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Turn the question around: Secretary Gates’s speech on the all-volunteer force October 8, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Duke last week with a somber, bracing message about our all-volunteer military.  The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he rightly noted, are the longest campaign fought entirely by volunteers since the Revolutionary War.  Gates used this fact as a call to service, asking the country, “How long can these brave and broad young shoulders carry the burden that we – as a military, as a government, as a society – continue to place on them?”

This question is exactly backwards.  Rather than stress-testing our troops to see how long they can carry this burden, Gates should turn the question around to ask how long we intend to place it on their shoulders.  After all, we chose and continue to choose these missions, as well as the means by which we conduct them.  For example, as recently as last December, the President chose a manpower-heavy counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan, urged on by Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen and Gates himself, rather than a narrower counterterrorism approach advocated by the Vice President. Read more…

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