Backdraft

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Instead of actually reading and responding to this Washington Monthly article on "The Case for the Draft," I present to you this anecdote:

Yesterday I attended a press junket to interview Jonathan Nossiter, director of the interesting, globalization-bashing winemaker documentary Mondovino, coming soon to an art-house near you. As the Q&A wound down the discussion turned, as it does, to the rise of "corporate fascism," the evil effects of media deregulation, how "the resistance" is now so sadly muted, and so forth. One of the aggressively nodding journalists piped up: "Well, that's why we need to reinstate the draft!"

Which is a familiar enough sentiment on the left. My two cents—short of an army of Martians sieging our shores with 37th century weaponry, I see no problem urgent enough that it requires a mass government robbery of our liberty (and life) to fix. Sure, the U.S. armed forces are terribly over-extended right now, but that's a consequence of policy and diplomatic choices (and one of several sober morning-after effects still worth pondering in this marvelously encouraging early stage of Middle East liberalization). I'm all for confronting the manpower shortage, but history has shown that there are better solutions to a supply-demand dilemma than having the State seize the raw materials for production. Especially when they're human lives.

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  1. But, but, but, how will the left appeal to anyone besides academics and children unless there is a draft?

    If you’re not for a draft you must be a facist!

  2. More evidence showing just how low the left has sunk these days. Hoping for a draft they actually oppose, so they can use opposition to it for their political purposes. Dismissing elections and popular democratic sentiment in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc. because they might indicate that the hated warmonger Bush might actually be correct. It’s really pathetic.

  3. Carter and Glastris apparently think they can defuse efforts at organized resistance by making draft compliance a precursor to higher education, with denial of a degree the only legal penalty for non-compliance. It’s frightening that they seem to find no problem with the federal government dictating admission requirements to private institutions and state schools, although that’s hardly a leap for people who plan to nationalize human lives.

    I wonder what happens when thousands of Americans try to escape the draft by applying to schools in Canada, Mexico and elsewhere?

  4. It has to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, let’s make it worse.

    That sounds reasonable enough. While we’re at it, let’s set off a nuclear bomb. Anti-nuke activism has been in a real slump lately.

  5. I can think of no better way to get all those young republicans to think seriously about the insanity that these assholes are fobbing off on the country as a foreign policy.

  6. BeliefNet has a story on Selective Service asking churches about alternative service in a “just in case” but we have no plans *wink* draft…

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/158/story_15893.html

    >Selective Service officials have insisted there are no plans to reinstate the draft, and said Alternative Service Director Cassandra Costley stopped by the Brethren Service Center simply because she was in the area.
    >

    Just happened to be in the neighborhood? good one! 🙂

  7. Great argument Vinnie! You’ve certainly won me over. After all, the military votes overwhelmingly democratic now. Right?

  8. The most infuriating thing is that these guys don’t give credit to Heinlein, though they lifted their plan straight out of Starship Troopers…

  9. Seriously though, all this will do is create a market for “degree alternatives.” Businesses will simply find other criteria by which to judge potential employees.

  10. If only Kerry were president! Then we wouldn’t have to give a damn what the Left thinks.

  11. My first reaction to the Atlantic Monthly piece is continued amazement at the rapidity with which Bush-opponents are clamoring to declare defeat in Iraq.

    My second is repulsion at the idea of “surge capacity” for the ground army. The authors’ argument amounts to drafting up a lot of cannon fodder so we can put boots on the ground. Quantity over quality. I’m sure we could have easily doubled the casualty rate in Iraq between May 03 and the present by following such a stupid policy.

    Methinks the authors are too quick to dismiss the idea of downsizing the navy and growing the army back to something like 18 divisions. If you coupled this with a restructuring to make a force with more fighters, and less supply train, I think you’d be on the right track.

  12. Warren is right.

    Forget the draft. The real story here is that there is some great and affordable wine coming out of Chile these days.

