The draft

I’ve talked in posts  past about the benefit a draft would  have on the American  character.  I think it would be good for young people to get two years of strong discipline, and I think it would be good for race relations in this  country to  have all young people tossed into the same military pot.  Without exception, military readers of this blog, while perfectly willing to agree that it would be good for young Americans, have been horrified at the thought of diluting the military with people who  don’t want to be there.  They are fiercely opposed to the draft, believing that the best military is one made up of people committed to military life and the  military ethos.

I’m therefore completely bewildered to learn,  after a vacation news blackout of a couple of days, that at least one highly placed military official is tossing around the  “D” word.  I  can’t think of anyone, in the military or out of it, who thinks it’s a good idea.

18 Responses

  1. While a draft specifically for Iraq may not be feasible, I do for a type of compulsive service based on what is used in Israel. For the true conscientious objectors, an alternate plan of community service could be used. I like the idea of patriotism being instilled into our citizens. Perhaps more citizens would become interested in society and even vote.

    With the decline of civics being taught in schools, this may be a way of instilling a rightful pride in our nation.

  2. I am in favor of universal service for two years, although not necessarily the military. I would combine the various opportunities of VISTA, the Peace Corps, Doctors without Borders etc. I think such a program would help unify the country and diminish the force of identity politics (hyphenated Americans). I’m not even sure I would make the program age-specific. It might work as a universal sabbatical: taken between formal education and the beginning of a career, in the midst of a career or between the end of a career and retirement.

  3. The draft proponents aren’t doing any planning to counter Leftist plans to insert and surge agents into the military. The tunnel will eventually end and it will be a dead drop unless they plan ahead.

    Idealism is nice. But I often think about how to destroy civilizations and plans from the inside out due to certain studies of military operations, falls of civilizations, and simple intrigue.

    Nothing is ever what it seems, not when the stakes are this high.

  4. I’m with the military on the draft — as long as we can field the troops we need without one, then it’s better not to have one. Their job, though, is to make the military appear to be a better alternative by doing a better job in Iraq. Patreus may yet pull this off, but the last three years have not been good marketing for a draft.

    As for a mandatory community service, it’s a nice, gushy idea, but a terrible one. First, it could not be created without putting working people out of work, because if the community service they would do is meaningful, there’s already a paid job to do it. And second, can’t imagine that the Leftists would allow us to create a plan that would be honest and fair.

    One possible option: Make it an overseas service corps. That way, we would be doing more good works around the globe, which would help us win the war on terror, and we wouldn’t be putting American workers out of work. Of course Libs would howl! “There’s so much to do here!”

  5. This is it in a nutshell:

    “Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush’s new war adviser said Friday.”

    The all- volunteeer force is stressed.

    In face, in Jan. 2006, this news went under-reported:

    Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a “thin green line” that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

    Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency.”

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/01/24/national/w133017S88.DTL

  6. There are numerous ways to serve in a community without taking someones job away. There are many charities that could use the help, such as homeless shelters and even Habitat For Humanity, just to name a couple.

    My mother is now 77 and lives 45 minutes away. In the area she lives there are occasionally people that will shuttle the elderly around town to medical appointments, drug stores, and other daily chores. The position pays poorly. Thus there is always a shortage of help. This is another area community service worker would be a help without a net drain on jobs.

    I would not even object to the government paying school expenses, such as medical. Like the military academies, the graduate would be obligated to serve a number of years in a less desirous location. I know this happens on a small scale in some states.

  7. The all- volunteeer force is stressed.

    So is a muscle that is being exercised. They are stressed too.

    When more people are pumped into the military, what automatically then happens is that the military fights less wars. This results not in exercise but in getting fat.

    The draft has already been used as an excuse to frighten people out of engaging in foreign adventures as they say. Unless there’s a requirement that says the US is going to engage in war against 3+ more countries in addition to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the draft is simply going to be an IED setup by domestic and foreign enemies.

    What’s stressed is American civilian morale. That is what is stressed. The draft can be used and will be used to stress American morale further past the breaking point, if it hasn’t broken already.

    Every weapon can be used in the service of America but it also can be used against America. Without the proper preparation or countering plans, the advantage goes with those with the better preparation. In this case, this would be the Left, given their experience with using the draft in the Vietnam days to recreate another defeat. Maybe America could recreate the WWII experience, but that would require an escalation in the fighting.

