Monday, July 17, 2006

Draft Beer, Not Kids

As it has several times in the past few years, talk of reinstating a military draft is rising to the surface again. Some fear that a draft would be used as a tool by the neoconservatives to support the prolonged war in Iraq and other "optional" armed conflicts. Others--including, perhaps surprisingly, some fairly prominent voices from the political left--think a draft might be a good idea.

I think it's highly unlikely that the Bush administration will try to bring the draft back, regardless of how the November elections turn out, largely for fear that whatever support for the Iraq war still exists would drop out of the bottom. Still, the pros and cons of resuming a national military conscription is worthy of attention in the national debate because adoption or rejection of such a policy could have a major effect on America's role in the Next World Order.

No less of a war hawk than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that, "The last thing we need is a draft." This is the one point on national defense policy--perhaps the only one--on which I agree with Donald Rumsfeld.

For better or worse, armed conflict has become a high tech undertaking. Hopefully, for America at least, the days of fighting wars by putting a rifle in the hands of any kid who can fog a mirror are gone forever. Moreover, not everyone is suited for military service. That doesn't mean folks who don't fit the armed service mold are slackers, sissies, unpatriotic, or any other epithet we may be tempted to label them with. It just means their natural aptitudes lie outside the loose set of talents that make for squared-away G.I. Janes and Josephs. I had fairly significant management and leadership experience in the military, and can state without fear of credible contradiction that supervisory personnel in all branches of the service would far rather work with volunteers than conscripts. Sure, a lot of dysfunctional personalities and attitudes slip through the cracks of the recruiting process, but in the main, you'd rather be around people who asked to wear a uniform than around folks who didn't.

For all the talk about American now being engaged in a "global," "generational" or "world" war, we're really involved in no such thing. The "war on terror" is no more of a war than are the war on drugs or the war on poverty. It's an ongoing problem that will require vigilant law enforcement and diplomatic, economic, and information measures. Our conflict in Iraq is an aberration--i.e., "mistake"--based on the delusional neoconservative notion that military force can achieve any and all U.S. national objectives.

America's Navy and Air Force aren't hurting at present for sufficient manpower or new recruits. Our personnel challenges are limited to our land power services, the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps. The only reason we'd need a draft to supplement these branches would be so we could fight more wars like the one we're currently fighting in Iraq. And the most important lesson we've (hopefully) learned from the Iraq War is that we don't want or need to fight any more wars like it. Why should we? Did we spend most of the 20th century establishing ourselves as the leading world power so we could get bogged down in dirty little wars with third rate ones in the 21st?

Oceans Away

Of late, young Mister Bush has been fond of saying, "We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously."

As with most of Bush's scripted rhetoric, both of these assertions are false.

What Abraham Lincoln said in 1838 is as true now as it was then:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

Not the Chinese nor the Russians nor Iran nor North Korea nor al Qaeda nor anyone else can raise an army or an amphibious assault fleet large enough to cross the Atlantic or Pacific and invade and occupy the United States. No one will ever be able to do that. They won't even try to develop the capability because it is unachievable.

The only military threat the U.S. is vulnerable to is the delivery of WMD, most notably a nuclear warhead, on American soil by means of an intercontinental ballistic missile. But we managed to deter that threat for more than 50 years of Cold War with the Soviets, and we can easily deter the same sort of threat from "rogue" nuclear states like North Korea in much the same manner. On last Sunday's Meet the Press, Senator Joe Biden perfectly articulated the proper diplomatic stance to take toward North Korea or any other nation that threatens to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile.
You do something like that, we will annihilate you.

There's no need for a military draft to back that promise. We'll always have plenty of qualified volunteers to man our missile silos. Compared to being an infantryman, being a nuclear missileer in an air conditioned silo is pretty skate duty.

As to the threat of covert terrorists, international or "home grown," well, America has always been under that cloud too. A military draft won't solve the problem.

Glamour Girls and Universal Conscription

Even if you could make a legitimate argument for the efficacy of a new military draft, you'll never convince me that we can construct a system that will improve on the class inequities of Vietnam era conscription. Rifle toters won't be sons of corporate CEOs. The Bush twins of our age will serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard, and latter day Dick Cheneys will have "better things to do."

What of the "national service draft" that will require all able Americans between the ages of, say, 18 and 25 to serve in some capacity, military or peaceful, in government service? Riddle me this: what the hell are we going to do with all those kids, and how the hell are we going to pay for it?

What's more, such a requirement would amount to mandatory indentured servitude to the government as a condition of citizenship. How would that square with the admonition in the Declaration of Independence about "inalienable rights?"