  13. The biggest problem facing our military is not an overwhelming manpower shortage but a shortage at the top performance levels. Despite efforts to double the existing special forces over the past three years, we’ve barely managed to tread water. Annual output of new members has doubled, but this has barely offset the outflow to private security firms for much higher salaries. Re-signing bonuses for some of the best of the best are approaching $150,000.

    Given that 2/3 of people who try out end up failing, some have suggested that loosening the standards might be in order. This seems to be heresy to many current and former and seems like a bad idea considering the demand for them is because of their quality.

    Another solution would be to come up with enough money to offset the outflow and increase interest of qualified people. While trying to do this through the red tape of congress and the pentagon has been exceedingly slow (you want how much? and you aren’t going to even build anything?), the private sector may offer a solution.

    Given the no longer peaked, but sustained interest in adventure type reality shows, and the loss of hockey as hard-hitting entertainment source, I propose a Special Forces training reality show. 63 weeks of following the guys through training, condensed into a single action packed season. While I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest “American Idol” style audience input, the large number of people dropping out gives it the “Survivor” suspense. All moneys made from the show go directly into maintaining and increasing Special Forces troop level, and you also get the added bonus of increased recruitment through advertising.

  14. chthus,

    Fox’s “Boot Camp” kinda followed your pitch. I think there was only one season, though. Too bad, I thought it was better than many of the reality shows.

  15. A. Argument against the draft: if volunteers are in the miliary, the politicians will examine proposed military action very closely.

    B. Argument for a draft: if non-volunteers are in the military, the voters will examine proposed military action very closely.

    C. Argument for argument’s sake: it doesn’t matter whether it’s a draft or volunteer military since politicians do whatever they feel they need to do, provided they can get away with it.

    I say if there’s a crisis and there aren’t enough volunteers, the government should have to make volunteering more attractive or change its goals and standards.

  16. Keith,

    Thanks, I vaguely remmebered there being something like it but never actually saw it myself. I’m only half serious with this suggection, but the more I think about it, maybe the training angle isn’t the best. Something between American Gladiator and World’s Strongest Man Competition with a military flavor might work better. It could have retired or active SF members and have a very open push about where all proceeds go. Town to town arena events might even work along with televisied broadcasts. If it were to work at all, I think the details being cooked up by the military and sold to television, rather than the other way around, might work better.

  17. Isn’t it “laying siege to” or “besieging?”

  18. Papaya:
    “elections and popular democratic sentiment in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc”

    Why are you including Lebanon in your list? Lebanon have had elections for the past 15 years and also before their civil war. Are you saying that elections during the presence of occuppying foreign forces are illegitimate?

  19. Well, they could finally let in gays (UK’s been doing so for 5 years now), but at this point, I don’t think gays want in any more than anybody else. More like “could have let in”.

  20. Oh my God! If you haven’t already, you ought to read the Washington Monthly piece. Really, by comparison, the reality show idea seems almost reasonable.

    Carter and Glastris’s argument boils down to this: Other ways to meet wartime personnel goals are expensive, so we must enslave our young men.

    Their brilliant plan is to condition entry to college on a service requirement. This is not, as I at first mistakenly thought, about federal tuition aid. These guys actually want to require two years of service before people are allowed to enter college.

    Because everyone knows that discouraging young people from getting an education is the key to national greatness.

    (J.D. Tuccille and crimethink are right that other educational solutions would arise, somewhat mitigating the damage, but this is not a wise plan…)

  21. Solution! Lift the bans on human cloning and stem cell research so we can create a race of genetic supermen to do all our soldiering for us.

    Problem solved!

    I see no possible negative repercussions from this…

  22. Cthus — I really like your ingenious idea about doing a reality show to fund-raise and recruit for the special forces.

    If training exercises were aired, they would probably have to be carefully edited to maximumize the on-screen action and explosions, and minimize the stuff the special forces would rather keep secret. That might or might not be difficult.

