The long war

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(HOST) Donald Rumsfeld has recently suggested that the conflict in Iraq may become known as The Long War. Commentator Bill Seamans wonders what that would mean for future military recruitment.

(SEAMANS) President Bush first said he launched our armed forces against Iraq because Saddam Hussein was planning to add nuclear weapons to his mass destruction arsenal and Condi Rice raised the specter of a “mushroom cloud.” Then the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Troika said we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy that would be emulated by other Arab nations. Then they called it a war to prevent another terrorist attack here at home.

President Bush then took it beyond Iraq and called it a global war that would seek out and kill terrorists wherever they are. But Bush has not yet called it a “petroleum war” as Ted Koppel did in a New York Times column last Friday. Koppel said that “the reason for America’s rapt attention to the security of the Persian Gulf is what it has always been. It’s about oil.”

Meanwhile, I really thought that Mr. Bush had reached the limit when he went global but the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Troika fooled me again. In a talk at the National Press Club the other day Rumsfeld gave the Iraq war yet another new name – he called it The Long War which really sounded like something right out of Orwell. It was a comment hardly noticed by an American public in denial and swamped by other news.

If, indeed, we now are engaged in a Long War my immediate question is just how long our already stressed-out volunteer military services can carry such an enormous burden. If we now are reaching endurance limits just in Iraq how many more troops will we need to fight a Long War against terrorist flash fires wherever they happen around the world? Critics allege that despite the Troika’s denials we will need to expand our army.

But how? Rumsfeld up to now has maintained that our volunteer army was an adequate and superior force because recruiters could choose the best candidates. However, despite denials by Rumsfeld, the army is facing a manpower crisis and has been forced to lower its standards. According to an Army recruitment spokesman volunteers without a high school diploma are now being accepted as are some who up to now had been rejected because of problems with drugs, alcohol and with the law.

So here we again are faced with the question of credibility. Is the Bush Troika telling us the truth about what expert observers allege is the Pentagon’s worsening manpower problem? If, indeed, we are now in an indefinite Long War then President Bush should call upon the whole country – all of we the people – to share the burden now imposed only on our volunteer servicepersons and their families. Reality, moral fairness and military necessity dictate that a Long War against global terrorism means that resuming the military draft will be inevitable.

Now as we approach the November elections just the mention of a draft is a poison pill for any politician regardless of party. But after the November elections that could change.

This is Bill Seamans.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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