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August 11, 2007

I’m just a typical American boy from a typical American town
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:26 AM *

Y’remember when way back in 2005, on Electrolite, I said:

I am interested as to the wellsprings of manpower for Operation Holy Shitheads; LA street gangs? Unemployed dot-commers? Hammer’s Slammers?
Can you say D-R-A-F-T? I knew you could!


Iraq war czar: Consider a draft

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

“I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

“And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another,” said Lute, who is sometimes referred to as the “Iraq war czar.” It was his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

Don’t those guys remember why we abolished the draft in the first place?

Comments on I'm just a typical American boy from a typical American town:
#1 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:37 AM:

I've always speculated that one of the reasons the military didn't complain too loudly when conscription ceased to be used was that conscripts, because they are *not* self-selected, tend to have reservations about just what they will and will not accept as "lawful orders."

Even 'though many of those in the active forces currently are from Reserve and National Guard units they are still "self-selected" in that they chose to enlist in the first place.

And from what I've been given to understand, there are those in the command structure from the "professional" officer corps are not happy with the way that the Guard units, especially, will not simply follow any order given (such as a rather infamous set of orders a few years ago that had a transport unit ferrying contaminated fuel, along what was best described as a free-fire zone, in unarmored vehicles and with absolutly minimal escort)

THose draftees (and the current members of the Guard and Reserve) were all too happy to vote when they got home. And those votes were not usually for the people, or policies, that put them into harm's way.

#2 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 09:21 AM:

If they brought back a draft and it were "fair"er than before, would that be better or worse?---better, because it would be an evil but one more equitably borne, or worse because it would be a more tolerable one?

This is similar to the question, "Would we be better off if Bush & co. were more competent?".

(I use "\"fair\"er" because I'd expect to see a lot of discrimination within the military even if all young persons were drafted: "Are we going to risk a potential Harvard MBA and son of an influential man when we have plenty of ghetto kids and pobuckers?," ---well, maybe, sometimes, but in the aggregate....)

#3 ::: nelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:00 AM:

This is just a stalking-horse for something more weaselly, though, isn't it?

#4 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:01 AM:

Now that I think about it, exactly why did we abolish the draft in the first place? IIRC, it was because the enough of the public wasn't willing to put up with it. There wasn't a principled objection to the draft as such. There was objection to the unfairness of the draft, which isn't the same thing as believing that a draft is intrinsically unfair.

"I am not a national resource" was current then, but I don't think it was primary, or at least not extended to the idea that no one is a national resource.

At this point, I wish those who are considering joining the military would think of themselves as national resources so that they'd be more reluctant let themselves get pissed away.

There were probably people who thought abolishing the draft would keep the US out of stupid wars. Some of you probably have names and quotes for those optimists handy.

My feeling is that if there'd been a draft, we'd be a lot more likely to be in Iran, but that's just a guess.

#5 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Bet if a bill comes to Congress, it'll have lots of exception for the children of Congresscitters. I wonder how the Dems would vote on this one?

#6 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:21 AM:

We've still got a selective service system in place. All it requires is for someone to flip the switch. And a draft is the *only* way we can invade Iran and manage to hold territory in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we invade Iran, expect the Madhi army to join the conflict in Iraq. And expect Iran to give Hizbolah it's marching orders against Israel.

Invading Iran would really mean WWIII if Iran responds the way they're expected to. Thus, we'll have a draft.

On a lighter note, eBay's auto ad generation feature through Google ads on the right had ad bar for this thread -

Iraq War - Browse a huge selection now. Find out exactly what you want today

#7 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:33 AM:

nelC wrote: This is just a stalking-horse for something more weaselly, though, isn't it?

That is the way to bet.

I've seen groundwork laid for a general "compulsory national service". Under that scheme, I would expect poor minorities to be disproportionately routed toward front-line military service while the children of the privileged spend a year tutoring "at-risk youth" in inner cities.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:38 AM:

"...I’m just a typical American boy from a typical American town..."

I suddenly have this vision of the military going to Dunwich to see who could be drafted.

#9 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:02 AM:

#6 - Invade Iran? Surely not. It would risk too many more body-bags. The plan, surely, is just to flip a few bunker-buster bombs at their uranium enrichment plant from what Cheney & Co. think is a safe distance - only it won't be.

#10 ::: AndiN ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:31 AM:

With an all-volunteer military, the American public gets to vote on the war not only on election day, but all year 'round. If people supported the war in Iraq, more of them would enlist, and we wouldn't have a personnel shortage that has the current administration using "stop-loss" to keep people from leaving after their time is up, nor would they need to consider a draft.

The simple fact that people aren't joining the military to fight the war in Iraq, or a potential war in Iran, illustrates that the American public doesn't support the war.

Any time a draft is used (and stop-loss is a type of draft), it indicates that the country is being forced to be involved in a war that the people don't agree with. As elected officials who are supposed to be representing what the people want, the administration should then withdraw from that war.

But, of course, that would require them to care about what the people want. Which they don't.

#11 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:34 AM:

"At risk youth" is also a perfect description of draftees, of course -- even the rare ones who *aren't* ghetto kids.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Jim, I had no idea that you believed in God, and Senator Dodd, and keeping old Castro down.

The Republicans are frightened out of their ever-loving minds that conscription will have to be revived. That would generate an anti-war movement that would dwarf the scale of the late 1960s and early 1970s in much the same way that a redwood dwarfs a blade of grass, and it would not be possible to blame it on liberalism, permissive parenting, or the Communist Party. It would, also, have much the same effect on the Republican Party that the Great Depression did.

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:55 AM:

AndiN, I think you miss the other major purpose ofn a draft system. It allows manpower to be managed.

In 1914 there was no draft in the UK, and the system was overwhelmed with recruits--volunteers. And many of those volunteers were skilled men who would have been more use in munitions factories.

In 1939 there was a draft system, and many people were in "reserved occupations".

So in 1914 my Grandfather volunteered, and ended the war as a Sergeant with a Military Medal. In 1939, as a farmer, he stayed at home with his two adult sons, and concentrated on farming. (And in 1940 became part of the Home Guard, which in rural areas was full of old soldiers.)

And, later in that war, young men were drafted into the coal mines as well as the military.

WW2 was huge, and managing manpower for indistry and the military was vital.

If Iran is going to be big enough to need that scale of manpower management, I don't expect an invasion this side of 2010. The equipment hasn't been made for the troops, and I don't see any sign of the increase in manufacturing and troop training that would be needed. There are plenty of reports claiming the US Army is short of equipment.

So what's possible is the forced recruitment of an field army not much larger than currently in action, and soldiers getting some respite from the stress. But part of the WW2 experience was that there was a limit to how much combat a soldier could endure. Some armies managed better than others. I don't know how well the current US Army copes with this, but it's possible that the troops currently in Iraq, certainly those on the second tour, are effectively used up.

Not everyone has the endurance of a Guy Gibson.

So it looks like the US isn't prepared to raise a mass army, needing a draft to manage manpower. Instead, it's forced recruiting.

I would be unsurprised if the US Army had to start employing remedial teachers.

#14 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Dave, the points about needing a certain scale of manpower management are only relevant to competently planned and managed operations, though.

I keep tripping over assumptions I've made that the current Imperial Regime here is sane or competent or has any sort of understanding of sustainability or the long term or... any number of things, really.

#15 ::: MsCongeniality ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Damnit! Now I've got The Draft Dodger Rag stuck in my head.

*wanders off to find her Phil Ochs CD...*

#16 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:03 PM:

I know I'm a hopelessly naive woman who grew up on a not-so-typical American farm, but I heard this interview and I thought the interviewer had to really push to get GEN Lute to say that. From the transcript* at

You know, given the stress on the military and the concern about these extended deployments for an all-volunteer military, can you foresee, in the future, a return to the draft?

You know, that's a national policy decision point that we have not yet reached, Michele, because the —

But does it make sense militarily?

I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another. Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well. It would be a major policy shift — not actually a military, but a political policy shift to move to some other course.

* I tried and tried and tried to link this but could not make it work today -- sorry.

#17 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:05 PM:

... and then I didn't get his rank right -- Lt. Gen. Lute.

#18 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:35 PM:

I was a Draftee (c. 1951-2) and managed to perform competnetly after a month or so of Basic Training. But the World, Armies, and Warfare are much different today, a half-century later.

Modern warfare depends much less on mere warm bodies and much more on well-trained, skillful Technical Experts -- people who know what they're doing and are doing it because they understand that it's important and because they want to do it. You don't get many people like that from a random cross-section of the age 18-25 population, and you don't develop them, in any meaningful sense, with a mere couple of months of training.

From another standpoint: We need to ask if the American Economy can afford to spend -- at a minimum -- three or four times as much on our Military Budget as we currently do. Maybe it would be a good idea, also, to ask what the rest of the world might do if we display such indications of becoming an Agressive Military Empire. Personally, I suspect that this approach would not work in the modern world.

#19 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 01:59 PM:

I have to agree with Laina, the AP story misrepresented Lt Gen Lute's words. A return to the draft is not likely at all, at least not based on what he said in the interview with NPR.

#20 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 02:07 PM:

As someone who had a high draft number in 1969 but who later enlisted into the Navy, I'd say that the guys I served with were (mostly) not the sort to voluntarily enlist; I think the Navy was the least-unpalatable service for those whose lottery number was going to come up.

Some (raises hand) were consciously there to get the G.I. Bill benefits after they got out, but they were a minority.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 02:38 PM:

You attack Iran with the Army (Navy, Air Force, Marines) you have, not the Army (Navy, Air Force, Marines) you wish you had...

If there is a draft, I'd like to see them draft Mitt Romney's 5 sons. Or I'd like those 5 young men -- not Papa -- to explain how come they don't have to serve.

But I don't think it will happen, because it would bring the war home, and that's the last thing BushCo wants to have happen.

#22 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 03:58 PM:

I... just... oh...


I'm not in favor of a draft on principle. But this suggestion just seems to be the outcome of he-who-shall-not-be-budged pushing for whatever it takes to avoid having to budge. I would not be surprised if Bush pushed for a draft even knowing how politically unfavorable it would be, just because he refuses to admit the war was a bad idea, and he needs bodies to throw into his endless meat grinder.

#23 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Last time politicians raised the subject of conscription in the UK, they were shouted down by the Army top brass. It was pointed out in no uncertain terms that the British Army circa 1992 took 4-5 years to fully train a soldier, and conscripts -- who'd be in for 1-2 years, max -- wouldn't be around long enough to make a useful skill-based contribution; on the other hand, keeping them out of trouble would entail taking a whole lot of skilled, difficult to replace, NCOs out of operation duties.

(Then they stuck the knife in by pointing to the spectre of 18 year old conscripts coming home in boxes from Northern Ireland, and the politicians woke up and started back-pedaling like crazy, but that's another matter.)

If anyone in the US military is mad enough to want a conscript army, they're going to have to start ahead of schedule by training up a metric shitload of drill sergeants. And they're going to have to dumb down a lot of their complex toys, too.

The reason conscript armies are popular in the developing world is because they're cheap and look impressive, not because they're effective. (Israel and Switzerland are special cases, and pay a very heavy price for maintaining an effective conscript army in lost economic muscle. Their system works more like the US National Guard, anyway, using the initial call-up period for training and then maintaining the skills in the population continuously thereafter.) Even the Russians seem to be moving away from that model.

#24 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 05:33 PM:

There doesn't, for reasons I can't fathom, seem to be much push for the good old-fashioned American (and Libertarian/Mystic Hand of the Market) approach -- if you don't get enough applicants for a job, increase the salary you offer.

We might even be able to afford to pay as much as the "Independent Contractors" are charging us for the numerous mercenaries in Iraq -- considerably more than GIs get today, though the mercs themselves (mostly Central and South Americans) apparently get paid only about $8 per hour.

