The Missing Officers
No doubt the need to start offering bonuses of up to $35,000 to retain young officers merely reflects the booming economy in the civilian sector. All those lieutenants are passing up their chance of promotion to become hedge fund managers or real estate speculators. Or something:
Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours -- the top reason younger officers leave the service -- plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.
Now, obviously, the "lengthy and repeated war-zone tours" are a hardship, but not more of a hardship than what was endured during the world wars or the Civil War or what have you. What you're seeing with these shortfalls, however, is officers responding to the fact that unlike in those previous grand conflicts the political class in the United States clearly doesn't actually regard the war in Iraq as a key battlefield in an existential conflict for the ScaryIslamoBoogieFascists. There's no mobilization on the home front that remotely suggests that George W. Bush or Michael O'Hanlon or anyone else really sees this mission as worth giving up anything for. So officers are responding in the same way.
And, of course, they're right -- the more soberminded advocates of endless war don't really think we can accomplish much of anything in Iraq, they basically just want us to hang on indefinitely and vaguely hope for the best. Which seems like an okay option, I suppose, if you're not personally supposed to be doing the hanging on and the vaguely hoping. But it's easy to see why someone might not want to volunteer for that mission.