Byline: Max Boot, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Army is getting desperate. Having fallen 25 percent short of already reduced recruiting goals last month, it is raising enlistment bonuses to $40,000 in some cases and lowering standards to accept and retain soldiers who would have been turned away in years past. A minor criminal record? No high school diploma? Uncle Sam still wants you.
This way disaster lies - the undoing of the finest armed forces in U.S. history. But what choice is there? With combat dragging on in Iraq and plenty of jobs available at home, there aren't enough volunteers. So far, a real crisis has been averted only because the Army has exceeded its retention goals and kept some troops in uniform past their discharge dates, but it will only get tougher to keep volunteers in uniform if troops are constantly deployed overseas.
There are two obvious, and obviously wrongheaded, solutions to this problem: Pull out of Iraq now or institute a draft. The former would hand a victory to terrorists and undo everything more than 1,700 Americans have given their lives to achieve. The latter option, aside from being a political nonstarter, would also dilute the high quality of the all-volunteer force.
Having reviewed all the other possibilities and found them wanting, I return to the solution I proposed on this page in February: Broaden the recruiting base beyond U.S. citizens and permanent, legal residents. Legislation has been drafted to make a modest start in that direction.
The proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act is targeted at children of undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. for more than five years but not born here. They would get legal status and become eligible for citizenship if they graduate from high school, stay out of trouble and either attend college for two years or serve two years in the armed forces. This bill, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, drew 48 cosponsors in the Senate last year but failed to get a floor vote. It is likely to be reintroduced soon.
The DREAM Act is a great idea, but I would go further and offer citizenship to anyone, anywhere on the planet, willing to serve a set term in the U.S. military. We could model a Freedom Legion after the French Foreign Legion. Or we could allow foreigners to join regular units after a period of English-language instruction, if necessary.
When I first made this suggestion, I got a lot of positive responses but also some scathing critiques. …