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NYTimes on Memorial Day: Bush, McCain Hate the Troops

3:43 PM, May 26, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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A most predictable editorial:

Mr. Bush - and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain - have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.

They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying - as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are - to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.

Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits - by 16 percent.

Even for the editors at the New York Times this is amazingly, and willfully misleading. They do not even acknowledge the existence of an alternative (McCain-Graham) GI Bill, let alone examine the substantive arguments in favor of it. Reihan offered a more even-handed approach in assessing the two bills (it helps that he mentioned the existence of the other bill):

Overall, the Graham-Burr-McCain approach seems more likely to yield an effective fighting force composed of women and men interested in making a long-term commitment. The Webb bill, in contrast, could lead to more college-bound Americans signing up, but it will also probably mean a higher number will leave the military once they reach the maximum benefit level. It's no surprise that McCain, who has a shot at being commander in chief, would rather not see reenlistment rates plummet. Webb, in contrast, who is always fighting the war over the war, is far less likely to have a philosophical objection to making wars like our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan far more expensive to fight.

The New York Times, committed as it is to fighting no wars at all, does not even acknowledge the potentially deleterious effect the Webb bill would have on the capacity of the U.S. military to fight, opting instead to focus purely on the numbers of new recruits versus those who opt out in favor of added benefits, i.e. the size of the force. If the priority is to win the war in Iraq, and the wider war on terror, than the effect of losing 16 percent of your force only to have them replaced by new recruits is ominous. That's not to say there isn't a strong case for Webb's GI Bill, but that case doesn't include making Bush and McCain out to be warmongers indifferent to the concerns of the troops.