So yes, the notion of a draft is well worth discussing, but no, it's a very, very, very bad idea. It won't make America better or safer or stronger. It will just make Americans vassals of the government, which is 180 degrees out from the way things are supposed to be in this country. While serving one's country--by being a responsible and productive citizen--and serving one's government are not necessarily mutually exclusive pursuits, they're two very separate things. The very notion of "national service" itself is a tenuous concept at best.

Just consider Dick Cheney, who's spent his life serving himself in the name of his government and country.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. I had fairly significant management and leadership experience in the military, and can state without fear of credible contradiction that supervisory personnel in all branches of the service would far rather work with volunteers than conscripts.

    As an NCO Leadership School grad (Keesler AFB) I most wholeheartedly concur. In a tight spot, I'd rather have people who want to be there instead of guys who have to be there.

  2. As a rule, I think everybody would.

  3. All we need do is look at the effect of lowering the "moral" standards for service that has been going on for the last few years to see the effect of such coonscription. In today's world you need a militry that can attrack smart, dedicated and educated folks. It is a new world and good pay and benefits coupled with good training and enlightened management will produce much more military than we should need.

  4. navywife2:19 AM

    But we aren't getting that 'best and brightest' military right now. Asvab score requirements have been lowered, the age limit has been raised to 42, they are lowering the standards as far as criminal backgrounds and drug use, and they increasing the amount of people they will allow in with a GED. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel right now it seems. So, what will it be like in another year or two? Hell, they tried to recruit someone with autism recently.

    Something is going to have to give sometime soon. They just can't keep sending the same people over there tour after tour. Most of the people my age (20s) don't know or care what is going on in Iraq. Why should only a small segment of the population be required to sacrifice when other people are oblivious to the death and destruction? Why are other people getting tax cuts while a very few are expected to give their lives?

    We are never going to get out of Iraq because it doesn't directly effect the majority of the population. I don't like the idea of a draft per se. But if it is the only thing that will scare the country into paying attention, I think I would be for it.

  5. Meribeth6:44 AM

    I agree with navywife. The draft, or even a House/Senate debate about it just might give the country a "snap out of it!" If it starts to get to close to home, I know that people will not be so complacent.

    "It will just make Americans vassals of the government, which is 180 degrees out from the way things are supposed to be in this country" I could not agree more, yet, Jeff, wire tapping, snooping in medical/library records and outing a current CIA operative is also 180 degrees out of kilter too. So what is to stop them? Plenary powers, remember.

    After all, God speaks directly to our leader and tells him he was "chosen."

  6. I think the draft ought to be considered suspect under the Constitution. The Bush administration will never reinstate the draft. The argument that they would was included among scare tactics used at local colleges and universities by the Democrats (even though the people sponsoring Bills in Congress to bring back the draft were, in fact, Democrats). I remember hearing more than one Democrat (local or national) telling college kids if Bush won there WOULD be a draft. Nonsense, of course, but facts rarely get in the way of good campaigning.

    Anyone think that a large-scale all out clash between fundamentalist Islam and the west (i.e. between the Europe/the US and the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran) is inevitable? I don't mean in an absolute sense, such as that it is fated or destined, but I mean given the current political realities, the people on both sides, etc.

  7. Personally, I think they should push the age limit one more year. That way, my chickenhawk brother is eligable, and can go support his hee-row, dubya.

    Seriously, like Jeff said, any draft would only get the kids that nobody $important$ cares about. A draft can never be made fair, because money influences politicians.

    As to getting voters to "snap out of it!", remember that after "wire tapping, snooping in medical/library records and outing a current CIA operative" among numerous other "out of kilter" policies, far too many of the sheeple still support him. Why, them folks'd be proud to send their young'uns to die in support o' God's own president.

  8. Mus,
    You're up early.

    Look how good their "all out clash" worked against Israel about 41 years ago. Militarily, the middle east is insignificant. I'm more worried about what they can do to my gas-pump.

  9. Hi William. Yeah - a bit early anyway. I'm usually up by now but not on the blogs :)

    I'm not saying the all out confrontation is a good idea, I'm just wondering if there is any way to avoid it at this point. As for gas prices - no kidding. I drive about 200 miles most days, and it is really starting to add up!

  10. Without changes in US policy, it'll just keep getting worse. I was just reading about how my "representative" announced his absolute support for Israel's latest attacks. Why can't they learn that "kick them in the balls until they become your friend" doesn't work.

    All we really need to do to defuse this is leave them alone, and let time heal all wounds. Unfortunately, they're between us and that oil.

  11. Meribeth8:26 AM

    William you are right. So many times I am in stunned that people are not upset about the corruption, etc. "Well, I have nothing to hide. Well, it doesn't really affect me." I can assue you that the draft will affect them! Their kids, husbands, wives will be affected by simple removal from house/home/job. They will not want their lives disrupted and income removed...and these "changes" will not be temporary in many cases.

