standards are lowered, the number of duds will increase.rnI hate to say this so bluntly, but we are almost in a positionrnwhere we have to kiss privates’ a—es in order to maintainrna certain manning level.rnThe material readiness level is no better. Ever)’thing, fromrnjet planes to tanks, is routinely cannibalized for spare parts.rnSome defense analysts fear that the Nav}’ is in danger of fallingrnbelow 300 ships. (Remember Ronald Reagan’s 600-shiprnNavy?) The Air Force reports that, in fiscal year 1999, “aircraftrnand engine overhauls are expected to be 25 aircraft and 106 enginesrnshort of need due to lack of spare parts.” Grounding of AirrnForce planes for lack of parts is up more than 50 percent in thernpast decade, and, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.rnMichael Ryan, stripping planes for parts has climbed 78 percentrnin the past four years.rnAlthough senior Pentagon officials are quick to blame thernmaterial readiness crisis on the budget cuts of the Glinton administration,rnthis explanation, much like blaming military personnelrnshortages on a robust civilian job market, does not withstandrnscrutiny.rnBlaming a lack of bullets on a shrinking defense budget assumesrnthat the Pentagon is spending its hundreds of billions ofrndollars wisely. After all, there is no shortage of military spending:rnOn the contrar)’. President Glinton’s proposed fiscal yearrn2000 budget allocates nearly $300 billion for defense. The defensernportion of the federal budget is greater than all the otherrnportions of the discretionary budget combined; in fact, thernUnited States spends more on defense than all of the otherrnNATO countries (plus Japan and South Korea) combined, andrnmore than Russia, China, and all of the “rogue states” (Cuba,rnIraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria) combined.rnDoes the defense industry lobby have undue influence at thernPentagon? Chuck Spinney argues that part of the Navy’s potentialrnship shortage derives from the fact that perfectly goodrnsubmarines are retired early to make room for the Seawolf andrnthe New Attack submarine.rnMarine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak likes to tell thernstory of the young Marine who, when visited in his fighting holernin Kuwait by a U.S. ambassador, responded to the question, “Ifrnyou could have something, what would you like to have?” withrna heart)- “Sir, I could use some more ammunition!” Wliat Krulakrndoes not say is that, not long after the Gulf War, the MarinernCorps spent more money on family housing than it did on ammunition.rnThat same year, the Corps spent more money onrnchild-development centers than it did on spare parts. Anotherrnof Spinney’s correspondents, an Army NCO in Korea, describesrna dramatic gas mask shortage:rnA friend of mine at Camp Eagle told me that there is arnshortage of protective masks; they have to borrow fromrnother units when they go to the field. The rumor I heardrnabout giving protective masks to family members is true.rnThis is stupidity at its highest: bringing in protectivernmasks for family members instead of evacuating the familyrnmembers from a potential war zone. It would berncheaper to take the family members out of Korea. Therernwould be no need for day care centers, schools, youth activities,rnor any of those cool things. The housing shortagernwould be eliminated. Of course, the wives would losernout on their opportunib,- to live like British colonialists inrnIndia.rnThe solution to the material readiness crisis is simplernenough: Apply the logic of an infantry noncom and stop shovelingrnmoney into the gaping maws of our beloved defense contractorsrnwho push new weapons systems to replace perfectlyrngood existing ones.rnThe personnel shortage may not be so easy to fix. There is almostrnno official discussion about whether the feminization ofrnthe American Armed Forces is causing good officers and troopsrnto leave. There is even less speculation that soldiers are fed uprnwith empire-building and OOTW (operations other than war).rnThese OOTW have a debilitating effect on readiness evenrnwhen they are not driving good men out. The more time a soldierrnspends in Somalia, or keeping the peace in Bosnia, or runningrnthe country in Haiti, the more time he must spend trainingrnto do his real job—kill people and break things—when herngets back home.rnKill people and break things. Take an’ work your bloomin’rnguns. If America’s Armed Forces are called on to do eitherrnof these in some way that involves something more than droppingrnbombs from a safe distance on hospitals, embassies, andrnprisons—if our “brave men and women in harm’s way” are, inrnthe near future, actually placed in harm’s way—Americansrnshould brace themselves for a tremendous loss of life on the battiefield.rnTwo things, the first less likely than the second, could avertrnsuch a loss. America’s political leaders could adhere to “justrnwar” theory; or America’s political leaders could confine theirrnmilitary adventiirism to what might be called a secular versionrnof just war theorv’-the “Weinberger-Powell Doctiine.” Weinberger-rnPowell presumes against war: Vital interests must be atrnstake; force is a last resort; crystal-clear objectives (including arnsolid victory) are required; the people and the Congress mustrnsupport the action. Because our current war against Yugoslaviarndoes not meet the Weinberger-Powell criteria, we should notrnhold out much hope for a resurgence of Saint Augustine’s ideas,rneither. If there is reason to hope that American servicemen willrnnot be killed in large numbers in the next big conflict, it derivesrnnot from the likelihood that men of good morals and good sensernwill keep us out of fights that are not ours, but from the fact that,rnsince the Vietnam War, America’s political leadership has beenrnafraid to commit American forces wherever there is the least riskrnof significant loss of life. Recall how quickly we have pulled outrnof commitments at the first sight of blood in Beirut, Somalia,rnand elsewhere.rnU.S. Army Reserve officer John Gentry made this very case inrnthe Autumn 1998 issue oi Washington Quarterly: “[I]n recentrnyears the United States has extensively deployed military forcesrnabroad, but America’s leaders are increasingly reluctant to usernthem in roles that could lead to casualties in combat.” Gentr’,rnan unapologetic interventionist, fears this reluctance willrnencourage us to become yet more isolationist: withrnbruised feelings and a sense of paranoia about attacks, wernmight retrench even more deeply—intellectually andrnphysically. Perhaps we will find security for our troops, ifrnnot our national interests, in the American heartiand.rnThey would be home and safe, but there might not bernmuch reason any longer to have them in uniform.rnEvery crisis has a silver lining.rn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn