You Don't Give a Shit about Our Troops in Iraq!

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That's the main point behind Princeton prof Uwe E. Reinhardt's opaque-as-hell op-ed in today's Wash Post, which argues that the lack of sacrifice by the nation has created a sort of "moral hazard" when it comes to war:

A policymaking elite whose families and purses are shielded from the sacrifices war entails may rush into it hastily and ill prepared, as surely was the case of the Iraq war. Moral hazard in this context…can explain why, in wartime, the TV anchors on the morning and evening shows barely make time to report on the wars, lest the reports displace the silly banter with which they seek to humor their viewers. Do they ever wonder how military families with loved ones in the fray might feel after hearing ever so briefly of mayhem in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Moral hazard also can explain why the general public is so noticeably indifferent to the plight of our troops and their families. To be sure, we paste cheap magnetic ribbons on our cars to proclaim our support for the troops. But at the same time, we allow families of reservists and National Guard members to slide into deep financial distress as their loved ones stand tall for us on lethal battlefields and the family is deprived of these troops' typically higher civilian salaries. We offer a pittance in disability pay to seriously wounded soldiers who have not served the full 20 years that entitles them to a regular pension. And our legislative representatives make a disgraceful spectacle of themselves bickering over a mere $1 billion or so in added health care spending by the Department of Veterans Affairs—in a nation with a $13 trillion economy!

This is a version of the standing argument against an all-volunteer military. That argument holds that a draft, however imperfect, spread around the burden of military service to all classes, etc. in the country and hence made senators, back when they actually voted on declarations of war, less likely to sacrifice their fortunate sons. I know of no studies that show that volunteer forces are more readily deployed or suffer higher rates of casualities than draft armies. It would be interesting to see if such data exist, at least so that human cost could be balanced against the clear-cut near-slavery that a draft army or mandatory national service of any sort entails. There is data from Vietman War which suggests that, at least in terms of fatalities, class did not play the role normally ascribed to it. A 1992 MIT study, for instance, conlcuded, "Data about the residential addresses of war casualties suggest that, within both large heterogeneous cities and wealthy suburbs, there was little relationship between neighborhood incomes and per capita Vietnam death rates" (more here).

In any case, I find Reinhardt's argument too lacking in detail to be particularly convincing on the question of disability payments and "financial distress" suffered by reservists, National Guardsmen, etc. What is his specific policy recommendation here? He talks of families of soldiers needing help to "stock their pantries"–what's the magnitude of that need? Does he really mean that all wars should be paid for with immediate tax revenues (as opposed to "borrowing abroad"?). And is he suggesting that all wars should effectively be total wars–that is, ones that require ration coupons and other immediate and stultifying sacrifices on the part of all citizens?

I'm frankly puzzled by his assertion that nightly news programs don't talk about the Iraq war, its U.S. casualites, and stories from the home front–there seems to be no shortage of such pieces on a daily basis.

I'm sympathetic to his large point–that if waging war is no skin off most people's apple, they are more likely to indulge a political class bent on waging war–but he gives no meaningful support of that position.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Two Funerals and a Riot

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  1. I suppose it is entirely irrelevant that draft armies fight wars badly. Draftees are prisoners, and many will act like prisoners.

  2. Speaking only for myself, I think the guy may have a point. Last weekend the Trib published photos of all the soldiers killed since April. I hate to admit it, but looking at their photos made a huge difference to me emotionally. I got a bit choked up…and then I felt even worse because I realized I’d for the most part been ignoring this fact.

    Here’s something else I noticed: the vast majority of the fallen are older, of higher rank than I expected, and disproportionately (in terms of the military’s racial makeup) white. I wondered why.

  3. If you think the war is necessary, you should be willing to pay for it. You pay for it through taxes or by cutting programs from other parts of the budget. No one really thought of the costs in the rush to war, because we put off these tough choices by simply borrowing. I wonder if the republican party would have been so gung ho to go into Iraq if the price tag was a roll back of Bush’s tax cuts.

  4. It’s a hell of a lot more clear than the “we need to do what it takes to get the job done in Iraq” crowd, mainly because I think they mean “they” instead of “we,” and “what it takes” neither informs the procedures nor the results.

    BTW, does the Pentagon still have an embargo on photos of returning caskets?

  5. I prefer to focuse on exit strategies rather than to get involved in this debate but it is true that the media is greatly playing down the deaths of Americans in Iraq. The coverage of the loss of five Americans via roadside bombs over the weekend was sparse compared to several other stories, including the endless draining of a pond in Aruba.

  6. “draft armies fight wars badly”,what makes you say that?My limited knowledge of military history leaves me with the sense that most draftees served honorably.

  7. most draftees served honorably.

    Wouldn’t that depend on whether or not they felt the war was necessary? I can see where someone who would have given his all to fight Hitler or Tojo might be less enthused about fighting in a country that posed no danger to America or Americans until we actually went over there and put ourselves in harm’s way.

  8. most draftees served honorably.

    Wouldn’t that depend on whether or not they felt the war was necessary? I can see where someone who would have given his all to fight Hitler or Tojo might be less enthused about fighting in a country that posed no danger to America or Americans until we actually went over there and put ourselves in harm’s way.

  9. Depends on what you mean by “honorably,” Jennifer.

    The Red Army that won the Eastern Front in WWII was largely draftees, and committed some pretty spectacular atrocities. They had some good fighting units, sure, but they had plenty that were highly unreliable in combat.

    Similar things can be said of the Imperial Japanese Army. Lots of draftees, some good fighting units, some you wouldn’t want to rely on, and lots of atrocities.

    Would you say these draftees served “honorably”? Some fought well, others served adequately, many were terrible soldiers in every way, and some participated in the most horrible atrocities.

  10. I’m sure a lot of Viet Nam era draftees didn’t like being put in harms way but the vast majority of them did what was expected of them.As someone who was around when the draft was active I can say that we viewed it as a pain in the ass but nothing akin to slavery,most of us just accepted it as a fact of life.

  11. “draft armies fight wars badly”,what makes you say that?

    Having re-read Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers recently, the book makes one thing very clear: all of the guys in the 506 PIR were volunteers who not only volunteered for the Army in wartime but volunteered for the paratroops, and further, when they were wounded, often took great pains to escape from the hospital or replacement depot to go wherever their old unit was fighting. Their rationale was that they’d rather go back to the volunteer elite troops rather than get assigned to a company of draftees, who might as easily turn and run than fight. They essentially didn’t trust the draftees with their own lives.

  12. Not to take anything away from Nick’s points, but I think the article can be better understood if you assume that Uwe’s (if that is his real name) piece is not directed at the Nick Gillespie’s of the world.
    The essential argument here, and for the general purpose op-ed in general is an emotional one, not an evidence based one.
    Think of criticizing “Miller’s Crossing” as not realistic enough.

  13. RC-

    I was thinking more along the lines of American soldiers. Compare World War Two to Vietnam–was “fragging” of officers a big problem for us in WW2? If it was, I never heard of it.

  14. Hmm, guess I forgot to tuen italics off…sorry…

  15. I speak from experience when I say bringing back the draft would seriously degrade our military. I do not want to share another foxhole with someone who barely made it through basic and is just biding his time and doing the absolur minimum until his time is up. A lot of draftees do serve well but I don’t want to trust my life to someone who is angry and resentful because he (or she) doesn’t want to be where they are.

  16. The armed forces don’t want a draft.

    Why? Because by definition, they are not professional soldiers — they’re conscripts. They suffer from the same problems all conscripts do when compared to professionals: they’re less motivated, need more training, and don’t stick around at high enough rates to make the expense of that training worthwhile.

  17. I’m sure the Canadian immigration authorities would oppose a draft.

  18. If they ever do bring back the draft I’ll just get a tan and tell them I’m Brazilian. There’s no way the Army will want me.

    I’ll just have to be careful not to go near subway stations.

  19. Bill B:

    There are motivational and selectivity arguments in favor of the all volunteer army.

    On the motivational front, Corporal Klingerism is an undeniable fact of any conflict. Absenteeism and incidence of AWOL go down along with the number of conscripts. The data is muddy, of course, because the mobilizations for the most recent conscript armies in US experience were MAJOR conflicts that involved numbers of people involved in front line duties on a scale we don’t see much anymore.

    The selectivity argument is that when armies start grabbing random people, it is like a company holding a lottery instead of an interview. One view is that anyone can be a grunt and the stupider the better. My counter to that argument is that tactics and deployments these days aren’t so much about overwhelming with raw manpower, and in the future they will be even less so. If you are the sort who believes that the answer to every military problem is headcount, I think there is a stronger case for a draft. One thing that the draft gets you is more heads.

  20. cdlunea:

    My views are partially formed by reading Ambrose, too. I recognize there can be some problems there, but fair disclosure is fair disclosure …

  21. Not having a draft is to wars somewhat as lower tax rates are to deficit spending: the correlation is a little wobbly.

    Also it’s similar to legalizing marijuana as a way to end the war on drugs. In other words, it won’t work.
    In the case of drugs, we just need to keep saying the mantra, “I own my body, duh.”
    In the case of wars, we need to say, “Government is always about wars, so we shall all become anarchists, huzzah!”

  22. First,

    Solidiers are not poor when compared to the rest of society in a meaningful way. Yes, some of them do not do well, but how many high school graduates, who married with several children are wealthy?

    Second,

    This article’s basic premise is that all of our military are just too poor and ignorent to do anything else and are therefore being exploited by the evil neocon, military industrial complex. Blah Blah. The military today is better educated and better paid than it ever has been.

    Third,

    No one in the military wants the draft. You are better off with five people who want to be there than you are with 10 people who are forced to be there. More importantly, people forget how brutal the military was during the draft. The American public would never put up with the training and dicipline methods of 40 and 50 years ago. Now, everyone wants to be there so you can threaten them with kicking them out of the military as punishment. If there were a draft, that wouldn’t be much of a threat and the military would have to go back to court-martialing everyone for the slightest infraction or other less human ways of punishment.

    Fourth,

    If this guy is so concerned about people making sacrifices, how about letting military recruiters back on college campuses and hiring a few professors at elite schools with military backgrounds?

  23. Jason, Tall Dave, et al., the author isn’t advocating a draft to make the armed forces more effective. While the “slavery” and “bad fighters” argument are certainly valid “on the other hand” points to bring up, they aren’t really relevant to the issues discussed in the piece.

    Nick, that’s because it’s not a policy advocacy piece. It’s about first principles.

    The Coach, I think the distinction you’re going for is better thought of as a principle vs. pragmatism, rather than emotion vs. evidence.

  24. Good comments from several regarding the draft. In connection with the “quality of draftees” issue: apart from strong anecdotal evidence, which is plentiful, that draft armies perform less well than professional ones, the theory is supported by historical analysis. For instance, one source I read demonstrated pretty convincingly that the French (conscript) armies during the Napoleonic wars performed substantially worse on the battlefield than the British (lower rate of fire, accuracy, etc.).

    Reinhardt’s comments about the disconnect between the Iraq war and its “costs” at home brings to mind another historical anecdote. Some historians have hypothesized that the reasons the English continued to support the 100 years war with France were: 1) The accompanying devastation took place entirely on French territory; 2) the English armies were largely “volunteers”/professionals, although that term has to be qualified somewhat in the medieval context; 3) the war largely paid for itself through plunder in France. Simply put, it is easier to sustain a war, even an unpopular one, if the disruption to daily domestic life is minimal. The existence of a draft is a major factor in that “disruption”, as we saw with Vietnam. That is why some Iraq war opponents want to reinstate the draft.

  25. I predict that Ron’s comments on French history will arouse a certain poster’s interests.

  26. Ron-

    You’ve already committed two strikes:

    1) You said something to imply that the French military was at some point inferior to the Brits.

    That insult must be answered!

    2) You demonstrated a knowledge of history.

    I don’t know if your analysis of history is accurate, but regardless of the merits he’ll have to prove that he knows more than you. If he thinks you’re more or less accurate he’ll say “Of course, this is already well-known and has been known for some time.” And then he’ll demonstrate that he (allegedly) knows more than you. And if he takes issue with your analysis, well, it will get nasty.

    Just remember, if it does get nasty, be very careful not to say anything that could be construed as changing your story. He’ll accuse you of changing your story, and if you try to explain that you were merely clarifying he’ll call you a liar.

    Good luck!

  27. Not to mention that in the 100 Years’ War, the only opinion that mattered was that of the ruling class, and the ruling class made warfighting (and the accompanying plunder in both goods and land) its raison d’etre.

  28. He will then bring up your “changed story” in a completely unrelated thread six months from now.

  29. And he’ll bring it up under while using a different name but insisting that he has never posted under any other name.

  30. Thoreau: No problem. I will save us all an argument and concede in advance that “he” knows more than I do. I’ve never met a historian yet (and I’ve been running into a lot of them lately) who didn’t believe they knew more than everyone else. Some are just more pompous than others.

  31. Ron-

    You might also want to salute a French flag ;->

  32. Of course, none of us would ever take a poster to task for something that he did months ago… 😉

  33. one source I read demonstrated pretty convincingly that the French (conscript) armies during the Napoleonic wars performed substantially worse on the battlefield than the British (lower rate of fire, accuracy, etc.).

    However, the level of morale was generally higher, and the seasoned conscripts who believed in their leader (N) were just as effective, if not better, than the jailbirds/pressgang conscripts the British used, as shown by the stunning victories N achieved with inferior troops. Joining the British army wasn’t exactly a popular calling, either; officers bought their commissions to further their careers, so the pressganged suckers knew their fate hung on someone with probably no real military skill.

  34. How about if I just hum “Marlborough” with reverence? By the way, are we talking about “he who must not be named”, or someone else?

  35. Ron-

    I think you know whom we’re talking about.

    *chuckle*

  36. I suggest you read the cover story in the June 14, 2000 edition of TV Guide before you embarrass yourself further.

  37. Cdunlea: No argument here. The source I was looking at was very narrowly focused on firepower performance, which seemed plausible to me, although in each battle they analyzed (Talavera, Busacco) the French were attacking, in column as usual, which required quite a few adjustments (wild guesses?) to come up with firepower performance figures. Besides, the book I read was written by a Brit.

  38. Nick Gillespie,

    One metric for understanding the difference might be to compare the level of commitment of “important” families in America to a war (how willing the male children of those families were to go to war). In the Civil War the leading families of cities like Boston sent as a rule at least one son (two in the case of the James family – father of William and Henry James that is) to fight. The Shaw family, the Holmes family, the Abbots, etc. all sent their sons to war. Of course we’re all aware of what Shaw did with the 54th at Ft. Wagner (Onward, Fifty-Fourth!), but similar scenes of Boston Brahmins leading their men into bloody slaughter were common in the Civil War.

    Ron,

    …one source I read demonstrated pretty convincingly that the French (conscript) armies during the Napoleonic wars performed substantially worse on the battlefield than the British (lower rate of fire, accuracy, etc.).

    Given the generally poor performance of English armies in the Napoleonic wars, I’d be interested to know who that source is.

    …draft armies perform less well than professional ones…

    To look at the French Revolutionary Wars/Napoleonic Wars even further, all France fought for most of that time period were professional armies. Indeed, to follow up on that point, Clauswitz makes a point of detailing the advantages such an army has, but he wanted to weld those advantages with those he saw as advantagous to professional armies. The Germans could just never get around to creating such a mass, popular army before WWI is all, due to their fear of “class revolt.”

    Simply put, it is easier to sustain a war, even an unpopular one, if the disruption to daily domestic life is minimal.

    thoreau,

    There you go, trying to put words in my mouth. I don’t have a problem with someone who knows what they are talking about.

  39. No real argument here, either. Because the French were the first nation to use modern mobilization techniques, they found themselves in the 1790’s with an enthusiastic army of soldiers without adequate weaponry; that is, because the royal armies had been funded by the king (who in turn collected commission fees from officers)there were enough muskets and cannon for a much smaller army.

    I guess the point I was tying to make (on topic) is that morale, rather than whether the soldiers are conscripted or volunteer, is really the deciding factor in what an army can accomplish. Just look at how long the Southern armies held up under Lee; his desertion rates were lower than in other theatres, because his men were far more convinced he cared about them.

  40. cdunlea,

    You make an important point; that soldiers in the English army were often volunteered by family members, etc. This was an especially common practice with “unwanted” children.

  41. Haklyut: I’ll have to dig it up later. Major something Hughes, called “Firepower”, analyzing the battlefield performance of smooth bore weaponry, published in the 1980’s. I too, thought it was interesting, because it went against everything I knew. But it is a pretty objective piece, if incredibly dry.

  42. cdunlea,

    Yes, when France committed 40,000 troops to North America in the American Revolution, that was approximately either 1/3rd or 1/2 the entire French army. Compare that to the sorts of armies that Napoleon fielded, or the original levee en masse for that matter. Ever read Engineering the Revolution?

  43. Ron,

    Most of what I read folks find incredibly dry. 🙂

  44. Haven’t read it; it’s been a long time since I was a professional PhD. student. However, if the topic is what I think it is–the revolutionary/Napoleonic wars from a quartermaster’s POV, I’d guess–it sounds worth checking out.

  45. joe:

    Mostly to make myself feel better about bringing it up, I’ll try to make a connection back to the original argument.

    As I mentioned, my concern about draft armies is that the tacticians employed by them doesn’t tend to treat the defense of the individual soldier with the same care as the tacticians do who must contend with the fact that not only morally, but strategically, the most difficult to replace asset they have is people willing to sign up.

    When someone argues that equality of troop composition is a big concern, I am inclined to respond that it may be, but the alternative is a less flexible force that puts draftees into jobs that are more likely to get them killed. I think the counter argument may well have to be something like “more deaths are okay as long as some of them are rich.”

