Soldiers' Morale in Iraq
The testy exchange last week between Rumsfeld and Iraq-bound soldiers in Kuwait could be an indication of declining morale among American soldiers in Iraq. The lack of adequate armor for Humvees – combined with some soldiers filing lawsuits to protest the extension of their terms in Iraq, and some soldiers refusing to go on dangerous missions – could foretell the kind of overall breakdown that plagued the American military during the Viet Nam war.
Such blunt questioning of a secretary of defense by soldiers (and the roar of approval by thousands of other soldiers at the meeting), soldiers filing lawsuits – the Pentagon is getting alarmed by this trend. P.J. Crowley, a retired Colonel who has served as a Pentagon spokesman for both Republican and Democratic administrations, said “we are seeing some unprecedented things. The real fear is that these could be tips of a larger iceberg. The real issue is not any one of these things individually. It’s what the broader impact will be on our re-enlistment rates and our retention.”
Good point. After all, what kind of “volunteer” army is it when soldiers are routinely having their tours in Iraq, and even their enlistments, extended?
The declining morale among American soldiers echoes the growing pessimism among the American public about whether Iraq is likely to establish a stable, democratic government. 47% of Americans think a stable democracy in Iraq is likely; last April that figure was 55%.
Furthermore, we’ve waited almost 2 years for the flowers and ice cream that grateful throngs of Iraqis would be showering on American soldiers (after a 2-hour war with no U.S. casualties). We’re still waiting. But, wait, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel...