My brother sent me this link to a recent article in Rolling Stone magazine talking about how it is inevitable that the draft will be reinstituted. He was curious about my views on the matter, so here they are.
To begin, I am opposed to the draft. I believe we have the greatest military in the history of the world, not because of superior technology but because of the dedicated and professional soldiers who make that technology work on the battlefield. Our troops are our edge and our advantage. Their bravery, ingenuity, spirit, and savvy of our warriors is an awesome force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Someday when the real story of Fallujah is told it will be a testament to the skill and expertise of the soldiers who overwhelmingly routed the enemy in urban warfare. I am not meaning to disparage the draftees from the past, I am just saying that today’s volunteers are better trained and better motivated than at anytime in the long and proud history of our armed forces.
So, I think a draft should be only considered in times of national emergency, and although we are in the midst of a global war against terrorism, the methods we have chosen to fight that war do not necessitate a draft. Yet. That day may come, and when it does, Americans will be called to serve and they will answer that call. Just as they have always done.
A couple of excerpts from the article and my thoughts on them:
The memo duly notes the administration’s aversion to a draft but adds, “Defense manpower officials concede there are critical shortages of military personnel with certain special skills, such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network engineers, etc.” The potentially prohibitive cost of “attracting and retaining such personnel for military service,” the memo adds, has led “some officials to conclude that, while a conventional draft may never be needed, a draft of men and women possessing these critical skills may be warranted in a future crisis.” This new draft, it suggests, could be invoked to meet the needs of both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
The memo then proposes, in detail, that the Selective Service be “re-engineered” to cover all Americans – “men and (for the first time) women” – ages eighteen to thirty-four. In addition to name, date of birth and Social Security number, young adults would have to provide the agency with details of their specialized skills on an ongoing basis until they passed out of draft jeopardy at age thirty-five. Testifying before Congress two weeks after the meeting, acting director of Selective Service Lewis Brodsky acknowledged that “consultations with senior Defense manpower officials” have spurred the agency to shift its preparations away from a full-scale, Vietnam-style draft of untrained men “to a draft of smaller numbers of critical-skills personnel.”
Richard Flahavan, spokesman for Selective Service, tells Rolling Stone that preparing for a skills-based draft is “in fact what we have been doing.” For starters, the agency has updated a plan to draft nurses and doctors. But that’s not all. “Our thinking was that if we could run a health-care draft in the future,” Flahavan says, “then with some very slight tinkering we could change that skill to plumbers or linguists or electrical engineers or whatever the military was short.” In other words, if Uncle Sam decides he needs people with your skills, Selective Service has the means to draft you – and quick.
What a great idea. Not only is a draft targeted to meet specific needs an effective tool to maintain full fighting strength and readiness, it will carry much less political baggage than a general draft targeting everyone. This kind of forward thinking really is quite impressive. So, in the circumstances described in the article, I say yes to the draft.
Michael O’Hanlon, a military-manpower scholar at the Brookings Institute, believes a return to a full-blown draft will become “unavoidable” if the United States is forced into another war. “Let’s say North Korea strikes a deal with Al Qaeda to sell them a nuclear weapon or something,” he says. “I frankly don’t see how you could fight two wars at the same time with the all-volunteer approach.” If a second Korean War should break out, the United States has reportedly committed to deploying a force of nearly 700,000 to defend South Korea – almost half of America’s entire military.
Ok, if the nature of the war we are fighting changes and we need to massively increase the size of our military to succeed, a general draft is clearly in order. Again, Americans have always stepped up to the plate when America needed defending and will answer that call again if necessary. It’s cliché but true: freedom is not free, and the rights and privileges we enjoy in this country were bought with the blood of past generations of Americans. So yes, I would support a draft under these circumstances.
Charlie Moskos, a professor of military sociology at Northwestern University, says the volunteer system also limits the political fallout of unpopular wars. “Without a draft, there’s really no antiwar movement,” Moskos says. Nearly sixty percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq was a mistake, he notes, but they have no immediate self-interest in taking to the streets because “we’re willing to pay people to die for us. It doesn’t reflect very well on the character of our society.”