    If Iraq fails, there will be no escalation anywhere. So look at the short term gains of a draft. The only gain is that people become more war weary. Even assuming that social projects work, it would take them 10-15 years. The time it takes to train a generation or half of one. So essentially America will become more war weary like in Vietnam, with the draft, as a short term consequence. And in the long term, the best we can hope for is a revitalized civic duty or some such. However, the short term has already determined everything else, since Iraq doesn’t need all that many demoralization campaigns of a Watada, Haditha, Abu Ghraib, or Scott Thomas level to crack and fail.

    Every unprofessional, militia, or untrained force, which is what a draft will produce until a few years, has had higher casualty rates than professional and experienced forces. Will America withstand the demoralization effects of having more Americans die and more Americans being put into foreign lands? Usually rookies are replaced very fast with fresh ones, while the veterans live on because they have learned the tools of survival. Can America withstand months or years of the media focusing on increased US casualties, mistakes, and problems with an unblooded drafted force?

    I don’t think so. Which is why it is a good gambit if I was thinking in terms of Tet and I was on the side of the Soviets.

  8. The Army often has more HUA than brains. Honestly, the other Services are looking at them wondering how they can possibly do this to their people, and still the Army claims that they can keep it up. Such is the culture that to admit difficulty is to profess weakness. It is apalling, particularly as you notice that the problem worsens further up the chain of command.
    Of course we all know (at top levels of the DoD) that a draft would be excrable; to mention the draft as a possible course of action is simply as close as their leadership can get to admitting that they have a problem.

  9. Perhaps one way to have our cake and eat it too is to draft people into the National Guard but leave the national military services to the professionals. The highly professional U.S. military would not be well-served by having to contend with resentful, anti-military people in their ranks.

  10. I agree that a draft would be a horrifying idea. This is not your army grunt force of yesteryear. Barring a breakout war with a major power such as China, nearly all campaigns over the next few decades will be struggles against insurgencies. As we see in Iraq, our soldiers have to be part detective, part diplomat, part killer. Many require a dedication to master the use of highly technological weaponry. We ask a LOT of them these days. I don’t think you can accomplish modern goals with a drafted military.

    On the other hand, just sit back and dream of this: For two or three years, every young person between the ages of 18-21 receives intensive training with semi-automatic machine guns, rifles, pistols, knives, and survival techniques. Over the course of those years, they become VERY comfortable with guns of all sorts and even learn to like them. At least half of them would purchase guns for the home after their service. Within two decades that vaast unwashed American population would be bristling with home defense weapons, with the affection and skill to use them. The criminals wouldn’t stand a chance.

  11. Hello Bookworm,

    I first encountered news that the Bush Administration is considering the draft my first thought was not the pros and cons of universal conscription. When Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said, “I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” my friends and I thought that this could mean only one thing, domestic war mobilization against another enemy or the threat of mobilization.

    As a nation, we haven’t mobilized for war. We have an all volunteer army and, like most of your commenters have said here, we don’t need to dilute the professionalism of our volunteer army. But we must not forget that we face more enemies than just Iraqi insurgents and Muslim terrorists.

    China, Russia, and Iran are all actively attempting to subvert our actions and they are in an active military build up against us. There is just no getting around the fact that if we want a credible deterrent against all these enemies simultaneously, a draft must be considered. We would also need some lead time to train and equip all the new soldiers that would be called up.

    We are facing the very, very real possibility that we would be dogpiled by the world all at once. If this is the threat we are seeing at the Pentagon (we out in civilian-land don’t really know, and they aren’t talking), then our all volunteer military is just not going to cut it. There is no replacing sheer numbers, even with all our technology.

    If we think we can defeat all our enemies by just being indomitable, impenetrable, invincible America, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening. America didn’t get to be who she is by being indolent, complacent and cocky.

  12. How is a large standing army going to deter people from using subversion, espionage, psychological warfare, and various other unconventional techniques, Thomas?

    The counter to an alliance of enemies is not to face them all at once, the counter is to divide them and get them fighting each other.

  13. Ymarsakar,

    Yes, divide and conquer has been the Anglo-Saxon strategy for the past five hundred years: Divide and conquer Eur-Asia. But what if that strategy fails or is no longer viable. We are seeing how countries are committing veritable suicide before our eyes by doing things that aren’t even in their own self interest. If Russia and China succeed in slamming us down (which is dubious), who will buy their products? Our economy is what’s keeping them afloat in the first place and we are also their enemy number one.