From the military standpoint, Stross has the right of it, I Ithink -- an efficient modern military system neither needs nor desires cannon-fodder. Whether a Government that likes to Control People wants Universal Conscription would be another matter.

#25 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 05:52 PM:

I don't want to see a draft, but I would love to see the perpetrators of this war take the political hit for creating a situation that demands one.

Jon Stewart has said several times that if the Iraq war architects were really serious about what they were saying (that this is a fight for our survival and our way of life, etc.), that they would have instituted a draft long ago. But of course that would be too costly politically, so they don't. They probably could have mustered the votes to reinstate the draft on 9/12/01, but that moment is long past.

#26 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 05:56 PM:

#18: Got it in one.

All the important things that a modern military does these days are skilled operations. Pushing draftees through the whole kit and kaboodle in one or two years would be a waste of time and money on a truly pentagonic scale. And it wouldn't meet the armed services' needs either.

Large-scale drafts are ok if your strategy and tactics are soviet-style, but that's not the American way of war and never has been. A draft is so totally not happening.

#27 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 05:57 PM:

I agree with Charlie Stross @ 23 with a few reservations and additions.

If anyone in the US military is mad enough to want a conscript army, they're going to have to start ahead of schedule by training up a metric shitload of drill sergeants.

This takes us directly to the essential problem with this idea -- time. The Selective Service system may allegedly be in place (but I doubt ready to actually operate) but the capacity to train and equip recruits is what it is, and it would take a year or more to significantly change it. And any positive effect of this change would not be seen until well after the '08 elections -- which takes the draft with all its negative PR effects directly out of the picture in regard to any policy that the current White House has in mind.

This only makes sense, in terms of defense policy, if you think that something close to the current level of deployments is going to continue for some years into the future. The current force level cannot last further than next spring and I think that the result of the current "surge" will be difficulty maintaining the former force size with close to the same effectiveness. Lute knows his stuff. By suggesting this, he is saying, without actually saying it, that he sees us significantly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, if not decades, into the future.

#28 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Craig R @ 1 has the right explanation, IMO of why the military (as opposed to their doofus Secretaries and Commanders-In-Chief) don't want conscription.

In the late 1960's, Selective Service* ended the educational deferrment, and suddenly, instead of 18 year-olds with not much understanding of the world beyond high-school, the Army was getting 24 year-olds well on the way to a PhD and some experience with making decisions for themselves. The Army didn't like it one bit, and it wasn't just the officer corps. Because officers move up or out by design, they don't stick around to maintain continuity. Non-coms on the other hand act as the Army's long-term memory; they keep a kind of cultural record of what has worked and what hasn't. Any competent officer will tell you that the most important teacher for a young officer is his senior NCO. The First Sergeants and Sergeants-Major were not pleased at the kind of draftees they were getting, and they remembered from one war to the next, and told the officers about it.

* I've always loved that euphemism. "Bout as selective as a cold.

#29 ::: maggie brinkley ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 06:15 PM:

An addition to Charlie's comment at no. 23:

When I was a librarian in North London a-many years ago, one of our readers was very keen on drafting young people willy-nilly into the army, and wrote to the Ministry of Defence demanding a change in the law. She came in one day utterly furious because the MoD had told her that they weren't interested because they wanted recruits who genuinely wanted to be professional soldiers, and they also said that the Army was not, and never would be, a dumping-ground for yobs. She wanted to organise a march through London in favour of conscription, and was also furious when I told her that she would have to get permission from the local police...

My father (who joined up in 1940) is scathing about the draft: his Army was professional in spite of, not because of, conscription. (He says that Sergeants are the backbone of any Army.) He says that the trickiest juggling-act after WWII was not de-mobilisation but the re-integration of soldiers into civilian life.

He was, as Vonnegut would say, there.

#30 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Dave Bell @ 13

As I understand the situation, you are correct. I've heard figures, no idea of their correctness, that say that, on average, most combat units either in or out of the current theaters of war are down by as much as 30% in equipment (humvees, tanks, artillery, etc.) and even more in ammunition and other expendables. Just supplying existing units back up to strength in time for them to rotate back into combat on the current schedules is straining the DOD and its contractors, and its not because we're not throwing money at the problem.

My guess is that 2010 date is wildly optimistic. If we were to conscript an army sufficient to do to Iran what we've done in Aghanistan: defeat the existing government, occupy the country, and keep a shaky security with no long-term prospects, while simultaneously continuing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, we'd need at least 20 more combat brigades (we have about 35 currently operational), plus the logistical and other support they need. Call it a million more people in uniform, though that only works because we use a lot of civilian contractors for things that I would have been doing in my days off in Vietnam.

No, it's much more likely that the NeoBarbs are planning to use the assets in the Middle East they've already got: three carrier battle groups, to bomb Iran into submission. Of course the result of any such action won't be submission, it'll be an anti-American uprising all over the Muslim world. That's what the conscripts will be for.

#31 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 23

It's worse even than needing Drill Instructors. You'd need an imperial shitload of cadre to act as the cores of each of one of the combat units. You need officers and NCOs to staff all the command positions, which amounts to about 15-20% of the personnel, completelhy ignoring support personnel, and the initial cadre can't be conscripts; later on you'll find some conscripts you can train up, but not at first.

#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:30 PM:

I notice no one has yet got to one of the biggest potential issues with conscription: the conscription of women for military service. Should the US reinstitute a draft, it would have to seriously consider the drafting of women -- and that would be seriously unpopular with some rather vocal supporters of the current stupidity in Iraq -- since there is no earthly reason why women should not serve.

#33 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 08:53 PM:

And since they can't already keep up with the amount of stuff the troops need to do their job, how do they farking propose to deal with thousands of draftees? Send them in buck naked with sticks in hand?

This whole 'adventure' is one of the reasons I despair for my counry. It didn't give a shit about ruining my brother's life and it doesn't give a shit about the other ones who volunteer to serve, why should it care about those consigned to service?

