Nov 22, 2004
The army has ordered over four thousand former soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve to return to active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. In one way or another, over two thirds of them have not complied.
The Individual Ready Reserve is made up of soldiers who left active duty before their contract – at least eight years, in some cases much more – was up. In exchange, they are eligible to be recalled to active duty during the time that they would still have been active.
Of the 4,166 who have been recalled to active duty, over 1,800 have requested exemptions or delays. Some others have argued that their recall was made wrongly. And over 843 have simply not shown up. They're now considered Absent Without Leave – even if the government is doing what it can to downplay this latter group.
Because it happens so infrequently, former soldiers in the Ready Reserve expect never to be called back to active duty. In the past, when they were, it was to fulfill a very specialized task for a narrow amount of time.
Now, with the regular military AND the reserves already strained in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is resorting to what some call a "backdoor draft" to fill holes in their forces. As a result, Ready Reserve troops are being prepared to go into the midst of combat; and they can expect to be there for over a year at a time.
These soldiers are not, for the most part, protesting the war itself; they simply don't want to be the ones to fight it.
Still, this could be a signal of a wider trouble the military may soon have – or even already be having – with its soldiers.
History has shown what can happen when such situations grow. The U.S. began backing out of Viet Nam at the point when it could depend less and less on its soldiers to blindly follow orders there.
The less the U.S. military machine can count on its troops, the more it is constrained in carrying out these vicious wars.