(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that one of the most urgent challenges facing Americans in the New Year will be deciding on a new strategy for the conflict in Iraq.
(SEAMANS) Despite all the recent consultations with his generals and geopolitical experts all that we the people have as of now from President Bush is his promise to offer a new plan for getting out of Iraq. We have another pile of photo ops of his recent so-called “opinion gathering” travels, and a public more confused than ever over Bush’s troops-in-Iraq numbers game. The latest idea on the table is a phased troop withdrawal but not all the way homeward. Our forces would be re-based somewhere close enough to surge back into Iraq if necessary.
Beyond Iraq we face three other major flash points: North Korea, Iran and Sudan and hardly mentioned is a possible Cuban crisis after Castro dies. The question all these problems bring up is how large a military force we will need to maintain the necessary muscle behind our diplomacy.
We are told time and again that the army has been stretched thin and is at the breaking point – and that more troops are needed to reduce the strain on our boots on the ground. Although the latest volunteer quotas were met by a multimillion dollar TV advertising campaign, increasing the number of recruiters, and offering bonuses – even more effort is needed to continue filling the ranks. The thought of invoking a draft is unspeakable in Washington and has been rejected by those of the citizenry whose teenagers are not volunteering for military service.
On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported another possibility – that the Pentagon is floating the idea of signing up more non citizens and rewarding them with citizenship if they serve honorably. The proposal would include enlisting more legal immigrants here at home, and setting up recruiting stations overseas to sign up foreigners seeking U.S. citizenship. About 30,000 non citizens are in our armed forces right now and a hundred of them have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s reported that the idea of recruiting foreigners is gaining traction – because it could fill Pentagon troop quotas and absorb some of the immigrant problem. But critics say they would look like mercenaries, could jeopardize our national security, and reflect badly on the willingness of Americans to serve.
The idea of citizenship for service reminds one of the core principle of the French Foreign Legion which I covered while based in Europe for ABC News. The Foreign Legion’s success as one of the world’s top fighting forces is based on top-notch leadership and the toughest discipline. If we provided the same, I think enlisting more foreigners in the army would work and we would acquire some worthy new citizens.
It’ll be interesting to see how our military will meet it’s quotas in the New Year.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.