#34 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 09:26 PM:

I think if you guys had had the draft all along, maybe Bush would have managed to invade Iraq all the same - but he wouldn't have been re-elected. It's a lot harder to vote for a warmngering draft-dodger when the ones that are at risk to be sent Down There are your kids.

(I mean: no amount of vote fraud would have managed to get him re-elected, of course).

#35 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Charlie @23: The arguments for a conscript army that I learned in civics class about 25 years ago. Like everything from civics class they should probably be taken with a grain of salt:

1) It makes it harder for the military to become a closed clique and develop its own ideas about how the country should be run.

2) It provides the military with people of whose life skills and ambitions are not limited to "wearing a uniform and being told what to do".

3) Conscript armies are harder to use for imperialist adventures or wars of agression in general than professional armies. (The "18 yo conscripts coming home in boxes"-part.)

What didn't come up in civics lessons but was generally regarded as reason #1:

- In case of the Russians coming to visit, a few milions of warm bodies were better suited than a measly one hundred thousand professionals to keep them east of the Rhine until they could get nuked.

#36 ::: Hilary ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:53 PM:

You know, a lot of these responses seem to be all about the question of whether a draft is going to happen or not, or about the military or political effects of a draft. Those are important, of course, but I think that they may also be dodging the issue a bit. The real question is one of personal choice... if it happens, where will you stand? How will you choose to act? Disapproval is all well and good, but how do you propose to stop this if it actually gets to the sticking point?

I turned 23 less than two weeks ago, and though I'm female I don't expect that to matter if a draft is reinstated. For me, the above questions are very real ones, not only because I personally could be drafted, but because my friends and loved ones are just as likely to be drafted as I am. Personally, I've been a Quaker all my life and I have no question that I would refuse to serve regardless of the consequences, but even that isn't going to make a bit of difference for anyone else.

I'm left wondering, is there really anything that would make a difference at this point, or have we allowed our freedoms to dissolve so much that our government can act completely independently of the will of the people, with nary a consequence in sight?

#37 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 10:55 PM:

Fragano @32: Should the US reinstitute a draft, it would have to seriously consider the drafting of women -- and that would be seriously unpopular with some rather vocal supporters of the current stupidity in Iraq -- since there is no earthly reason why women should not serve.

The issue was addressed in 1981 by the Supreme Court, which upheld the gender restriction of Selective Service; overview here.

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Hilary @ 36

The draft has existed on and off in the US for almost a century and a half now; in that time many other aspects of the way we view our freedoms in respect of the power of our government have changed. But this isn't new; the draft isn't the final straw in the erosion of our liberties.

41 years ago I faced that same choice, along with a significant fraction of my age cohort. Many of us found ways to evade service, many of us submitted to it, willingly or unwillingly, and a very few resisted, by either running, refusing, or trying to get exemption on moral grounds. I expect it would be the same today, were the draft to be re-instituted. Moral choices are always individual choices; each of us must choose the path we're willing to follow, and deal with the consequences of the choice. Unfortunately they're often solitary in a different way: the ones who make choices from a highly moral stance are usually in the minority, and don't get much support from their fellow citizens even when they might agree in private.

From a practical point of view I doubt that the draft will be re-started: there are just too many reasons why the military hierarchy and the politicians in office would find it inconvenient or hampering to their plans and ambitions. And not least because it would have exactly the effect that it did the last time it was used: eventually people would find it the reason to take to the streets against their own government. When almost everybody is affected, and they finally realize it, they no longer talk and act alone, but in large groups. Maybe not from a moral stance, but that doesn't change the result.

Short of that, however, I think I agree that we as a nation are not likely to object strenuously enough to what our rulers are doing to us to make them change a great deal. I'm old and cynical, but I got that way watching this situation play itself out; I do not believe that any career politician, Republican or Democrat, will be willing to forgo the use of the tools of power the Bush administration has created.

#39 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:38 PM:

I missed the draft by a short couple of years, but later enlisted and served 10 years. That said, I am strongly opposed to conscription (read: "Slave Armies"), for many of the reasons considered above, but also because, like almost everything else this regime has done, it is in opposition to everything I and my shipmates and our predecessors fought for.

While I'd like to believe that the Dems would vote down any draft bill that did not include ironclad equality for economic, social and racial backgrounds, and would yell loudly at my 'representatives' in Congress, I have little reason to believe they'd actually stand up for themselves, or for us.

#40 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:38 PM:

First things first: Don Fitch, at some levels you are right, at others, not so much.

Yes, lots of the present army, even in the line units, requires a level of technical competence which doesn't come from a month's (or even three's) worth of training.

But running the Blue Force Tracker, and keepig the ASIPS loaded into the SINCGARs, and the Pluggers current can be handed off to cadre.

The PBI's job hasn't really changed that much.

So on that level, a draft would be feasible.

On the political level, it's not possible.

The only way to keep it from being a morale killer would be to make it dead flat.

Your number comes up, you serve. The only exemptions are medical, and those are decided by an honest to goodness exam (no, there are CO exemptions as well; but those are going to be harder to come by. I'd be willing to grant them, out of hand, but only into non-combatant roles, unless one has a history which shows a long standing position on the matter).

If you are enrolled in college, the school has to defer your enrollment, not the other way round.

I'd also have a wider pool; out to 24, or so, which would reduce the age gaps (lifers/cadre, like me, with grey in their beards, and 19 year old kids, is no way to run a citizen army).

That also makes it possible to get those older draftees as officer candidates (NCOs are tougher; they need to have experience. All a 2LT needs is to be eager, fair-minded and tad foolish).

If we start to carve exemptions, create deferments which recurr (fucking business school?) then we create an apparent imbalance in value.

But try to build a fair draft and the middle-classes will rebel.

Build an unfair draft and the people being drafted will riot, and the Army will rebel.

So it ain't gonna happen.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 11:50 PM:

And yeah, all the stuff about ramp-up, and term of service (though nothing limits the pols from making it a 4 year commitment, in WW2 it was until the war was over) make it something which isn't going to have any, good, effect in the field for 2-4 years.