  46. This is off-topic, but I’ve been thinking about signing up for the Naval Reserve. Although I am opposed to the war in Iraq (and to the unthinking obedience that goes with military service in general), there are a number of benefits I’m thiking of: (1) it will get me back into shape; (2) no skin off my nose due to the law that I must be allowed to return to my job; (3) relatively little time commitment; (4) easier access to military / law enforcement credentials (I’m involved with the shooting sports); (5) my fancy degree and six figure computing job will probably get me a decent duty. The “only” thing I’m worried about is getting called up and killed sometime in the next eight years. How worried should I be? I know we’ve done some dumb things around the world, and sure there’ve been some ships blown up / attacked, but shouldn’t I be reasonably safe in the navy? Even if I were in the Army Reserve, aren’t the statistical probabilities extremely low? This is a serious question.

  47. have some of our ships been blown up? i don’t remember reading anything about that in the news the past few years.

    keep in mind however that joining the navy doesn’t necessarily imply that you’ll be serving on a ship. given your credentials however, the chances might be pretty good.

  48. joe:

    “I suggest you read the cover story in the June 14, 2000 edition of TV Guide before you embarrass yourself further.”

    You are a funny guy for a pinko 😉

  49. I’m thinking of that ship that had a hold punched in the side while it was at dock, somewhere in the middle east. Since my time commitment is only two weeks training per year (and I’m very close to the cutoff age of 38), I’d have to be called into active duty to be at risk.

  50. I’m thinking of that ship that had a hold punched in the side while it was at dock, somewhere in the middle east.

    wasn’t that before 9/11 anyway? it’s safe to say we have a much stronger naval presence there now than we did then, which would make something like that less likely.

  51. Jason-

    Regarding joe, all the girlies say he’s pretty fly for a lefty!

  52. David:

    If I were to look about for areas where Navy personnel could be at risk in the coming years, I’d look at the Taiwan straits.

  53. cdunlea,

    Its one of the most fascinating military histories I’ve read. The author (Ken Alder) has a fascinating mind. He also has another book titled The Measure of all Things that details the herculian efforts to determine the length of the meter (by looking at the length of the meridian) during the upheavals of the French Revolution.

    Engineering the Revolution is not so much what you have described as it is a technical history of weaponry during the French Revolution that places this inside its cultural context.

  54. Nick Gillespie writes:

    I’m sympathetic to [Reinhardt’s] large point–that if waging war is no skin off most people’s apple, they are more likely to indulge a political class bent on waging war–but he gives no meaningful support of that position.

    To summarize: the proposition “people respond to incentives,” while generally true for property rights and other matters of interest to libertarians, must be rigorously proven with evidence in the case of people’s attitudes to foreign policy and military matters.

  55. Ron,

    What did he use as his basis for measurement?

  56. “The Measure of all Things”

    Hey, I’ve heard about this guy. A friend of mine, more into history than I, has been trying to get me to read this book for a year or so.

  57. Jason Ligon,

    Its good shit if you are into that sort of drug. 🙂

  58. thoreau,

    Well I want some cools tunes
    Not just any will suffice
    But they didn’t have Phish
    So I bought Great White.

  59. I don’t think there will be a draft for the simple reason that then we would have to deal with the issue of drafting women. I don’t think people will support a draft that inculdes mommies and I don’t see a good way to make an all male draft legal.

  60. Hak: You’re going to have to read it, but basically he starts with the various British “field” studies, including the Madras trials, to determine theoretical performance of various weapons, then he uses data compiled at selected peninsular campaign battles, primarily by artillerymen, about where cannons and men were placed, length of time exposed to fire, etc., then compares casualty figures and analyzes the deviation from theoretical performance. Plenty to chew on. I am not a Napoleonic period scholar: I was getting info on weapons performance for the American Revolution.

  61. Ron,

    Simply put, it is easier to sustain a war, even an unpopular one, if the disruption to daily domestic life is minimal.

    But such disruption can follow if the war is popular and the war is lost. Thus the War of the Roses following Castillon, etc.

  62. Ron,

    Well, the Peninsular campaigns are sort of problematic because the French were largely fighting an insurgency. How does he explain the poor performance of the British throughout most of the Peninsular Campaign?

    vrimj,

    Women already serve in combat basically. That’s just going to become more and more of the norm.

  63. Ron,

    Anyway, I just bought it so I’ll soon find out. 🙂 Man, that is one butt ugly book cover!

    The guy is a General, BTW.

  64. David Rollins,
    I encourage you to join the Naval reserve. You will very unlikely be put in harms way unless you join the SEALs or become a Corpsman, or a Seabee.

    But also, um, yeah…, I don’t know if there are some Navy guys on this site. Um, unlikely that joining the Navy is going to get you in shape. Have you been to a Navy base? I think the kind of job your looking at, you would become pretty good at holding a coffee cup.