    Ultimately, their actions are utterly irrational. A large standing army is what is going to deter the Chinese from grabbing the Taiwan Straits, the North Koreans from going south, and the Russians from overrunning the Mideast oil fields.

    Countermeasures against asymmetric warfare has never been the province of the regular army. That’s for our special forces which has always been highly trained professionals, and I don’t think we are going to dilute their professionalism even through reinstating the draft. They are a world all on their own.

    What I am talking about it if all our enemies hit us at once. Our conventional, all volunteer army cannot hold them all off at the same time. It’s just a physical impossibility. Also, they are spread so thinly across the globe right now, and they don’t have the flexibility to redeploy elsewhere if a conflagration erupts somewhere else. If we call up to arms a conscription army, we can free up our professional soldiers into a striking force rather than a constabulary force. i.e. we have the doable option of going north to Tehran if we so choose while still occupying Iraq.

    Our enemies out there must know that we still have our mailed fist cocked and ready to go at all times as a means of deterrence.

  14. Here are a few questions I think need to be addressed:

    1. How much will it cost to house, feed, clothe and pay all those young people while they are doing their two years of compulsory service? And where will the money come from?

    2. How large a military do we need in order to do the things we need to have done? Expanding the military beyond what is needed would be both wasteful and counter-productive.

    3. We already have a massive, inefficient and largely ineffective bureaucracy whose job it is to assist the needy and underprivileged. Do we really need to add to that number? Would it not be better to streamline what we’ve already got and make it more effective?

    I think we ought first to figure out what needs to be done, how much of that we can afford to do, and how many people it will take to do it. Then if there are enough volunteers who want to do it, so much the better. If not, then we could consider a draft.

    In that case, however, I would not worry very much about diluting the professionalism of the volunteer staff. I was a draftee into the Army in the early 1960’s. My friends and I would, of course, have preferred to be somewhere else, but we did our duty and did it to the best of our abilities. Just because we were forced to do something did not mean we could not take pride in doing it well.

  15. There are two parts to this discussion; the desirability of a military draft for our military preparedness, and the notion of a compulsory service requirement of some sort. The second I think is utopian, and therefore if not dangerous, then risible. Another national program–to be administered by…federal bureaucrats? That’ll work out well.

    As to the first, we cannot rule out a draft in the case of some emergency, despite the lower quality of the men put into the boots that are put on the ground somewhere. To do so would be the same as ruling out the use of nuclear weapons, ala Barak Obama.

    Perhaps the best way to avoid a draft and a nation-shattering mobilization would be to make our nuclear threat credible. I get tired of the world’s comic strip villians acting like Uncle Sam is George McFly, with a “Kick Me” sign taped to his back. Our enemies need to feel fear toward us instead of the thinly disguised contempt they show us, all the while taking our aid dollars. (Which of our enemies is NOT getting some kind of transfer payment or special treatment from us?)

    Ok, Castro gets nothing. Who else?

  16. From highlander #14:
    “I was a draftee into the Army in the early 1960’s. My friends and I would, of course, have preferred to be somewhere else, but we did our duty and did it to the best of our abilities. Just because we were forced to do something did not mean we could not take pride in doing it well.”

    Highlander, well said! I was guilty myself of pessimism in thinking that draftees wouldn’t try to do their job and do it well. Attitude adjustment underway! I was leaping to an unfounded conclusion.

  17. The idea of some sort of socially beneficial service is attractive, but lets remember who would be administering the program (politicians and bureaucrats), and who would be funding it (us). Oops – I see Pacificus beat me to it.

    And activating the draft itself would be costly also. All those trainees would need uniforms, equipment, food, medical care and a place to sleep. What good would they be without more rifles, ammunition, tanks, and trucks?

    Once I had a chance to visit the grand mosque of Bahrain. When my group showed up urgent phone calls were made, and a few minutes later an English speaking guide arrived. He was a young man from France doing his “compulsory service”. I learned that two year mandatory conscription in the military could be avoided by doing some type of government or business “internship” for three years. This young man was working for a bank. Seemed like a good deal for him.

  18. Also, Israel has a draft. And Israel has not used a nuke on their enemies that have killed many Israeli children. Draft= not more toughness and ruthlessness.

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