You and I know that there really isn’t anything to celebrate come Tuesday night when President Obama is expected to claim “victory” in Iraq during his primetime oval office address. A couple of questions come to mind: Will he even mention President Bush? And will he discuss the overwhelming strain on our men and woman serving our country for the last decade, especially the reserves? If he wants to claim victory in Iraq and make it his war, then he owes it to America to be honest about the dire situation in Afghanistan. Under his watch twice as many soldiers died there last year than in any other year since the war began. And the number of casualties will likely increase this year.
To be sure, we are not leaving Iraq. 50,000 troops still in the country is hardly a withdrawal. Operation New Dawn will continue to strain our forces. The price they pay will not only be in the lives lost it will also be in the hard to measure cost in the disruption to families. Case in point, never before in the history of our country have the lives of the men and woman of the armed forces reserves had their lives uprooted by the call of duty. How many children are missing their parents today? How can you make sure your job will be there when you return? And many of them are serving their second and third tours of duty as reservists. That’s too much to ask.
Reserves were barely used during the Vietnam War, and that created a disconnect between civilians at home and the military abroad. Top brass made it clear that was to never happen again. At the outset of this decade, inexperience caused a 35% higher casualty rate among reserves than active duty forces. That number has “improved” of late, if improvement can be used to describe something so terrible.
Before President Obama calls a “coast is clear” in Iraq, he needs to recognize the fight is not over and the strain on men and woman in the armed services has been enormous. Relieving some of our dependence on the reserves should not be too much to ask.