    Yes, the Dems drew up the bill. It was phrased so that there will be no deferments. Sure, the rich and famous would probably get a soft assignment, but they will be limited and choices will be few. And for them that would be a hardship.

    There is another aspect of the bill that is really troubling. Having a registry which includes career and educational information. The military is short in specialized areas, such as linguistics, medicine, engineers, etc. (They also want to attract more PhDs) There is an option where they will draft only in those areas that are needed. Now, isn't that lovely. I got this from a Rolling Stone article, where they were quoting directly from Pent. memo's and documents. Granted, Rolling Stone may not the the paragon of print that we desire, and they did not print the entire memo, etc.

    Musman, why not? Big business would profit, the religious right is just one more step closer to the rapture, and more power for our War Prez. Do I think there will a backing off and a tense peace period? Yep. Because the world needs/wants that energy..not just us.

  12. William:

    The militants there won't leave Israel alone, however. Haven't they been lobbing rockets out of Gaza ever since the Israelis left there? Israel is in practically a no-win situation, given that Hamas and Hezbollah want the country eliminated. Of course, over-reactions like the one going on now may play right into the hands of a group like Hezbollah. The situation is a mess on both sides, and I think both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian issue have legitimate concerns, but unfortunately most of the action is being dictated by radicals on the Arab side and hard-liners in Israel.

  13. Meribeth:

    You may well be right, but even with a backing off and a tense peace, it is just a matter of time until it boils over again, and sooner or later it seems like we're going to reach the final straw. I don't think the hardliners in Israel or the radicals in Hezbollah and Hamas really care whether the world wants energy out of the middle east or not.

  14. Yes, both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian issue have legitimate concerns, but why is that our business?

  15. Thanks everyone for contributing to a terrific discussion.

    A few thoughts on sacrifice and so on. America chose to finance a military at war time levels during peace time so that come war time, we'd have everything we need all ready to go without having to levee more troops from the civilian population. I don't think it's one bit fair or sensible to want to have things both ways.

    I also don't think using a draft as a means of ending the war is a good plan. I'd much rather see a war tax.

    But we're sort of paying one at the gas pump, aren't we? ;-)

  16. Did you catch this piece, Jeff?

  17. Anonymous1:25 AM

    I applied for a received an application to join my draft board last summer.

  18. Meribeth8:40 AM

    Jeff, indeed we are at the same pump! And I could not agree with you more about "having it both ways" but our government does not operate like that anymore...they do, they take, they say, they deny as they see fit...and the public just nods their heads without thinking about the consequences. BUT if the draft was put on the table, discussed and argued and the threat of it becoming a reality..maybe, just maybe people will snap out of their rose collored fog.

    War tax? Never happen....

  19. Mus,

    Thanks for the link. I read Ibrahim fairly regularly but haven't seen this article.


    For your consideration: should prior military service be a requirement for serving on a draft board?

  20. Meribeth8:48 AM

    Oh yes, Musmano. The fanatics could care less about the delivery of oil. I guess you could say that about any fanatic..Jewish, Arab, Anglo..

    But the oil is power and that is their desire...errr, passion. It is the basis for all economies, therefore, if they had control of the oil, they would have power. Yet, the world needs that oil. There is no other real energy source that fuels the economies and the world would not permit that flow of energy to stop. In other words, it would be a "multi-national" military investment to insure that the energy is available. How about a G8 Army?

  21. Meribeth,

    Yes, I think it's well worth discussing for the reasons you propose, and also to point out the "standing force" compact we've made with our government.

    I'll have more on this tomorrow.



  22. Now, a G8 Army is a very interesting idea. Not sure how we'd sell such a thing, but it sure would end the ME nations playing the Chinese and Russians against US.

  23. G8 army: Does the world really need another army fighting for oil??? Thats how the trouble started!

    BTW, wat r ur thoughts on the UN's position on the Israeli/Lebanon situation???
    I personally think the world leaders positions on this issue is reprehensible; altho I'm making a significant understatment here.
    Israel is slaughtering people left, right and centre, and we r watching the show from our safe homes.
    I dont think Hizbollah should have taken those 2 soldiers like they did - but to be honest, this technique of kidnapping people off streets and holding them for no reason was learned from the governments of the US and Israel and they have set up this trend. See Israeli jails, Guantamo, the US prisons in Iraq holding thousands of people for no apparent reason...
    If Israel considers itself to have moral superiority then it needs to act like it, instead of acting like a bully.

  24. Tahnia,

    I've been trying to sort through this Israel-Arab situation for decades trying to come up with good guy/bad guy determinations, and am coming up with blanks.

    I've been thinking about the possibility of offering the Jews a safe haven, a 51st American state, carved out of parts of Utah and Nevada.

