Kevin Drum, parsing the Obama speech, questions Obama's call for nearly 100,000 more troops in the armed services:
On the one hand, if we're going to occupy countries, we ought to have the troops to do it right. (Though I note very little in Obama's speech about what those 92,000 extra troops would be focused on.) On the other hand, I'd just as soon that we didn't occupy any more foreign countries, and a larger military simply encourages us to think we can do this effectively. On the third hand, not every war is a war of choice. We might well be faced with a defensive war in the near future, and if we are we ought to be prepared for both combat and occupation. On the fourth hand, if we are going to add a few divisions to the active force, it would also be nice to hear at least some lip service paid to scaling back some of our more fanciful technology expenditures.
I don't expect to make up my mind on this score anytime soon. Most of the time I come down in favor of expanding the military, on the basis that (a) if you're going to do something, you should do it right, and (b) we're not likely to continue to be ruled by petulant children forever into the future. Needless to say, (b) is a gamble.
It's a blogger-weakness that's been pointed out before, but when commenting on politics, it's almost impossible not to switch, from issue to issue, between writing on the one hand in terms of political reality and in terms of abstract policy on the other. I'm as guilty as anybody. But when I mentioned yesterday that I thought the Obama speech was full of "great policy," I more accurately meant "refreshingly detailed, if slightly imperfect policy." And, though it wasn't conscious, I think the reason I picked the words I used had to do with my lone disagreement with Obama: on the size of the military.
I've long believed that our military and our military budget are dangerously oversized and that the fact of that enormity has been a dangerous recipe for a violent American foreign policy. And I believe that if, after pulling out of Iraq, Obama adds 100,000 servicemen to our military, even if Obama uses that military wisely and morally for his four or eight years, it will eventually aggravate that phenomenon.
That said, the political milieu in this country is what it is. It's changed some, but I don't think it's changed that much. And it would probably be an unforgiving race for a candidate who called for a smaller military. Specifically, think such a candidate--a Democrat who suggested scaling back the armed services, or even one who made no reference to somehow reversing the troop depletion that the Bush years have seen--wouldn't make it much past the opening gates. And for that reason, I think Kevin's words are important to keep in mind.