    But it will be a good experience.

    (Did you ever see the Simpsons episode where Homer joins the Navy? Its awesome)

  65. OK on to the Draft issue,

    The Draft is a stupid idea. Only people that have no idea of military and tactics would suggest such a thing. Only people that I see really trying to push for a draft are people desperately trying to torpedo
    Bush, by any means. It’s fucking pathetic that it comes to that.

    OK, got to calm down and articulate.

    I have trained with or encountered many different militaries of many different nations. There is a Huge difference between draft armies and volunteers. Now the confounding variable there is that the nations with only draft armies tend to take their military more seriously, and the armies with both all the better men go to the volunteer side.

    The draft might make sense in the Napoleonic era, but with todays weapons and tactics, the draft would be akin to throwing away lives for a political statement.

    Gaius might like it because the ratio between ours and theirs would fall a little.

  66. I guess the point I was tying to make (on topic) is that morale, rather than whether the soldiers are conscripted or volunteer, is really the deciding factor in what an army can accomplish.

    certainly the revolution was the beginning of a different sort of war for the west. the impassioned army largely reversed (and then some!) the progress which had been made following the wars of religion in reducing the vitriol of western warfare. in combination with the obsession with innovation in technique, of course, it’s been a wholesale disaster.

  67. Only people that I see really trying to push for a draft are people desperately trying to torpedo Bush, by any means. It’s fucking pathetic that it comes to that

    lol — sure about that, mr kwais? here’s the pnac’s letter to congress re: expanding the armed forces by hundreds of thousands. i’m sure no one at pnac is dumb enough to think that can be done by “recruiting drives”.

  68. Hak: Like I said, it’s a very narrow analysis of firepower, and just argues that the French fire effectiveness was measureably lower than the British in certain battles (Albuera, Busacco, and Talavera). Doesn’t talk about all the other issues re morale, etc. He scarcely talks about the battles, even, other than to lay down the parameters for firepower analysis. I like authors who pick their ground and stay on it. And, I agree the cover is dreadful. But we digress….

  69. Ron,

    Well, I see what he has to say soon enough.

  70. Ron,

    Someone needs to shoot the cover artist. 🙂

  71. Ron,

    Well, from what I can tell, his balliwick is basically smoothbore weapons.

  72. Gaius,
    I didn’t see anything in the link you posted where they asked for a draft. We used to have a much bigger all volunteer military than we do now. I think it was Clinton who made all the cuts.

    I personaly don’t think the military needs to be bigger. I don’t think those guys at the pnac are right.

  73. Kwais: I’m surprised you don’t think the military needs to be bigger. Don’t we need to be shortening the rotations or at least making them less frequent? How can we do that unless we have more people?

  74. kwais,

    The reduction in the size of the armed forces after the end of the Cold War was a broad-based project that had the support of, and was carried out under, Bush41, Clinton, the Republican Congress, the Democratic Congress, and the Pentagon.

    Four (I think) Army divisions, and 2 (I think) Marine divisions were disbanded, to free up funds for the high tech aviation and communication equipment which were going to be essetial in the war of what used to be the future.

  75. I didn’t see anything in the link you posted where they asked for a draft.

    do you really think that’s not what they’re asking for, mr kwais? look at those numbers — 25,000 more a year over “several years”? you and i aren’t stupid. we know what that means.

    We used to have a much bigger all volunteer military than we do now. I think it was Clinton who made all the cuts.

    i think it’s actually rumsfeld’s lifeblood — this concept of “transformation” into a mobile airborne force that bombs cities — oh, sorry, let’s euphemize that to “targets” — out of existence. he’s the person who believes in a small military as a matter of necessity, being that a global empire of “liberty” cannot afford or staff an inefficient armed force without prodding the proletariat into the awareness and sensibility that mr reinhardt notes the government has been so careful to deny them.

    fwiw, if you want to continue addressing the slaughter of innocents by efficient military design, i’d be happy to further articulate my argument here.

  76. Egad, here goes this can o’ worms again.

    gaius:

    You are painting what appears to be a horribly simplified version of military modernization. Tactical flexibility, speed of deployment, size and vulnerability of logistics lines, and, yes, reductions in American soldier deaths all fall into the equation.

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, you can choose to engage or not to engage once the enemy decides to hide in a city. You laugh at the notion of precision munitions, presumably in favor of a million man army armed with spears like in the good old days when everyone knew their place, but there is a lot to the idea that JDAM jackets and shaped, low yield munitions matter quite a bit in terms of incidental casualties.

