40,000 TROOPS….Yesterday I linked to the speech on terrorism that John Kerry presented at UCLA on Friday and said that I thought it was pretty good. But I want to highlight one part of it.

First, though, I want to acknowledge how hard it is to evaluate policy proposals like this, primarily because most of them ? from both Democrats and Republicans ? are little more than motherhood and apple pie. Kerry, for example, supports better intelligence, stronger international alliances, cutting off of terrorist funding, stronger nonproliferation efforts, more money for homeland security, and so forth. There isn’t much to argue with here aside from picking nits about individual phrases ? who’s opposed to straight talk about “radical Madrassas” after all? ? so how can you tell if he’s really tough on terrorism or not?

But there was at least one very concrete proposal in his speech: we have a “solemn obligation” to finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at the same time our military is dangerously overextended. Therefore, we need a temporary addition of 40,000 active-duty Army troops, “likely to last the remainder of the decade.” That’s two divisions.

Is this a new proposal on Kerry’s part? If it is, I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention. It’s absolutely concrete, it’s a clear demonstration of increased commitment to fighting terrorism, and it’s a direct criticism of the Rumsfeld/Bush insistence that we don’t need more troops.

Surely this is the kind of thing that war supporters are looking for when they ask for firm evidence that Democrats are serious about national security? So far, though, I haven’t see any reaction.

UPDATE: Commenter Mischa points out that Kerry first talked about expanding the size of the Army at least as far back as December 2003 in this speech in Des Moines.

By the way, I agree with everyone in comments who said that increasing the size of the Army isn’t necessarily a sign of being tough on terrorism. It depends on what you do with the troops and on whether you think a larger military is a good way of fighting terrorism in the first place. But even so, this proposal seems like enough of a concrete differentiator between Kerry and Bush and between Kerry and the rest of the Democrats that I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention.

And Tacitus: you must be kidding. Liberals who talk about “root causes” are routinely mocked by conservatives. The Greater Middle East Initiative is, ironically, exactly the kind of thing most Democrats favor, and exactly the kind of thing that would be an object of scorn if a Democrat had proposed it. More here.

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