the 40k troops is that because of Iraq, we have nobody left to respond with.

Let's say Korea were to go on the offensive tomorrow. What would we do? Pull exhausted troops out of Iraq to deal with them?

I know the conservatives don't like the idea of having troops in a state of readiness, they feel the troops should be "doing something". But readiness is important, in case some nut job dictator (eg, Kim Jong Il) decides to suddenly go on a rampage.

Posted by: josh yelon at February 29, 2004 02:34 PM | PERMALINK

Gatchaman: Who said anything about a draft?

Adding 40,000 active duty troops would be increasing the Army's current size by less than 10%. Presumably, that would require increasing recruitment by less than 10% -- even less if they can increase retention of soldiers at the end of their hitch.

Right now, the Army is having no trouble meeting its recruitment and retention goals, so this kind of increase doesn't seem to be much of a stretch.

Posted by: scottd at February 29, 2004 02:34 PM | PERMALINK

More Bush regime change, in Haiti this time.,4057,8833298%5E1702,00.html

Posted by: Grandma at February 29, 2004 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevinasked: "David: do you have any more detail on when he first proposed this?"

Bit late, but here you are:

"Kerry details plan to up troops, blasts Dean on UN stance
By Patrick Healy, Globe Staff, 12/17/2003

"Having called previously for an increase in US armed forces at a time when they are deployed in several global hot spots, Kerry put a number on his proposal yesterday -- an additional 40,000 troops, the equivalent of two divisions -- to the 480,000 total active-duty Army. He said he did not "want to do it as a permanent step," nor would the expansion involve any increase in US troops in Iraq."

Posted by: David Weman at February 29, 2004 02:46 PM | PERMALINK


My apologies for getting your handle wrong ("swivel head" a couple posts lower got me confused...) and misreading your post--I wrote after only looking at your first paragraph...Jeez. In fact, I agree with you that the purpose should be made clearer--although I'm not as suspicious, given that Kerry characterized this as temporary ("likely to last the remainder of the decade"--from the speech Kevin linked to) to deal with the strain caused especially by Iraq...And I don't think Kerry is more "imperialistic" than others (certainly not more than Bush; yes, ok, more than Kucinich). {irony} Heck, just look at this balanced assessment of Kerry's record...{/irony} Actually, forget the irony; most of what the RNC is bringing up to slander him makes him a more attractive candidate, to me at least...

Posted by: Mischa at February 29, 2004 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why not outsource these to India? The Indians are brave fighters, could with training be brought up to US standards.

Posted by: Bob H at February 29, 2004 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

Carl said:
"We should transition to Iraqi leadership soonest. If we're there to promote democracy, what's wrong with letting the Iraqis vote and govern themselves? Will there be problems? Yes. But it's not like any other course of action will be problem free."

The Bush govt isn't interested in promoting democracy in Iraq, just like it has undermined democratic regimes around the world. Haiti is the most recent example I can point to.

The Bush govt is interested in having its' puppet regime installed in Iraq just as long as it takes for Chalabi Inc. to adopt the new constitution and rubber stamp the selling off of Iraq's resources to foreign interests.

Once that happens, the Bush govt won't care who takes over.

Posted by: Gretchen at February 29, 2004 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why no one is talking about this is because no one believes Kerry would actually do it.

Kerry would take office in Jan 2005. It would take 6 months to get Congress to approve..if at all two new divisions. The recruiting, having the personnel at the Command and Officer levels to Commmand another two Divisions would take another 6 months to a year. So Kerry would have two divisions by the Spring of 2006 at the very earliest. Upon taking office, Kerry would say..ohh we've reviewed the DoD and decided the two divisions are no longer necessary.

Of course stupid people will fall for his ploy.

If Kerry actually WANTS to do this it would be very easy to see.....where is his BILL in the SENATE? Where are his co-sponsors? He is a sitting Senator...he can bring it up and get it voted on....Why has he not taken it to the lead Democrat Senator on the Armed services Committee, Carl Levin???

Its very easy to see through this campaign ploy...for those willing to see.