  77. Gaius,
    Your reading into it what you want to read into it.

  78. Your reading into it what you want to read into it.

    mr kwais, i’m reading into it a new 25k of heads on top of target annual recruitments of ~75k for the army and ~38k for the marines. that’s on the order of a 20% increase for systems that are failing to meet goals as is.

  79. of course, that isn’t what is actually going to happen (one imagines) — rumsfeld seems immovable on the larger-forces argument. but pnac is definitely not people desperately trying to torpedo
    Bush, by any means
    , even if It’s fucking pathetic. 🙂

  80. My President called,
    and I answered that call.
    And went to the Mall.
    (the frogurt was delicious)

  81. mr ligon, you make the technical argument again. i ask again: have you any idea what a detonating 500-pound jdam does? what it looks like? what it feels like? if you ever witnessed it, you wouldn’t be arguing that they are effectively “safe” for urban usage.

    there is a lot to the idea that JDAM jackets and shaped, low yield munitions matter quite a bit in terms of incidental casualties.

    i’m not arguing that these make no difference, mr ligon. i’m simply saying that these technical patches don’t even begin to make up the difference, though many of us try very hard to convince ourselves that they do so that we can sleep at night.

    presumably in favor of a million man army armed with spears like in the good old days when everyone knew their place

    no. presumably, in favor of a moral people, government and armed forces who would know the limits of their activities in a framework that would preserve their souls — instead of bombing cities of innocents somewhat less indiscriminately than they were five or ten years ago under the rubric of technological advance.

    don’t make me into a wanton archaist because i insist that we are behaving indecently, mr ligon. i don’t live in the past; i simply try to learn its lessons.

  82. Gaius,
    Suppose you have to go to war or else live under Communist, or Nazi, or Taliban like conditions? What do you do?

    In two societies, one willing to do war, and one not. The one willing to do war will dominate.

    If you come to the conclusion that you must do war, that it is preferable to do war than to be dominated by another power. Then you have to think about how most humanely and efficiently to conduct that war.

    That is the buisness that our military is in.

  83. David Rollins- I’m a Navy Reservist, just got back from the sandbox. Feel free to email me if you have any questions on the reserves in general.

    I wouldn’t count on it getting you in shape. It will provide incentive, i.e. “get in shape or we kick you out” but you will have to do most of the work on your own time.

    Whatever you join, you are statistically unlikely to be a casualty. I’d worry more about getting into a car-wreck here in the US.

  84. David,

    I will assume a worst case scenario that your unit will be activated and sent to Iraq.

    As someone else said, don’t become a navy medic since the Marines don’t have medics of their own and have Navy medics embedded into Marine units and those units will be in the midst of all the fighting.

    In the Viet Nam era, it was said if you could type, you would never carry a rifle. This was still somewhat true when I was in the Illinois National Guard in the late 80’s thru early 90’s. I was in an infantry company but spent a lot my enlistment doing office work because of my computer skills.

    Lastly, because of your computer skills, you may be able to write your own ticket. I am assuming you would like to use those skills when you are in the reserves. If so, you would be placed safely in the rear, with the gear.

  85. gm:

    the impassioned army largely reversed (and then some!) the progress which had been made following the wars of religion in reducing the vitriol of western warfare

    I’m not sure I’d agree with that. If by vitriol you are referring to passionate love of country and hatred of the enemy, yes, I’d suppose that’s so, but not necessarilly for the right reasons. After the Crusades, most warfare was conducted either by mercenaries, who would flee battle only to finish looting and raping village women, or knights, who rarely behaved much better. The destruction to German towns during the Thirty Years’ War came not from bombardment but from pillaging, and not always from enemy troops.

  86. Greetings,

    I am the “crazy robot guy” of the Army. The problem with moral hazard is going to get a lot worse when we have more highly roboticized armed forces.

    Here is your future Air Force.

    http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/wonder_of_flight/ucav.html

    Here is your future Army (well it’s a USMC project actually but you get the idea).

    http://www.redstone.army.mil/ugvsjpo/images/Gladiator%20240G.jpg

    The same will happen to the Navy.

    As for the conscript v. professional argument I hate to burst your bubbles but sometimes conscripts fight better and sometimes professionals fight better. Depends on the motivation. The IDF kick ass and the Syrians are some sorry soldiers, both consist of conscripts.

  87. Draft Armies? Men obey their leadership and have been drafted. Once they are ordered into action they survive only in standing their ground and killing the enemy. In spite of their feelings about the draft, in my opinion American soldiers in general are of higher principle and sense of committment (the American Spirit) and make for a very good army.
    Politics aside, Viet Nam is a recent testement to the fortitude of a drafted American citizen army sent abroad and standing firm against a fearless enemy in spite of questions about being there. Our soldiers have always fought with the same bravery weather the enemy is strong or weak.

