NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Manpower Required to Keep The Peace

April 17, 2003

The Iraqi conflict has exposed a looming military manpower problem, says Alan J. Kuperman, author of "The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention." A full-blown peacekeeping operation in Iraq would require as many as 500,000 troops, and stretch U.S. forces too thin.

As documented by Rand Corp. analyst James Quinlivan, societies with relatively low levels of civil violence, such as the United States, require only two to three police officers per thousand residents.

  • By contrast, during instability in places such as Northern Ireland, Malaysia, Bosnia and Kosovo, intervention forces have required approximately 20 troops per thousand residents to maintain order.
  • Given Iraq's population of about 24 million, that could mean 480,000 peacekeepers.
  • If violence were lighter or regionally circumscribed, policing requirements might drop as low as 10 troops per thousand, or a total of 240,000.
  • And U.S. allies might contribute troops; however, at least 200,000 peacekeepers probably would have to be Americans.

Troop rotation would require more troops to be involved. But worldwide, the U.S. Army and Marines have combined active duty forces of only about 700,000. One alternative would be to activate a large number of reserves; another alternative is to reinstitute the military draft.

Source: Alan J. Kuperman, "Lack of troops threatens Bush's postwar goals," USA Today, April 17, 2003.


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