Our guest blogger is Sean Duggan, a Research Associate with the National Security at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Early last week, the Department of Defense announced 2009 troop deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of this scheduled rotation, seven Army brigade combat teams (BCT) and two Army headquarter divisions consisting of nearly 22,000 servicemen and women will deploy to Iraq between winter and summer of next year.
In an election year fixated on the promise of change, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are seeing none of it. Of the seven brigade combat teams recently notified, this deployment will be the second to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 for four of the brigades, the third deployment for one brigade and the fourth for another.
While violence in Iraq may be down, the operation tempo for our soldiers and their families remains high. Today, there are 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, over 20,000 more than were in the country when the surge began in January of 2007. Because the Bush administration has refused to face up to the manpower implications of its open-ended commitment of forces—particularly in Iraq—by reinstituting the draft, it has been forced to deploy and redeploy active brigades without sufficient dwell time.
Of the Army’s 44 combat brigades, all but the First Brigade of the Second Infantry Division, which is permanently based in South Korea, have served at least one tour. Of the remaining 43:
– 9 brigades have had one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan
– 13 brigades have had two tours in Iraq or Afghanistan
– 15 brigades have had three tours in Iraq or Afghanistan
– 5 brigades have had four tours in Iraq or Afghanistan
Unfortunately, few Americans are paying attention. Today, the war in Iraq ranks a distant third on issues American voters feel are most important to them, far behind gas prices and U.S. energy policy and well behind the economy and jobs. This inattention extends to the media as well. As of last week, ABC did not have a single report on World News Tonight from its Baghdad correspondent in 40 days and CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq.
Never before have the American people asked so much from so few of our soldiers. If the president and his successor are committed to fighting the war in Iraq over the long term, he should have the courage of his convictions and call for reinstating the draft. If not, the only responsible course is to set a timetable to bring the troops home.