And that's more than an election cycle. Given the favorable views on the war, at home, when people's kids start getting the letters, anyone who is running for office on the idea of killing the draft/ending the war, is a shoo-in.

#42 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 12:52 AM:

My sister is going downrange later this year.

If you told me they could institute a draft to get her home one second faster, I'd be all for it 100%.

However, and this is what saddens me more, I suspect such a thing would only entrench her and her friends and comrades deeper into the mire of a few scheming weasel-people's wasteful adventure.

Throwing more characters into the story won't end this tale any faster.

However, I also believe this: When my sister is on the ground, I want the ENTIRE FRIKKIN' ARMY right next to her to back her up and bail her and her friends and fellow soldiers out of trouble. I don't want some situation wherein lots of foreigners in recognizable uniforms turn dark corners. In situations where we draw down troops slowly, bad people will know help is too far away to get there in time, or to stop them at all.

Everybody into the quagmire, or everybody out. That's what I think. If we do a slow draw down, all we'll get is a higher body count.

This draft thing stinks of news cycle manipulation. A quote was misquoted, or a journalist caught someone off their guard, and makes a big show of something that hasn't been news since day one.

I really need to stop reading the news.

#43 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:34 AM:

Oz is in the middle of a very long, as-yet-undeclared federal election campaign. (One needs to be called before the end of January 2008. The Liberal/National Coalition has won them since March 1996, and there's a bit of a 'time for a change' mood.) The current government has made a lot of 'interesting' dashes in some unusual & different directions, including one idea floated that I thought could be a trailed coat for National Service down the track: Year in uniform could help fill the gap; and some other links.

(For Laina @ 16: Try this link to NPR Lt Gen Lute interview)

#44 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 07:41 AM:

About Romney's sons and Bush's daughters and so on: it seems as though a lot of people want them in the military in an effort to get their parents to pay more attention.

Even the children of the rich and powerful are human beings, not tools.

#45 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:27 AM:

Nancy, I think the sense is that the elite are not touched directly by the military issues at all, but only hear about them through reporting which, if it comes from the 'wrong' sources, they can disbelieve.

Romney's sons and Bush's daughters are symbolic: I don't want them in the military personally, just some of their class. If they, or their friends, or their parents' friends or their friends' kids, were out on the street in Baghdad living the reality, we might begin to hear a different narrative. But they're not: if they're serving at all, they're safely in the background. It's the children of the poor and powerless who are not human beings, but tools.

#46 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:35 AM:
Even the children of the rich and powerful are human beings, not tools.

At what point in the process of being taught that they have privileges beyond the rest of us and how to use that power do they become sufficiently weaponized to something other than human beings?

#47 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 09:20 AM:

#45 ::: John A Arkansawyer :::

Even the children of the rich and powerful are human beings, not tools.

At what point in the process of being taught that they have privileges beyond the rest of us and how to use that power do they become sufficiently weaponized to something other than human beings?


Even if you favor capital punishment enough to think the likes of George Bush deserves it--for what he's done, not just for how he thinks--he's still a human being.

The first crucial defense against committing atrocities to believe that no one is outside human consideration.

And if you're interested in what the children of the rich are thinking, you need to look at them as individuals.

I suspect that many of them, even if they want to keep their status and don't care about most people, are pretty harmless asses.

On the other hand, I've been contemplating GW yet again. For a while, I'd been thinking he just drifted into being President because he seemed like a convenient front, but now it seems more plausible that he really wanted to be President and was good enough at manipulating people that he made it happen.

It's a cliche that people who want political office shouldn't have it. I'm dubious--I don't think work is generally done well by people who hate it, and this is especially true of work which requires creativity. However, damned if I'm going to trust someone who loves campaigning.

#48 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Nancy #43: I agree, and I have never liked the argument that the public school system should hold the bright and/or privileged kids hostage so their parents will have to work for better education for all. I gave up on the voucher system when I realized it would be like turning schooling over to insurance companies, but I still don't like the hostage approoach.

#49 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Nancy (#43) It's to try and counter the whole attitude exemplified by Leona Helmsley when she allegedly said that "Taxes are for little people", which of course extends to other civic responsibilities. It mayn't be the best reaction.

#50 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:57 AM:

The military probably doesn't need rich kids, but it could certainly use the tax money their parents aren't required to pay.

As for the "cannon fodder" thing, these may be a bunch of highly-trained volunteers, but I still hear plenty of stories about 23-year-olds coming home in body bags. That's way too young to die.

#51 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Fragano@12: You've recently identified yourself as someone outside the U.S.; you should perhaps be less certain when predicting the behavior of U.S. political parties -- and maybe note queries in other threads about what (or whether) the Republicans are thinking. Based on What's the Matter with Kansas et al., I have a real problem with anyone claiming that a draft would blowback; I'd like to believe it but I have no certainty which way the country would jump.

Lizzy L answering Dave: exactly. Rumsfeld himself may be gone, but Cheney and all the lickspittles Rumsfeld appointed (in place of the competents he fired) are still there.

My question wrt what several posters have seen as the underlying causes (Iran, long-term occupation, ...) is not whether the draft will get voted on, but whether the Chinese will keep buying U.S. bonds to finance Bush's adventurism. The Saudis certainly will -- they'll do almost anything to reduce Shi'a power -- but if the Chinese call a halt the whole debt-based mess Bush has put us in will explode. Maybe they'll never call a halt, figuring it's better to have the U.S. as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and the current U.S. management is certainly moving that along -- right now they're being almost as stupid wrt China as the Confederacy was wrt the UK.

#52 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 11:51 AM:

i never liked that "rich and powerful ought to serve but don't and the poor are dying" argument.

I went to a swanky private school, from an upper middle class family with many college professors and health and science professionals.

I am also the only member of my family not current or retired military.

My parents met in the military, in the 1970s. My dad certainly didn't have to join up. He had a college degree before he enlisted. His father was a successful architect/engineer.

