A BIGGER ARMY?….In the LA Times today, Andrew Bacevich writes that George Bush’s vision of transforming the Muslim world by military force is plainly a failure. So why do both Democrats and Republicans alike seem to agree that the United States needs a bigger military?

Given the mess in which we currently find ourselves, increasing the number of men and women under arms makes about as much sense as drinking bourbon to treat depression. In the short term, the antidote might make you feel better, but at a cost of masking the underlying problem and allowing it to fester.

….The challenge confronting those aspiring to the presidency, therefore, is to devise an alternative to Bush’s failed strategy….Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

….In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism. The candidate who can articulate such ideas might well merit respect and popular support. Those who in the absence of serious strategic analysis reflexively posture about the need for more troops deserve only contempt.

I go back and forth on this, but the main caveat I’d add is that although Bacevich is probably right that merely increasing the size of the Army is pointless, it’s possible that it would make sense to improve our peacekeeping ability in certain specific ways. This is the main thing missing from all those proposals to increase the end strength of the Army and Marines: some detail about exactly what’s going to be increased and how it’s going to help us in the future. I haven’t seen much of that, but it would tell us a lot about the actual foreign policy visions of the candidates who are proposing the increases. More than most topics, it would force a pretty concrete discussion of America’s future role in the world. We ought to have it.

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