    More difficult is the fact that to be really successful, I think a reality TV show has to include at least a few hot young women with great hair and magnificent boobs. I don’t know if that fits the profile of the typical or desired special forces recruit. But I’m sure we can work around this, too. “For your next mission, you’re going to rescue a busload of hot young women with great hair and magnificent boobs who are being held hostage by terrorists. So we don’t appear too sexist, a number of the terrorists are also hot young women with great hair and magnificent boobs, but kind of muscle-y. Now, go!”

  23. In regard to the proposal in the article:

    So, if some form of national service became the pre-requisite for admission to a 4-year college, I predict sky-rocketing enrollments at 2-year colleges. This would be great news for the parent company of the school where I teach optics. Although most (all?) of the schools owned by the company offer Bachelors degrees, many of them also offer Associates degrees, plus various types of professional certificates and whatnot.

    And as for offering “Homeland Security” duty as an option, when I go to the airport I’m usually confronted by a line that moves slowly despite the large number of TSA employees standing around. I don’t think where they’d find the room to add even more under-utilized people.

  24. I like the idea of having an armed forces too small for all of our “leaders” ambitions. A massive expansion of available manpower would only encourage the bastards.

    And I love the Carter/Galstris idea that if you give the lucky draftees a choice of what type of “service” they want to engage in, it’s really just like volunteering. Maybe we could bring back slavery if we offered a choice of cleaning the stables or picking cotton.

  25. I feel a need to shoot the authors of that article.

  26. Dogzilla, referring to the author’s understanding of volunteering: “Maybe we could bring back slavery if we offered a choice of cleaning the stables or picking cotton.”

    Excellent point, and the title of the article would be:

    “The Case for Slavery: America can remain the world’s dominant economy or it can maintain its current all-volunteer workforce. It can’t do both.”

    What principled difference would there be between that article and the one in question? Of course the slavery article would never be published, much less taken seriously, so why is this article? It’s sad and more than a little scary that we even feel the need to dignify such garbage with a response.

  27. To paraphrase Bill Hicks:

    “Will there be titties?”

    “Um, yeah.”

    “Genius. Give that man a check. What are them titties gonna do?”

    “Umm, jiggle?”

    “Genius. Jiggling titties, who’da thunk it. Give that man another check”

    And it’s that easy. Good call Stevo, I think you’ve found the missing ingredient.

  28. Other alternatives might arise to degrees but I am not sure they would serve the same function. This is because degrees don’t just serve an economic purpose but are very much a part of the culture.

    There is a strong cultural myth in our society, that “education” = formalized schooling of a very specific type. And this perception, like all social assumptions will not likely be changed overnight.

    It will not be changed in the job marketplace overnight and it won’t be changed overnight in the eyes of the many generations we have raised to believe in the necessity of just this type of formal education.

    So it is quite probable that the immediate result of making a draft a prerequisite to education is that such a wide net would wind up ensnaring and enslaving a lot of people.

    It is very very bad business all around, for all those who are not fans of drafts/mandatory national service. It would enslave individuals and it would certainly change the country but probably not for the better.

  29. It’s sad that Rep Rangel’s HR-163 was voted down by even Rep. Rangel. It held the promise of using the Selective Service system to not only provide for the “active” duty component of the military, but also, in a new twist, would provide for a “reverse” component. (see the bill thomas.loc.gov)
    Some might say that this sounds much “too French” (i.e. chesse-eating surrender monkeys), but a “reverse” component could provide support for retreats and surrenders, something much espoused by those in the “reality based community”.
    Unfortunately, the “twin” (in the sense of Arnuld and Danny) Senate Bill S89 was stuck in the past by providing for “active and reserve” components. This mismatch (“reverse” vs. “reserve”) doomed the “draft” in the last session the moment the bills were introduced, so there never was a threat of a “draft”. What a shame.