  25. The Browning of a Military Draft!

    Respectfully, I must disagree with you relative to reinstating the military draft. However, you do make a cogent and impressive argument if one is premised on America's history. As such, a cynical me could craft a cogent and impressive argument too, and to wit, start with the Sonoran Desert Adage of, "The only thing that changes in America is it's history!" Fortunately, my perspective always starts with "shaping the future" and to this extent, I state my argument affirmatively for a military draft and for an ease of understanding.

    If one starts with the primary study rendered by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, one quickly realizes that the politics that led to the elimination of the military draft, and subsequently, the "privatization" of our military, was premised on change for political changes' sake only. And this change kept within the dynamic of the political Right, has been in keeping with class warfare and not with the social engineering mindset. Therefore, the late Barry Goldwater amply recognized that in eliminating the military draft, the Democrats would be neutered on issues of national security and defense and for the many years to come. In this overall effort, Goldwater had many 'enablers' within Democratic Party ranked elites, and yet Goldwater never consulted with the enlisted ranks which was tantamount to a cavalier dismissal by America's usual affinity from these competent and willing elitists. Of course, this behavior is nothing new. And to this day, we here in the Sonoran Desert, recognize that Goldwater was truly prescient, given our Invasion of Iraq and where the 'shared sacrifice' is indeed absent or missing in action in our nation's political dynamic of public discourse, is well-understood.

    And needless to say but I will, I could offer up a strong rebuttal to each of your points, but that approach to argumentation and refutation does not move the conversation forward and it only inhibits this conversation from moving forward as well, or so I believe.

    Consequently, given the demographics of the next twenty years or so, the "browning" of America will continue apace, and thusly, the President of the NAACP smartly said:

    "We may not have all the power that we want, but we have all the power that we need." Further he said, "All we have to do is believe it and use it!"

    With this in mind, I anticipate that throughout America's racial and ethnic communities, these communities will come to eventually realize and find for themselves that the 'white guys' have no particular interest in the social and economic costs of this political issue. (Lest I not forget, I am using 'white guys' in the context of a contrast from 'white women' or genderized, otherwise I will be challenged for either articulating or perpetuating more racism and bigotry.)

    Perhaps, the perspective of the enlisted or of former draftees as soldiers is more instructive although this perspective is never acknowledged or made much mention of. As such, I am the current President of the Chicano Veterans Organization, and we advocate the enlisted soldier's perspective in contrast to the views articulated and universally shared by the Admirals and Generals in our nation's armed forces.

    Therefore, our vision of a military draft is contructed on the foundation of a military draft as a well-functioning economic development tool at both the national and local governmental levels. And we are convinced that our view will provide and prove over time, that the tangential benefits from our thoughtful notions for "shaping our future together" will bear more fruit than anticipated.

    To date, those who are advocating for the re-institution of a military draft tend to come up short on the overall specifics. They tend to look to our nation's history and not to our future with Hope, Opportunity, and Ambition.

    We advocate a military draft as an "academic-military draft". In short, the enlistee/draftee would three to four years and 50% of the duration would be spent in an academic environment. This would include learning to read and write, achieve a GED, and further, acquiring an Associate of Arts Degree in General Studies. Unon separation, the trooper would visit the local financial institution and borrow the necessary monies to complete a third and fourth year of academics at a state-funded institution. Consequently, a federally guaranteed loan would lead to acquiring a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts or a Degree in the Hard Sciences. And as to innovation, the inclusion of Spanish and Portuguese is in keeping with our view that the economic engine of prosperity for the United States is the Latin America Region.

    For in doing so,our taxpayer dollars will go futher when consideration is given to legislative funding for our university systems. Equally important, our universities would be solely focused on third and fourth year academics, and the community colleges would continue their targeted services to first and second year educational students.

    And more than likely, Corporate America would be the primary beneficiary and leading to an increase in salary and wages for these newly-developed middle class citizens. Otherwise, we as a nation will continue to stagnate when it comes to wages and salaries, as we have for the past thirty years. Needless to say, pandering to or 'empowering' one's ambition or desire, is a good starting point nonetheless.

    In summary, I find it interesting that our national and local bodies of educational researchers are finding that a third of our children are droping out of school (from 8th thru 12th) and which demonstrates the need for substantive change. Unfortunately, the behavior of "me-too-ism" of the eighties and nineties had inculcated itself, and jettisoning such behavior will be difficult for us all. And for those of us who have gravitated to the notionals expressed by the Chicano Veterans Organization, we will keep plugging along until the rest of America catches up with us. As such, we count the votes periodically and practice our politics as a contact sport. :)

    Respectfully submitted.


  26. a 51st state - lol

    good luck with that!

  27. No, Tahnia, don't think we'll have much luck with that one at all.