Basically, this notion that rich kids don't join the military is bunk.

Many, many of my friends from my swanky private school joined up.

Many, many rich kids look at their career choices and join in all levels of service.

Saying they don't is a gross generalization and disrespectful to the people who did join because of the lack of opportunities in their life. It's not like it's the only way off the streets, you know.

#53 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 11:53 AM:

and #49:Faren...

99 is too young to die.

Any age is too young to die.

#54 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 12:07 PM:

The killer point regarding a draft is that I doubt it would produce useful numbers of troops in the remaining interval before January, 2009. It was six months before the US Army took the field in any numbers in the second world war, and with poor results at that. And it was early 1944 before the build-up in the UK really got started; and August '44 before the number of US divisions in Normandy passed the number of British ones.

If you think about the political and logistical lead-times involved, especially as 40 per cent of the US Army's equipment is up for replacement, and NCOs and West Pointers have been leaving in ain't going to happen.

#55 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 12:32 PM:

There are two points to consider when evaluating the meaning of Lt. General Lute's remarks.

p1. Our war czar clearly views the commitment to deploying military forces in Iraq as one that cannot be completed in a few months or years. He knews U.S. troops are going to be fighting insurgents in Iraq and probably elsewhere in the Muslim world for generations.

p2. There clearly isn't sufficient popular support for the war effort to get sufficient numbers of boots on the ground with an all-volunteer force, and there just aren't many force multipliers for counter-insurgency purposes.

If the hereditary nomenklatura currently ruling America decides that a draft is needed to get the numbers of troops up to where they want it to be, then that's what we'll see— and it's pointless to talk about how the draft should be implemented. The choice isn't between "no draft" and "a fair and democratic draft"— it's between "no draft" and "a draft that satisfies the requirements of the nomenklatura," which is a generational commitment to keeping the oil-rich Persian Gulf region in a constant state of security crisis. To that extent, a highly-trained corps of all-volunteer troops isn't what you want. A half-million conscripts raised primarily from the ghettos of urban Blue state America might be precisely what the plan requires.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Julie L #37: Thanks. That doesn't prevent Congress from amending the law to conscript women, though.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 01:34 PM:

jmmcdermott at 51 and Nancy at 43: I believe you misunderstand my point. Certainly children of the well-to-do and the rich have been known to serve in the military, and yes, I know Mitt's kids are human: no more and no less human than my friend in the Marines who is at this moment serving in Iraq, or than the sons of other friends who are at various American Army bases preparing to be shipped there.

I believe, as Terry Karney said, that an unfair draft is immoral and a truly fair draft is politically impossible. I would like those five young men, and all the other politicians' sons and daughters -- those that are of age and appropriate physical condition -- to be subject to the draft, and not deferred because of privilege, and if their service is deferred (theirs and all the other politicians' sons and daughters) I want everyone in this country to hear the explanations as to why, loud and clear.

When Mitt Romney says that his kids don't have to serve in the military because they are serving the country by helping him get elected President, I get the same feeling that I get when I hear George Bush argue against giving children government funded health care insurance, three days after receiving a colonoscopy paid for completely by the taxpayers. I bet I'm not the only one to react that way.

#58 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 01:55 PM:

CHip #50: I had no idea that Georgia had once again seceded from the Union. Being from somewhere else and living in the US (as I've done for over a quarter of a century) are entirely compatible.

As for the position of the Republicans, all you have to do is cast your mind back to the proposals made by Charlie Rangel in 2003 and last year, and the Republican response to them.

#59 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Lizzie #56

I disagree completely that men and women in positions of authority should have children on the front lines of combat unwillingly.

If their child is a volunteer, then they know the risks.

However, the risk to a child of a political decision-maker is a little more than a normal soldier, and they should not be subjected to the draft. If they volunteer, they are certainly aware of the risk and have made their choice.

But no, I don't think what happened to Hitler's nephew was fair and just. I don't think what would happen to the President's son in a prisoner of war camp is just.

It's kind of like how surgeons don't operate on their friends and family.

#60 ::: thesquire ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Terry Karney @#40: The current Selective Service system is actually rather close to what you describe: while registration starts at 18, conscription would start at 20 with no college deferments. I was a very happy boy a couple years ago when I turned 21, and not cos of the alcohol.

#61 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 04:16 PM:

I disagree completely that men and women in positions of authority should have children on the front lines of combat unwillingly.

Why should having power and authority allow you to exempt your children from obligations that fall on other people's children? Your surgeon analogy makes no sense whatsoever.

What is not "bunk" is that the children of rich and/or powerful families have better resources to avoid or delay compulsory military service. Good luck hiring a lawyer to contest a draft classificaiton if you can't afford one. (Legal Aid, by the way, is forbidden by law from providing representation in this area.)

Romney's arrogance was not that he said "my sons can make their own choices"--absolutely correct. It's that he claimed that supporting his presidential campaign is 'serving their country', just like enlisting in the military would be.

#62 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 04:22 PM:

jmmcdermott, so you think that politicians' children should be protected from the horrors and unfairness of war, unless they volunteer, but that their fathers and mothers should be allowed to make decisions which subject other people's children to that horror and lack of fairness?

Don't run for office.

#63 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:01 PM:

I'm just asking here -- is there a specific reason to assume that a draft would be limited to a year or two, at most?

In World War II:

"Just after Pearl Harbor, Congress amended the draft law, lengthening the term of service from one year to the duration plus six months and extending registration to all males between 18 and 65, with those between 20 and 45 eligible for the draft. All the while, final goals for recruitment became interim goals. By the end of 1942, the Army's strength was at 5.4 million, including 700,000 black Americans, most of whom served in segregated support units."

The ground military is at the breaking point. Even the U.K. Guardian today carries a story about that. With the Brits pulling out of southeast Iraq in the next months, with the mission to secure it unaccomplished, the situation is even worse than most people realize.

Love, C.

