A week after calling the war on terror a "bumper-sticker slogan," John Edwards proposed a 10,000-strong "Marshall Corps" of young professionals — military or civilian, it's not quite specified — which the United States would send to "weak and failing states," purportedly to fight terrorism's "root causes." How they would do that in places like Somalia or Pakistan and face life-threatening ordeals isn't much specified by Mr. Edwards. But practicality isn't exactly his aim here.
His fatuous idea serves chiefly to conjure happy images of the great Gen. George C. Marshall or, perhaps, the Peace Corps and its JFK aura. It's an unworkable proposal.
Mr. Edwards' "strategy against terrorism" makes no endorsement of the obviously necessary increase in the size of the Marine Corps and Army, which most of the other presidential hopefuls support. Reading through the six legs of Mr. Edwards' strategy, it is clear that this omission is intentional. This "Strategy to Shut Down Terrorists and Stop Terrorism before It Starts" discusses military manpower at length. It dances around the subject of permanent increases, however.
"The force structure of our military should match its mission," it reads. This is followed by a lambasting of the Bush administration for mismanaging and overdeploying the military in two wars — this is surely warranted, given the president's stubborn resistance to increasing ground forces — which is itself followed by the equally warranted, "We must have enough troops to rebuild from Iraq." Stop relying so heavily on the National Guard and Reserves. Double military recruiting "so that we can reduce waivers issued for recruits with felonies." Restore equipment worn down or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it contains no call for permanent increases.
As the far left's presidential standard-bearer, the failure to endorse so obvious a need exposes an anti-military influence. That, at least, must be true if Mr. Edwards thinks that his base will warm to a "Marshall Corps," but cannot stomach an obviously needed boost for the real military.
Credit Mr. Edwards with a degree of honesty here. For many politicians, supporting more ground forces is simply a means of expressing love for "the troops." That, after all, belies much of today's discussion of military matters and veterans' issues, including the Walter Reed Army hospital scandal. But Mr. Edwards does not feel the need to go as far. That would be fitting if, as we figure to be the case, his far-left quarry not only opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also simply denies the need to build more effective ground forces to buttress democracy and protect America.