  30. “Hoping for a draft they actually oppose, so they can use opposition to it for their political purposes.”

    I think Dr. Chomsky would call this “manufactured dissent.”

  31. A draft…hmmm. Gosh yes, please send me lots of the unwilling and unmotivated-by-anything-other-than-governmental-sanctions-and-prohibitions. Heck, with troops like that, I ought to be able to load up a few LMTVs and roll along the ring road, turn left at Herat – and I wouldn’t have to stop until I conquered all of Iran. Maybe a quick detour to knock off Syria whilst I was at it.
    On second thought, maybe I’ll just stick with the volunteer force I happen to be with now.

  32. Phil “Jimmy” Carter and his sidekick really are proposing something that’s the equivalent of, say, government arrests of journalists to get people interested in protecting free speech rights, or pro-lifers demanding mandatory abortions just to get people to want to repeal Roe v. Wade. Obviously, they don’t take their ideas seriously, why should we?

  33. a:
    You raise a good point concerning the legitimacy of elections held under occupation. It strikes me that you are an intelligent person – intelligent enough to understand that the legitimacy of the election held under occupation is a function of the purpose of the occupation. If the purpose of the occupation is the usurpation of another people’s government for the occupier’s own international ambitions as is the case with Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, I would agree that that election was most probably illegitimate. If, however, the purpose of the occupation is to assist another people in “getting on their feet” as is the case with the U.S. led coalition’s occupation of Iraq, I would consider that election legitimate. The difference really being that the people in one election only had the choices provided by the usurping government and none of their own, while the people in the other were free not only to form the slates to be voted for, but could freely vote for whatever slate they wanted.

  34. The whole idea is stupid. Day before yesterday I was working at Keystone ski resort, and spent some time talking to some guys skiing in camo. As I knew, they were in the 10th SF group at Fort Carson. Along with rock climbing, etc., they have to be able to ski. As well as being fluent in foreign languages, etc.

    It is hard to reconcile the type of guys I met there with the draftees I remember from the Vietnam era. The trainer I had talked to had already done two tours of Afghanistan, and they were getting ready to go back to the Middle East. Enthusiastically. These guys are motivated. They good. Very good.

    It was interesting watching the military way of teaching skiing. But these guys were, of course (being Special Forces) all very fit and intelligent. The result was that they learned very quickly. They had a week to qualify, and I think most probably were going to make it.

    The other interesting thing I noticed was that some of them, in particular, the trainers, had the best gear available. Top of the line AT bindings and boots, etc. Telescoping poles. I lusted after their boots (though I already have that binding – about $400 retail). They are apparently moving up from the previous generation of AT gear, with the philosphy that they need the best (and, as the only remaining Army unit that skiis, they are getting it).

  35. 10th SF.. i know 10th mountain division is the main skiing group.. thoug i seem to remember that they were based at Fort Drum (!!!, in new york)

    hope the ski troops are better provided for than snipers… big web movement to raise money for support a sniper.. but i imagine that skiing troops are easier and cheaper to equip appropriately as they’re a larger cohesive unit, rather than scattered throughout all the units of the marines, seals, and army

  36. To take out some of the mystery, there are both a 10th SFG at Ft. Carson, and a 10th Inf Div (Mountain) at Ft. Drum. They both learn skiing, as do the Army personnel stationed in Alaska.

  37. I think we should clone evil chickens with democrats (call them frenchies) train them to mortal combat, and deep freeze them. On an as-needed basis, we could thaw out these puppies, and have them battle-ready in about 5 – 6 minutes on microwave high!!!

  38. The 10th are qualifing as skiiers, and then will go back to the Middle East???? Where they will enhance their new skills with a practice program on the local slopes?

    Training is all well and fine, but perhaps a little more flexibility in the curriculum might be appropriate. As in, matching the skills to the job, at least slightly.

  39. big dirigible – actually, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan all have extensive, snow-bound mountain ranges.

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