#64 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:09 PM:

Constance at 62: I don't assume the draft would be limited to a year or two. And just in case it's not clear -- I am NOT in favor of a draft. I want us to get the frack out of Iraq, now. But if there is a draft, I want it to be administered fairly.

Oh, and I want a dragon, too. One of the smaller ones, please.

#65 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Additionally, the lead item in the NY Times today is that the dems, though wanting out of Iraq, expect our troops to stay there for years.

What may really be the most effective block to reinstating an overt draft -- i.e., National Service -- is that the U.S. military is sworn to uphold the Constitution. Private militias, mercenaries, etc. are not so sworn, nor is there any obligation when the members are hurt, maimed and killed.

It sounds fairly tinfoil but I've suspected at times that these clowns' goal is to break the U.S. military and replace it with a private one, as part of their general objective to just plain get rid of government and replace it with diktat by corporate powers -- the Way of the Warlord, by other means.

Love, C.

#66 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:24 PM:

LizzyL -- Just to be clear, if it wasn't, my 62 wasn't a challenge, just a question, aimed generally, not at an individual.

It just doesn't make sense to see how our military can stay in the Middle East for much longer without some serious help. And both dems and gops are saying they are going to be there for many years, no matter what the U.S. population thinks or wants. So how else is it going to be possible?

(Unless, of course, as was suggested by, was it Craig?, the Chinese stop supporting our economic mess. The possibility that they are close to doing so was flitting through the economic news just before last week's market. Then we have some very serious, additional other problems.)

A draft (er, National Service) for 'duration,' would be economically feasible, wouldn't it? Especially as a new set could be added every year, to begin training.

Though we'll probably remain determined to not properly outfit the ground troops for some reason.

Love, C.

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 05:59 PM:

I've been strongly against universal military conscription since long before I was drafted, and I'm still against it, after both my sons are no longer eligible. OMO, it's morally wrong, and it doesn't matter how fair the selection process is.

But I've also been strongly for universal non-military service for that entire length of time. I think it's very important for everyone to be required to work for the community for some period in their youth, both to provide that work to society, and to recognize that everyone has an obligation to the society they live in. I don't consider that likely to happen.

The worst scenario we could face would be a re-instituted draft that was baldly unfair. That would be immoral and politically destructive to this country because the electorate would yet again have their faces ground in to the fact that our leaders do not have our interests in mind or heart at all. That wouldn't be so bad if it sparked a revolution and a change of leaders, but that's not really likely; what's seems more likely is just a more apathetic citizenry and more egregious acts by our leaders.

#68 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 06:14 PM:

The Soldiers Speak

This'll break your heart.

#69 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 07:35 PM:

#66 Bruce:

Wow. So it's okay to draft people into working below market wages in coal mines and factories, or schools and road crews, but not in the army? Why?

I'm sure it's possible to come up with some high-minded justification for the draft--we'll "build up commitment to society" or something--but we're really talking about giving the powerful people in our society the ability to have a bunch of employees who can't refuse the job or go on strike. If congress or the president wants people to clean out bedpans in a nursing home, but doesn't want to have to come up with the money to pay anyone to do it, they can just assign some draftees to the job. And if the draftees hate the job, or are convinced it's counterproductive or even pure evil, well, they can obey or go to prison.

This strikes me as such a bad idea, I'm amazed the Bush administration hasn't been pushing it since 9/11. Must have slipped their minds.

#70 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 07:48 PM:

Lizzy L #56:

It strikes me that if you believe (as I do) that our presence in Iraq is counterproductive, the Romney boys are probably doing less harm in their current role than they would be on patrol in Baghdad. (Though this depends on how much a disaster you think a Romney presidency would be, and how much effect they're likely to have on it.)

We're not the fking Draka. Soldiers are important to have, but so are doctors, engineers, plumbers, EMTs, computer programmers, etc. There's not some hierarchy in which the highest thing you can do for mankind is to go off and join the Army, and lesser beings must settle for those other things. Even if you assume what we're doing in Iraq makes some kind of sense, it's not at all clear that you should stop doing something you're really good at, or that seems especially important to you, to go off and become a soldier.

By the same token, we all agree that EMTs and policemen are very important, and yet there's no great moral imperative that says we must stop being engineers or plumbers or stock brokers and go become EMTs or cops.

#71 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:02 PM:

LizzyL -- That's the UK Guardian article. It is heartbreaking. And just farkin' outrageous, and why in hell isn't the nation outraged?

Love, C.

#72 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:05 PM:

albatross, you are probably right about the Romney men. (They aren't boys, are they, not really?) The point was more rhetorical than real. I want the draft, if we have one, to be administered more fairly than it was when Dick Cheney had better things to do than go to war, and got 5 student deferments so that he didn't have to. Do I want the Romney men to go to war? Hell no. I don't want anyone to go to war. But I believe that politicians think differently about sending people to fight and die when they know that their children are not ever going to be among those people.

I do support some deferments. Medical, and CO, and probably some others. But if you're 18 and healthy and your daddy's rich, or a governor, or a Congressperson, and all the other healthy 18 year olds in your daddy's district are subject to a draft, then by God you ought to be, too. It just seems like elementary fairness to me.

#73 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:31 PM:

I'm happy that I served 9 1/2 years in the submarine force. Happy because I have no inactive service time to be recalled back into service. Happy because I was medically discharged (honorably) for service connected injuries and couldn't be recalled back even if they wanted me bad enough.

