Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Locked in a Stop-Loss
WASHINGTON - The Army will prevent soldiers in units set to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the service at the end of their terms, a top general said Wednesday.

The announcement, an expansion of an Army program called "stop-loss," means that thousands of soldiers who had expected to retire or otherwise leave the military will have to stay on for the duration of their deployment to those combat zones.

Andrew Exum, a former Army Captain, wrote a powerful piece in the NY Times that articulates why this program is so detrimental:
...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...

...These soldiers have already been asked to sacrifice much and have done so proudly. Yet the military continues to keep them overseas — because it knows that through stop-loss it can do so legally, and that it will not receive nearly as much negative publicity as it would by reinstating the draft...

...Stop-loss and the activation of the inactive reserve show how politics has taken priority over readiness. The Pentagon uses these policies to meet its needs in Iraq because they are expedient and ask nothing of the civilian populace on the eve of a national election. This allows us to put off what is sure to be a difficult debate: whether our volunteer military is adequate to meet our foreign policy commitments. Meanwhile, in the absence of this debate, the men and women of our armed forces languish.

Last weekend, veterans of World War II were honored on the Mall in Washington for their sacrifices. Our government should begin treating the veterans of the global war on terrorism with a similar degree of respect, not as election-year fodder.