I remember the anti-defense Kerry and can see right through this...I remember him lecturing people like me that we were spending far too much on intelligence and defense.
Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, added an amendment to the Fiscal 1996 Budget Resolution that would freeze defense spending from 1997 to 2003 and transfer $35 billion in to education and job training. Kerry Voted Yea. If that amendment had passed along with Kerrys votes to cut weapons systems, Kerry would have succeeded in gutting our defense?

Posted by: keiser at February 29, 2004 03:02 PM | PERMALINK

Just so you know, the 40,000 additional troops is not just something that the Pentagon has been chewing on for a while, nor is it a Kerry idea alone.

In fact, just last month (end of January 04), Donald Rumsfeld himself used "emergency Powers" that are granted to the SecDef in order to allow the U.S. army to grow by about 30,000 troops. In other words, this is already in teh works and is in fact being implemented too.

The difference with Kerry, I think, is that he's calling for permanently making the army bigger - Rumsfeld's additional troops were basically going to be found by issuing more "Stop-loss, this isn't a draft but it's kinda like one" orders.

Posted by: Balta at February 29, 2004 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

This is the first I have read of the fourty thousand troops. But I do agree with the idea that we broke it and we have a moral obligation to fix it. I would think less of John Kerry if he was advocating cut and run.

What a mess, with no good answers. I feel our military is stretched way too thin and will be unable to react to any other threats to our security. So even if the additional troops are not for the middle East, I'm sure they can be used. And as far as paying for them, getting rid of the star wars program should do nicely for a starter.

Posted by: JWC at February 29, 2004 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

Just a hunch, but I'll bet that part of the calculation here is that we'll need a larger permanent Army to make up for losses in the Reserves and National Guard. I've read that the Pentagon is not really having trouble meeting recruiting targets - in part because of a weak job market - but that the Reserves are being decimated because of the way they've been used for the past two years. Result - the current model of a minimalist standing army combined with periodic call-ups may be doomed.

Posted by: Dave L at February 29, 2004 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

Dave L: Maybe if we increase the size of the Army, we can stop misusing the Reserve. That might fix the Reserve recruitment and retention problems as well.

Posted by: scottd at February 29, 2004 03:38 PM | PERMALINK

We need two divisions because the 1990's drawdown from 18 Army divisions to 10 divisions was done based for fiscal not national security reasons. OMB had a savings target set by Bush I and Clinton for the " peace dividend" and the military and intelligence budgets were the richest and most politically painless area of discretionary spending to cut. So they cut and cut until Defense spending in terms of real percentage of GDP until the budget shrank the levels not seen since the 1930's.

Except on paper,we didn't really have the manpower or air/sea lift capacity before 9/11 to deal with two simultaneous small wars - in fact our policy in South Korea is as it has been since 1953, to nuke the hell out of Pyongyang if they invade. Bush has gotten a lot of milage out of a peacetime army in terms of results but they are at the limits of what they can do. There's no more juice to be squeezed.

John Kerry's just facing reality.

Posted by: mark safranski at February 29, 2004 03:55 PM | PERMALINK

For the short to medium term, adding another 40,000 troops seems sensible. With two active engagments at present, the military (according to many) is stretched thin. Since the draft would probably be a non-starter, increased incentives for enlisting and retainng servicemen and women is the remaining option.

The problem of retention is particularly damning, particularly among guardsmen (I'd assume), and needs to be addressed. It seems unlikely that those unwilling to re-enlist will be persuaded by a sweeter offer. Although enforcement of tour completion is in effect now for those who could otherwise have exited the military, it is not tenable indefinitely. In the end, it would likely increase the drop-out rate.

As for the police/intelligence action vs. military, I believe the real war on terrorism will be fought primarily in the first arena, despite naysayers who are attempting to use Kerry's statements to this affect against him. If intel will be key, then we are gonna need translators, and lots of them.

Posted by: forgetting at February 29, 2004 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like a draft would not be necessary. Here are some ideas:

1) Change regulations to enable Sikhs to enlist.
2) Raise the pay of enlisted men and women. This might attract people who wouldn't consider military service as an option, and might retain enlisted folk longer.
3) Shorten the length of the commitment. When one enlists in one of the branches of our armed forces, for how long is that enlistment? I've known some people in the past who considered enlisting, but balked at committing to a three year stint.

