[. . .]
But the Bush administration, which was ready neither to look for a way out of Iraq nor to admit that staying there would require a much bigger army, simply threw out the rulebook. Regular soldiers are spending a lot more than a third of their time overseas, and many reservists are finding their civilian lives destroyed by repeated, long-term call-ups.
Two things make the burden of repeated deployments even harder to bear. One is the intensity of the conflict. In Slate, Phillip Carter and Owen West, who adjusted casualty figures to take account of force size and improvements in battlefield medicine (which allow more of the severely wounded to survive), concluded that "infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966."
The other is the way in which the administration cuts corners when it comes to supporting the troops. From their foot-dragging on armoring Humvees to their apparent policy of denying long-term disability payments to as many of the wounded as possible, officials seem almost pathologically determined to nickel-and-dime those who put their lives on the line for their country.
[. . .]
Much more serious, because it would be irreversible, would be a mass exodus of mid-career military professionals. "That's essentially how we broke the professional Army we took into Vietnam," one officer told the National Journal. "At some point, people decided they could no longer weather the back-to-back deployments."
And we're already seeing stories about how young officers, facing the prospect of repeated harrowing tours of duty in a war whose end is hard to imagine, are reconsidering whether they really want to stay in the military. [my emphases]
[. . .]
Yes, but with 'Stop-loss', their commitments become open-ended. The backdoor draft has begun already, and if recruiting continues this downward trend, a front door draft is imminent.