Saturday, January 08, 2005

Reserve Chief Still Pounding the Table 
Mickey Kaus is playing some heads-up ball.

General Discontent: Aren't General James Helmly's dramatically-worded complaints being distorted by press reports in the Baltimore Sun and especially the Washington Post? If you read the stories quickly, you get the impression that Helmly is blaming the excessive demands of the Iraq war--WaPo prominently quotes Democratic Sen. Jack Reed** pinning blame on the administration for "consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq." It's only when you get further down in the stories that you discover Helmly isn't complaining about troop levels in Iraq. He's criticizing more specific Reserve policies--he wants the Army to order more reservists to Iraq against their wishes, for example, and decries the overuse of volunteers (who he thinks are people who tend to "enjoy lesser responsible positions in civilian life"). He also wants more Reservists who aren't fulfilling their obligations called to active duty or discharged. I'm not sure this jibes with the Democrats' agenda.

As usual, though, it comes down to a press corps that does not understand the structure of the army or the principles undergirding the role of a citizen soldier in the Republic. It's that part of Jeffersonian political thought they don't teach you in high school. And they're certainly not equipped to teach it in J-school. And with a few exceptions (again, congrats to Ms. Schraeder at the Los Angeles Times)

What the press hasn't figured out is this general is indicting them on their foolishness with the "back-door draft" hysteria.

From the New York Times version of the story:
General Helmly said he had sought approval to use other tools to recall Reserve soldiers to duty, like tapping soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve, an augmentation force, but had been denied permission.

He's right. We should have been calling up IRR soldiers right from the beginning. There is no moral difference between involuntarily calling a selected reservist away from his family and calling an IRR soldier away from his family. If calling one preserves the integrity of a unit which has yet to deploy, it's better to call the IRR soldier than to disrupt a unit by raiding its personnel.

(see also this essay from July)

It turns out that this isn't even particularly news. General Helmly has been publicly ringing the alarm bells for months. Actually, since at least October of 2003.

It's amazing to me that a full two years into this debate, that the journalist's on the beat still don't know how to frame the issue.

Splash, out


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