Posted by: joseflv at February 29, 2004 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

Jon, you make a lot of smart points, and I think they are worthy of discussion and, in general, support. I especially like that you are calling for energy independence: the more that is coupled with the other defense and antiterrorism considerations, the better. Well done.

But, um...
3. Create a “Home Guard.” As we’ve elaborated in “The New American Bargain”, there is no better way to raise the needed forces in a democracy, substantively and symbolically, than through national service. a staunch Babylon-5 fan, when I read this, I must scream: NOT "HOME GUARD"! NEVER "HOME GUARD"! CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

Great Maker.

Posted by: tripsarecopsem at February 29, 2004 04:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kerry is just pandering to shake off the weak on defense label that is being put on him.

Posted by: RW at February 29, 2004 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am in favor of conscription.

I believe Bush should have annouced it on the morrow of 911. At that point no one knew what the future need would be for purposes of defense.

I still don't know why Bush didn't start conscritpion, except that he was planning on going into Iraq.

Conscription means that the use of Armed Forces is subject to greater scrutiny and national debate. That means Bush couldn't waltz into Iraq without truly sound reasons. But once there he would of had plenty of personnel trained for policing and nation building activities.

As far as I'm concerned - we should have 500,000 soldiers surrounding the tora bora mountains in an ever enclosing, slow, thorough, constricting slow, anaconda squeeze until we have every last one of the Qaida and taliban in our hands.

Truth is, there was no valid reason, that is aligned with America's immediate national interest for the invasion of Iraq. Bin Laden is our national enemy, not Sadam, who perhaps was Bush's personal enemy.

After bagging bin Laden if we, as a nation wanted to clean up the rest of the mid east, begining with Iraq, well thats fine. But Bin Laden is public enemy number 1 and bagging Sadam was an exteremly expensive distraction to this end.

Now that we are there, we need plenty of people to police and to be involved in nation building, either that or we should get out. And it shouldn't be just us. Diplomacy another weakness of the Bush regimes has isolated us from contributions from other Democracies.

Bush has to run on his record which is one of gross incompentence. Truly if your intention was to wreck the United States you couldn't, you wouldn't do a worse job - because every so often you would do something right to cover up your true intentions.

Posted by: Tim Kane at February 29, 2004 04:57 PM | PERMALINK

tacitus says:
A clear demonstration of an increased commitment to fighting terrorism per se would involve some serious talk about root causes and how to address them. The Bush Administration is doing just that

I'm tired of all this liberal talk about "root causes" :-)

Posted by: qtip at February 29, 2004 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

And aside to all of you who say "We broke it, now we have to fix it": What do you mean "we" white man?

I hereby do disassociate myself with the illegal military action in Iraq, utterly and without reservation, insomuch as I did protest against the pending action in a determined way, excercising my freedom as a citizen to do so.

Now I would agree that *someone* has to pay for this mess but it sure as hell shouldn't be those of us who stood in the face of catcalls against us for stateing, before the fact, that the invasion of Iraq was built on a raft of lies that we wanted nothing to do with.

I would suggest that those who've profited from it should pay for it. It would also be logical for every Republican talking head who stridently pushed for war should pay for it. With a few noteable exceptions you could simply bill every registered Republican but it's for damned sure that "me and mine" didn't break it, so be careful when you insist that we should pay for it!

Posted by: Thurber Hamm at February 29, 2004 05:54 PM | PERMALINK

given the semi-permanent unemployment thing we have going, finding able bodies ought to be easy enough.

cheney/rumsfeld hold that privitization will fill needs cheaper than the army can. ergo, less need for sodiers from the private sector, less restrictions, and no oversight. if the public had to fill more slots with the warm bodies of loved ones, perhaps war would be more regarded as the hell it is instead of a growth industry. and growth industry it has become, no?

kerry doesn't thrill me, but he's not a flat-earth torquemada presiding over the conversion of everything i love about america into chits that can be spent quickly before armegeddon.

Posted by: mamima at February 29, 2004 05:55 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a whole lot of comments on the Kerry policy itself, I've mentioned elsewhere that I generally support it. I do have comments on the commenters here. The breakdown is quite interesting.

