Facts vs. Fiction
A report from the front in Iraq
By Karl Zinsmeister
(Article taken from The American Enterprise: March 2006 edition)
How is the morale of our soldiers holding up?
Accepting the possibility of being hurt is a part of security work. It's easy to overlook the reality that 800 public safety officers have been killed in the line of duty right here on our own home shores since the beginning of the Iraq war. This summer, the U.S. general in charge of our National Guard put his Iraq casualties in some perspective: "I lose, unfortunately, more people through private automible accidents and motorcycle accidents over the same period of time."
While always wrenching, the risks in Iraq have been overblown. And the morale of soldiers, in my experience, is much higher than one might expect. Other journalists who have spent weeks and weeks with soldiers, like Robert Kaplan, have similarly observed that our G.I.s are generally not disenchanted, but remain very spirited.
The proof of the pudding: Individuals who have actually served in Iraq and Afghanistan are signing up again at record rates. Re-enlistment totals in the active Army over the last three years are more than 6 percent above targets. Over a third of Army re-enlistments now take place in combat zones.
Today's supposed hemorrhaging in military manpower is mostly a fiction manufactured by the media. Moderate shortfalls in recruiting new bodies have hit reserve and National Guard units. The latest Army Reserve recruiging class, for instance, totaled only 96 percent of the goal.
All active duty branches, however, are exceeding their recruiting requirements in the latest monthly figures from the Department of Defense (released in December). The Army and Marine Corps (who are doing most of the hard service in Iraq) were each at 105 percent of their quotas. After a dip early in 2005, the Army has met or exceeded its goals for new recruits in every month since June. One source of pressure on the active-duty Army is the process of expanding from 482,000 soldiers to 512,000, as a dozen new combat brigades are added to the force.
We are at war, and our Army and Marines are being used hard. But there is no crisis of alienated servicemen.
[Wow, this is really encouraging! I know a guy that is thinking about joining the National Guard because a recruiter visited his house about a month ago. His mother is worried about his being shipped off to Iraq, but this makes it seem not so bad. Of course, there's always the chance that he could be killed out of hundreds, no, thousands of other guys...but that's the chance you have to take with living in general. It is true that some areas are more risky than others, but life in general is risky! Like the National Guard general said, more people die from car accidents than from fighting in Iraq. And, as Bilbo Baggins said, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."]