  88. The draft is fine if you need cannon fodder. Far better to have highly trained fighters and pay big wages to civilian camp followers to peel potatoes.

  89. During Vietnam the American hating left despised the draft. Now they love it. Its just the same old anti-American left complaining about the status quo.

    But… as a bipartsan compromise, to try and bring our nation together, I propose that all high school and college teachers be drafted and serve in front line units for four years. It would broaden their horizons.

  90. In two societies, one willing to do war, and one not. The one willing to do war will dominate.

    is this really the limit of your insight, mr kwais? no more nuance than this? no wonder you advocate this kind of atrocity.

    there are many ways to wage war, mr kwais. but when the word “war” becomes a sloppy catchall for opposing anything and everything you dislike; when you have managed to kill tens of thousands of american troops and millions of people with your military without being attacked in sixty years; when bombing population centers becomes a solution to rooting out dissent in a place you conquered and occupied without material cause — well, safe to say that you have more in common with the assyrians than you should, and you in fact do not need to go to war so much as deeply want to have a cause worth killing and dying for and go out of your way to create fictional threats to justify the urge.

    lawful and ethical behavior stands almost no chance of surviving such moral dissipation.

    i would like you to consider, mr kwais, if your darwinian hypothesis doesn’t in fact justify murdering the whole world as proof of our fitness to survive. and further, consider that, whether this hypothesis (which i think is widely held if not well-articulated) is in fact a manifestation of a shiftlessness, a rootlessness, an inherent insecurity deep in the american spirit that makes us something of a neutotic horseman of apocalypse, as opposed to an enlightened self-secure beacon.

  91. not necessarilly for the right reasons.

    is there a wrong reason to decrease the reaper’s harvest, mr cdunlea?

    After the Crusades, most warfare was conducted either by mercenaries, who would flee battle only to finish looting and raping village women, or knights, who rarely behaved much better

    the armies of enlightenment and nationalism never committed these atrocities?

    i would say the mercenary and conscript armies of those times were far less willing to die — and were managed by kings in consideration of that. a king understood that war was blindingly expensive, and that he could not undertake a foolish cause and expect loyalty unto death because of sentimental attachment and propaganda. this had the effect of making war much less deadly a toll on western civility in the thousand years from charles martel forward to the french revolution than its been in the two hundred since.

  92. “Here’s something else I noticed: the vast majority of the fallen are older, of higher rank than I expected, and disproportionately (in terms of the military’s racial makeup) white. I wondered why”

    I’m suprised no ne has answered this one. I suppose too many people are afraid to talk about race. I’m not.

    The reason that Whites are heavilly represented in the casualty lists is that in the US military the combat arms (which are the most likely to suffer casualties, even in an anti-insurgent war like this one) have the highest percetage of Whites. Minorities in general and blacks in particular tend to gravitate toward the support arms of the military such as supply, transport, etc rather than the combat arms of infantry, armour, and artillery. This is even more the case when it comes to elite units and spec-ops type units. Recall the Ranger company involved in the incident portrayed in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down” had but a single black soldier for example.

    But it’s been like that for decades. I saw it during my time in the Army in the late ’80s-early ’90s and it goes back at least as far as Vietnam. The idea that blacks served and died in disperportionate numbers is simply a myth. In fact the percentage of black and hyspanic soldiers who died in Vietnam was lower than their percentage of the poopulation in the US the time.

    Why are the combat MOS’s in our military the most White? I’m not sure. Anyone care to speculate?

    “Trench Raider”

  93. There is no need to panic about the number of soldiers we have right now.I am allfor taking out dictators.There are two ways to look at this.
    1.Our soldiers should never be used as policeman,we are trained to kill period.We train as we would fight.Train to kill not police.When you take the authority away from soldiers to protect themselves by any means necessary, you just put a target on him.Did you know right after Bagdad fell the insugents knew that american soldiers could not shoot them on the spot for acting suspicious or doing criminal like activities.They began spitting and taunting them,because they could.So we adapted they didn’t get shot they instead took one hell of an ass wippin with anything that was available.Instead of changing rules they should have left shoot on sight in place.We would not have a whole lot of crap hittin the fan now.They would now if they show their face they would die.

  94. Minorities in general and blacks in particular tend to gravitate toward the support arms of the military such as supply, transport, etc rather than the combat arms of infantry, armour, and artillery.

    viewed in the context of a society with a dominant minority managing a complicit bourgeoisie and a variety of heavily aggrieved proletariats, this isn’t surprising — in fact, i think its probably true of imperial armies generally.

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