Those on the Right seem to be saying, "Good idea. But alone it's not enough and I'll believe it when I see it."

Those on the Left are saying, "This sounds like Bush-lite (or even Bush-extra) imperialist crap. We should be pulling out of Iraq, not pledging to continue it. But the execution will be better than Bush so it's worth it in the end."

Which means Kevin's original thoughts are probably on the mark. This proposal is a welcome policy speech that will play well with an electorate concerned about national security and the war on terror. It won't please everybody, of course, but it's a serious move, for now. Conservatives are absolutely right to hold Kerry's feet to the fire here (Keiser says Kerry should introduce a bill to increase the military right now. That's not a bad idea to show he's serious.) Liberals don't have much choice. Kerry's going to be the nominee and only true idiots will vote for Nader. Which means that centrists may be the most satisfied with the proposal as is. Follow through is important, certainly, but this speech shows him a lot more serious about expanding the military and addressing the WOT than any other Democrat.

Posted by: Elrod at February 29, 2004 06:11 PM | PERMALINK

given the semi-permanent unemployment thing we have going

5.6% in the U.S. In France 9.5%. Germany 9.3%. Canada 7.5%. Italy 8.4%.

Posted by: Rosko at February 29, 2004 07:18 PM | PERMALINK

given the semi-permanent unemployment thing we have going

January 1996: 5.6% unemployment
January 2004: 5.6% unemployment

Guess that economy in 1996 was in shambles, eh?

Posted by: Al at February 29, 2004 07:46 PM | PERMALINK

"January 1996: 5.6% unemployment
January 2004: 5.6% unemployment
Guess that economy in 1996 was in shambles, eh?"

How quickly some forget - in 1996 unemployment was on a downward trend, recovering after the first bush. Under bush 2 its been been heading back up ever since he took over.

Posted by: mb at February 29, 2004 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

Thurber Hamm,

I've long thought we might finance the great Iraqi adventure by modifying the tax code for profiteer companies. Since the companies probably don't actually pay taxes, bill their shareholders: just treat dividends, capital gains, and deferred income from those companies as ordinary income. Retroactive to 6 months before the war started, valid until we leave and stop financing Iraq's reconstruction.

Posted by: S wapiti at February 29, 2004 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon my Freedom, but fuck this shit. I'm not voting for this jerk Kerry. Go Nader.

Posted by: js7a at February 29, 2004 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus is a hypocrite. I'm soooooo surprised.

Posted by: Lupin at February 29, 2004 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

mb: How quickly some forget - in 1996 unemployment was on a downward trend, recovering after the first bush. Under bush 2 its been been heading back up ever since he took over.

Actually, unemployment has been heading down for a while now. And Bush inherited the hangover from a see-no-evil Clinton SEC, which let Soros destroy a bunch of Asian economies* and let pass the travesties that are Enron, Tyco, et al and the relentless hucksterism that led to the internet bubble. $400B in the form of equity and debt offerings were pumped into the US economy during the Clinton years. Bush took office in time to see it turn to ashes, as both debt and equity were wiped out.

* Soros was a big customer of Goldman Sachs, where Rubin was chairman, and would continue to be a big player on Wall Street after Rubin returned to private life. Did Rubin defend Soros out for old times' sake? Or just to keep his lines of communication open to a potential future customer?

Posted by: Zhang Fei at February 29, 2004 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Calpundit: Therefore, we need a temporary addition of 40,000 active-duty Army troops, "likely to last the remainder of the decade."

This sounds like another unfunded mandate. I'll believe Kerry's serious about defense when he says he wants to hike defense spending by $X dollars to fund 40,000 additional troops. What's more likely is that Kerry is going to raise the troop count by 40,000 and cut weapons procurement, meaning that we are going to launch cannon fodder at the enemy, not the well-equipped units we have traditionally fielded. Kerry is continuing in Clinton's tradition, of stripping resources from the military at every opportunity while talking a good game.

Posted by: Zhang Fei at February 29, 2004 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus claimed: While Kerry doubtless would say he agrees with that sort of thing, I've yet to see anything in his record -- to say nothing of new or bold proclamations on the campaign trail -- to indicate that his rhetoric would be backed with any serious purpose.

