National Review Digital (login req.) : Are They In the Army Now? -- Cries of shortfall, exhaustion, and overstretch by VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
Recent dips in Army enlistments also fueled a new conventional wisdom: that the U.S. military is almost dangerously undermanned, exhausted, and overstretched. An unpopular war, domestic opposition, televised casualties, extended service, divorce and social dislocations, an improving economy, and supposed disparity in the sacrifices made by troops of different races and classes have all, it is said, conspired to cut recruitment to the volunteer army and reserves to alarming levels. [...] Contrary to the perception that citizen soldiers are bearing an inordinate portion of the overall burden, National Guardsmen constitute about 24 percent of all military personnel but accounted for 16 percent of those lost in Iraq. Some 95 percent of the fatalities had high-school diplomas, though only 85 percent of all Americans have finished high school. Blacks and Latinos made up 10.9 and 11.5 percent of the dead, respectively — about their same percentages in the general population, but in the case of blacks less than the 18.6 percent currently serving in the military. Twenty-nine percent of those who died attended high schools in poverty-stricken areas, versus about a 30 percent poverty rate for all high-school graduates. Seventy percent of those lost were white men, although they currently make up only about a third of the U.S. population. [...] Going 7,000 miles across the globe, toppling two fascistic governments and establishing democracies in their places, and doing so at a cost (albeit a painful one) of less than 2,000 soldiers, is, by historical standards, an unprecedented military achievement.