America can only go to war against Iran if it reinstates the draft

Gil Barndollar — a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Guantanamo Bay and Bahrain, who also holds a PhD in History from Cambridge — writes in USA Today about what a US regime change effort in Iran would mean, logistically speaking.

Barndollar observes that in "Hitler's Germany, Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam or Saddam's Iraq," US air power was not sufficient to "topple a government," and also that America's regional Sunni allies, having "stalemated in Yemen" would not rush to serve as boots on the ground for an invasion and occupation of Iran, which will require enormous numbers of occupiers because "even if the Islamic Republic were to somehow collapse on its own, concerns about radiological material, the security of the Strait of Hormuz or another massive wave of refugees" would demand that the vacuum be filled.

America boasts of its "all volunteer" military (conveniently ignoring how much of that "all-volunteer" force is composed of people who face economic privation, or who hope for an increasingly unlikely path to citizenship through military service), but the volunteer force is dwindling: just getting the bodies to send to Iraq and Afghanistan required that the forces double their felony waivers for new recruits from 2003-2006.

The reality is that the "all volunteer" US forces are entirely dependent on mercenaries to get the job done (the ratio of soldiers to "military contractors" in Iraq was 50 times the ratio from the Vietnam War); and "getting the job done" is a charitable description: "The All-Volunteer Force was barely able to sustain two large, but low-casualty, campaigns [in Iraq and Afghanistan] — neither of which has resulted in anything resembling a U.S. strategic victory."

Meanwhile, Iran is the size of Western Europe, with most of the population concentrated in mountains that would stymie the US military with its dependence on aerial and motorized movement and supply. America will have to throw a lot of human bodies into Iran to secure a victory, and may very well fail.

And according to the Pentagon, "71% of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the U.S. military, most for reasons of health, physical fitness, education, or criminality" — and it's mutual, with those Americans being notably reluctant to don a uniform and risk their lives in military adventures.

For Barndollar, all this adds up to a reinstatement of the draft as literally the only way that "our modern Bourbons in Washington" can hope to stage the invasion of Iran that they're so eager to launch.

The force with which we would occupy Iran is also not as resilient as most Americans probably think. Even now, in a time when most troops are not seeing direct combat, the the volunteer force is struggling just to maintain numbers and standards. The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are each short of a full quarter of their required fighter pilots. The Army recently announced that it is already 12,000 recruits behind on its recruiting goal for 2018 and will not make mission.

The Pentagon stated last year that 71% of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the U.S. military, most for reasons of health, physical fitness, education, or criminality. The propensity of this age group to serve is even lower. The likely demands and casualties of a war in Iran would spell the end of the All-Volunteer Force, requiring the conscription of Americans for the first time since 1973.

There is ample evidence that American foreign policy elites haven't learned much from Iraq or Afghanistan; one need only look at the latest headlines from Libya or Syria. But perhaps even our modern Bourbons in Washington can grasp one simple lesson from the post-9/11 campaigns: Wars have an uncanny tendency to take on a life of their own.

If we're headed for regime change in Iran, get ready for a military draft. We'll need one. [Gil Barndollar/USA Today]

(via Naked Capitalism)