Even military recruiters agree that the only way to persuade average Americans to make long-term sacrifices in war is for the children of the elite to put their lives on the line. In a recent meeting with military recruiters, Moskos discussed the crisis in enlistment. “I asked them would they prefer to have their advertising budget tripled or have Jenna Bush join the Army,” he says. “They unanimously chose the Jenna option.”
One of the few politicians willing to openly advocate a return to the draft is Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, who argues that the current system places an immoral burden on America’s underprivileged. “It shouldn’t be just the poor and the working poor who find their way into harm’s way,” he says. In the days leading up to the Iraq war, Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft – with absolutely no deferments. “If the kids and grandkids of the president and the Cabinet and the Pentagon were vulnerable to going to Iraq, we never would have gone – no question in my mind,” he says. “The closer this thing comes home to Americans, the quicker we’ll be out of Iraq.”
Ah, of course. The left in America does not give a damn about maintaining an effective fighting force to defend America. This is just a cynical attempt to generate popular support for the anti-war movement. That their ideas were roundly rejected at the ballot box does not compel them to rethink their positions on national defense, they just move on to other tactics. Sorry, Rangel, you have been exposed for what you are. I will be kind and just say in response: Idiot.
“It’s so completely unethical and immoral to induce people that have limited education and limited job ability to have to put themselves in harm’s way for ten, twenty or thirty thousand dollars,” Rangel says. “Just how broke do you have to be to take advantage of these incentives?” Seducing soldiers with cold cash also unnerves military commanders. “We must consider the point at which we confuse ‘volunteer to become an American soldier’ with ‘mercenary,’ ” Lt. Gen. James Helmly, the commander of the Army Reserve, wrote in a memo to senior Army leadership in December.
I call bullshit on this. The military is not only a time-honored profession, today’s soldiers are relatively well paid and have some outstanding benefits. Anyone who has spent anytime around our troops quickly realizes that we have some outstanding people at all levels and ranks who are serving because it is a calling. I personally have met soldiers who could make much more money on the outside, but have made a decision to serve their country out of love and patriotism. My awe and honor for them is boundless. Without people like this America would be Canada or God forbid, France. And generation after generation has come forward to answer the call to serve. It is what sets Americans apart. We are different and unique in this respect.
The Reserve, Helmly warns, “is rapidly degenerating into a broken force.” The Army National Guard is also in trouble: It missed its recruitment goals of 56,000 by more than 5,000 in fiscal year 2004 and is already 2,000 soldiers short in fiscal 2005. To keep enough boots on the ground, the Pentagon has stopped asking volunteer soldiers to extend their service – and started demanding it. Using a little-known provision called “stop loss,” the military is forcing reservists and guardsmen to remain on active duty indefinitely. “This is an ‘all-volunteer Army’ with footnotes,” says McPeak. “And it’s the footnotes that are being held in Iraq against their wishes. If that’s not a back-door draft, tell me what is.”
Admittedly, this is a concern. We have overtaxed our vital Reserves and National Guard troops. I think the answer is a larger standing Army. Even John Kerry has called for increasing the size of our military forces, so perhaps we will find a bipartisan solution to this problem.
What I would really like to see is a mandatory two or three year commitment of public service for all Americans between the ages of 18-21. It could be military, police, conservation corps, peace corps, or other needs based activities. They have a similar program here in the ROK. John Kerry was in favor of such a program before he was against it. Perhaps his next flip will bring him back on board.
Anyway, guess it turns out I am not opposed to the draft after all. If it is targeted or if it is part of an overall national service requirement, it could be a good thing. Let’s hope we never need to force people into the military, but should our national defense demand it, I have full confidence that this generation of young Americans will get the job done, just as their ancestors did. It is a great American tradition.
cross posted at The Wide Awakes.