And yet, you're willing to support Bush, though Bush has proved that his rhetoric is (at the kindest interpretation) never going to be backed by any serious purpose - because it never has been in the past. My problem with you and with Moe Lane is that both of you are apparently intelligent and well-informed - yet you keep coming up with hypocritical reasons why you're supporting Bush over Kerry. You guys are Charlie Brown to Bush's Lucy: he's holding the football and swearing to you that this time he's going to let you kick it, and we watch you running up to it with hopeful expressions on your faces. Sad, really.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 29, 2004 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand how increasing the Army is a
"concrete differentiator" between Kerry and Bush.

Remsfeld is increasing the Army by about 30,000. Kerry says 40,000. Not much difference there.

See this Jane's Defense piece about it.

Posted by: The North Coast Curmudgeon at March 1, 2004 01:16 AM | PERMALINK

Rumsfeld, I'm pretty sure, is not happy about the additional 30,000 troops. I think he finally had to cave to pressure from within the military ranks. Troop force expansion goes against his entire idealogical doctrine of fewer/lighter/faster/etc.

Plus, those 30,000 come at a BIG monetary cost. I don't recall the figures, but I remember the head Army guy testifying about it a month wasn't pretty.

Posted by: Peter at March 1, 2004 01:32 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, all you who keep demanding I post links to information....where is YOUR link to Kerrys BILL IN THE SENATE....surely he has proposed one RIGHT???

Where is the 40,000 troop bill, so we can get moving on this.

Little hint..if you can't find one, you know Kerry is LYING.

Posted by: keiser at March 1, 2004 01:40 AM | PERMALINK

This time even the women HATE John Kerry:

I think this puts to rest the ridiculous argument that kerry REALLY cares about the veterans and the troops.

Liberal critics of American foreign policy have claimed they "support the troops"--but they're obviously hoping we have short memories. Many of us will never forget the hundreds of lawyers they dispatched to Florida in 2000 to make sure military absentee ballots did not get counted (some sources say that two out of three military voices in Florida were never heard). That was after the Clinton administration initiated rules making it more difficult to vote on overseas military bases.
Mr. Kerry has tried to distance himself from some anti-war activists and surround himself with veterans, yet his anti-military voting record speaks much louder and resonates with those of us who are affected by the results.


Posted by: keiser at March 1, 2004 03:36 AM | PERMALINK

I think this puts to rest the ridiculous argument that kerry REALLY cares about the veterans and the troops.

speaking of ridiculous things that need to be put to rest...

Posted by: ChrisL at March 1, 2004 07:33 AM | PERMALINK

OK OK ChrisL...stop and go to the bathroom....

you obviously haven't been able to find Kerry's legislation proposing the 40,000 new troops. Why, well because your being lied to...your being played a fool.

No sense surfing all day for....

Posted by: keiser at March 1, 2004 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

.......links to kerrys proposal.

I win another one..just thought I'd give you all more time to surf...but you've come up empty...BECAUSE KERRY IS EMPTY....all talk no action

Legislation Kerry....BRING IT ON!

Posted by: keiser at March 1, 2004 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

Zhang Fei:
I think blaming the Clinton SEC is a bit disingenuous. Virtually all attempts to provide some the SEC with some teeth to rein in these con-artists were stonewalled by none other than the GOP. You may remember for example, the attempts to limit other forms of income auditors could receive from corporations they auditor, thereby lessening the incentive to go along with their shenanigans. This might have been helpful in protecting smaller investors and consumers but was opposed by the GOP (they moderated slightly after the uproar against enron). To blame Clintn on enron is kind of funny when its clear that good ol boy Lay was Bush's primary sponsor as governor and pres, and that the Bush's and enron have been tied together for a long time. In fact it was under bush that enron was given leave to screw californians under the oil deregulation, something that californians are still paying for, and that is in the courts now.
Re: unemployment, its only marginally down from its peak last June after having gone up the previous 32 months of bush's term. If you want the BLS figures, they're at

Posted by: mb at March 1, 2004 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. So Kerry is as full of it as Bush.

Will wonders never cease.

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