Friday, May 9, 2008

The Illusion of an "All Volunteer" Military

It's not quite a draft or conscription but the Pentagon's "stop-loss" policy
comes awfully close.

In today's LA Times, Staff Writer Julian E Barnes reported:

The number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army involuntarily under the military's controversial "stop-loss" program has risen sharply since the Pentagon extended combat tours last year, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was briefed about the program by Army officials who said that thousands of new stop-loss orders were issued to keep soldiers from leaving the service after Gates ordered combat tours extended from 12 to 15 months last spring.

The Army has resorted to involuntary extensions of soldiers' enlistment terms to prevent them from leaving immediately before a combat tour or in the middle of a deployment.

Army officials have argued that the policy is necessary to ensure that they are not forced to send inadequately trained soldiers and unprepared units into war.

However, many soldiers subjected to the stop-loss policy consider it a backdoor draft. Critics argue that once soldiers have completed the enlistment period they agreed to, they should be allowed to return home. The involuntary retention program is so unpopular that it helped inspire a recent movie called "Stop-Loss."

The number of soldiers held in the Army under the stop-loss program reached a high in March 2005 of 15,758. That number steadily declined through May 2007, when it hit 8,540. But since then, the number of soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders began to increase again, reaching 12,235 in March 2008.

So essentially this past March, over 12,000 US military servicemen and women, many of whom had already served multiple tours of duty, were forced to remain in the Army after the completion of their current tour. Yet, the phrase "all-volunteer" military is still used whenever there are discussions about funding the wars or withdrawing the troops

I can't recall hearing one question about the stop-loss practice during any of the 2008 presidential primary debates. ( Please correct me if I'm wrong because I certainly may have missed it. )

Is everyone OK with this?

In March Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) marched on the Senate offices to deliver stop loss orders requiring congress to continue working until the war is ended and the troops are returned home.

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