The other day, the college-age daughter of a friend received an e-letter from a Marine Corps Officer Selection Officer, inviting her to “an awesome summer training program called the Platoon Leader’s Course.” Think of it as Marine Corps summer camp. No uniforms (“This is not ROTC!”), but reasonable amounts of moolah. Here’s some of what was on offer to her, part of a desperate military’s Iraq-era appeal to citizenly duty:
“You will earn approximately $2,400 (six weeks) or $4,000 (ten weeks) plus room and board during the training. How’s that for a summer job?…. You will not incur any obligation to the Marine Corps even after completing the training. (You can choose whether or not to continue with the program)…. Tuition assistance will be available to you after you complete training this summer. You could potentially earn $8,000 to $25,000 for school, depending on graduation date.”
Imagine! The Marine Corps is willing to pay young people to go to a uniform-less summer camp to test their “leadership potential,” with no commitment to the Corps necessary. Consider that; then consider what was certainly the President’s only significant decision of the holiday season past–to permanently expand the US military by as many as 70,000 troops.
Now, as in some old math problem, the question is: How do you connect these two points. (Hint: Not with a straight line.)
Faced with a December shot across the bow in testimony before Congress by Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker, who warned that the Army “will break” under present war-zone rotation needs, President Bush responded by addressing the “stressed” nature of the US Armed Forces. He said, “I’m inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops–the Army, the Marines. And I talked about this to Secretary [Robert A.] Gates, and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building [the Pentagon], come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea.” All this was, he added, “to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists.”
Ah… that makes things clearer.
Of course, to get those new “volunteer” officers and men, who have generally been none too eager to volunteer for the Army and the Marines in the midst of a disastrous, far-away, increasingly incomprehensible set of double wars, you’ll have to pay even more kids more money to go to no-commitment summer camp; and, while you’re at it, you’ll have to lower standards for the military radically. You’ll have to let in even more volunteers without high school diplomas but with “moral” and medical “waivers” for criminal records and mental problems. You’ll have to fast-track even more new immigrants willing to join for the benefits of quick citizenship; you’ll have to ramp up already high cash bonuses of all sorts; you’ll have to push the top-notch ad agency recently hired on a five-year contract for a cool billion dollars to rev up its new “Army Strong” recruitment drive even higher; you’ll certainly have to jack up the numbers of military recruiters radically, to the tune of perhaps a couple of hundred million more dollars; and maybe just for the heck of it, you better start planning for the possibility of recruiting significant numbers of potential immigrants before they even think to leave their own countries. After all, it’s darn romantic to imagine a future American all-volunteer force that will look more like the old French Foreign Legion–or an army of mercenaries anyway. All in all, you’ll have to commit to the fact that your future soldier in your basic future war will cost staggering sums of money to hire and even more staggering sums to retain after he or she has had a taste of what “leadership potential” really entails.