I remember my time on recruiting duty (just a few years back). There were tail-tell signs that Army and Marine Corps recruiting efforts were failing. Overall Army-Strength and MC-Strength numbers were suffering, stop-loss came into effect, and then there was the Blue to Green initiative program allowing Navy and Air Force active and reserve members to go Army --- I knew then we were hinting around a draft --- hell, it's been on The Hill for a while now.

jmmcdermmott @ #51 Rich kids don't join the military is bunk?
My experience in military recruiting is that based upon ethnic and economic backgrounds the areas (or zip-codes as they are divided up)with the highest propensity for enlistment were black and hispanic low to low-middle income families. I'm not saying that there aren't rich white kids enlisting... but the military spends billions of dollars in effective marketing like any company to recruit "diversity applicants." For the Navy and Air Force there have been recent restrictions (or goaling requirements) to contract Hispanic, or Black Upper Mental Group (HUMGEE/HUMG or BUMGEE/BUMG scoring higher than 50 or for Air Force >62 on AFQT composite score) --- the last I left recruiting the Army was taking waivers hand over fist on to recruit "diversity applicants." For the Navy and Air Force there have been recent restrictions (or goaling requirements) to contract Hispanic, or Black Upper Mental Group (HUMGEE or BUMGEE scoring higher than 50 or for Air Force >62 on AFQT composite score) --- the last I left recruiting the Army was taking waivers hand over fist on to recruit "diversity applicants." For the Navy and Air Force there have been recent restrictions (or goaling requirements) to contract Hispanic, or Black Upper Mental Group (HUMGEE/HUMG or BUMGEE/BUMG scoring higher than 50 or for Air Force >62 on AFQT composite score) --- the last I left recruiting the Army was taking waivers hand over fist on to recruit "diversity applicants." For the Navy and Air Force there have been recent restrictions (or goaling requirements) to contract Hispanic, or Black Upper Mental Group (HUMGEE or BUMGEE scoring higher than 50 or for Air Force >62 on AFQT composite score) --- the last I left recruiting the Army was taking waivers hand over fist on I also disagree with what you said regarding the military: "It's not like it's the only way off the streets, you know," for a lot of people I came across in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale region it was.

#74 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:34 PM:

...that oddly mirrored part of my post. Apologies if that was my doing.

#75 ::: Toru Ranryu ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 09:42 PM:

#50 CHip

The Chinese are playing a long-term strategy game where the ultimate prize is world hegemony. I bet they're more than happy to finance American misadventures in the middle east. If it makes the Americans look bad then the world will be more likely to look to the Chinese for new leadership. Note also what the Chinese are doing in Africa.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:07 PM:

jmmcdermott (#58):

Lizzie #56

I disagree completely that men and women in positions of authority should have children on the front lines of combat unwillingly.

What? What makes them special? Why are they to be afforded the peace of mind that comes of knowing their kids are safe, when they get to force other people to bear the uncertainty which comes of wondering, when they see that 13 soldiers were wounded, and 2 killed in "x".

Back in 2003 I just about threw something at a public television... why? Because Bush said bring it on.

Right now I have friends who are visiting their son at Walter Reed, because he was one of the 13 injured in a firefight in Afghanistan.

He volunteered.

If he'd been drafted, and the sons/daughters of the people who forced him to go and get his eye blown out were exempt...

I'd want to see blood in the streets. Because that's a privilege no one, in a society of equals, deserves. Not only is it unjust, unfair and immoral, but it makes it cheap to send those other people's family and freinds to die.

It's part and parcel of Madison saying Congress needs to be able to stop wars, because unfettered executives will foster wars which are not needful, for motives of their own.

thesquire: Don't be too sanguine. Eligiblilty is to 25 (and the national militia is to 54, but that's different). The intitial call-up is for 18 year olds, but it goes longer.

And I had to provide my Selective Service number when I enlisted, at 25, past the age of accountability.

As for the no college deferments... I'll believe that when I see it, because the act required to enact the system is almost certain to get amended, and the amendments will almost certainly include way to allow, "other priorities" to prevail (just look at goldberg, who is just unable to afford the hit his income would take to go fight the war he says is existential, and crucial to the survival of civilisation).

Looking at the last one, a deferment pretty much meant a free pass.

#77 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:23 PM:

#70: "why in hell isn't the nation outraged?"

They. Don't. Know.

Most people get their news from television, and TV news is pablum for idiots. News magazine shows that used to do in-depth stories have switched to reporting moral outrage stories.

Cripes . . . remember when Nightline did a reading of the names of the then-800 or so Iraq war KIAs? They were labeled unpatriotic.

#78 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:23 PM:

Terry at 75: Amen! And exactly so.

But I don't count on Congress to stop this war. They just bowed and smiled and agreed to the gutting of the Fourth Amendment. If we want this war ended, I think we're going to have to do it ourselves.

#79 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Saw a story on CNN a couple of weeks ago. Had a bunch of college-age Republicans who supported the war, and all the whiny reasons that they they shouldn't have to serve...

You'll find most of the people who support the reinstatement of the draft are ones who have never been in the military and/or seen the sharp end, and their relatives won't have to serve...

#80 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 10:44 PM:

I think, as I look at this thread, that I might want to step back a bit... because I am finding it hits very close to home. I forgot to mention, for example, that the television I almost chucked something at was in Walter Reed's main lobby, heading to, or coming from, an appointment.

I do recall swearing at it, out loud; in ways which could have gotten me in trouble.

I have a more active kernel of volatilty than I did four years ago, and talk which seems to be supporting an unjust draft is stirring it up.

On the flip side, we are about to leave for a 9-10 day road trip, so I can step back.

#81 ::: Karl T. ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 11:20 PM:

Terry, have a good (and safe!) trip. I think the decision to step back for a little bit is probably a good one -- I value your contributions here tremendously (as I'm sure many others do, as well). Do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy, and come back when things have settled a bit.

And my deepest thanks, for both your service and your clearly-stated humanity.

#82 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:06 AM:

Thank you, Terry. Be in touch when you get back. Stay safe.

#83 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:49 AM:


But I've also been strongly for universal non-military service for that entire length of time. I think it's very important for everyone to be required to work for the community for some period in their youth, both to provide that work to society, and to recognize that everyone has an obligation to the society they live in. I don't consider that likely to happen.

as a former israeli soldier (i don't know if i'm allowed to say "veteran": i wasn't stationed near any combat, even though there was more-or-less a war on the whole time i was in), who now travels the country in the summer talking about my army service (cause i write comics about it), i've had occasion to think about universal draft/universal national service a bit.

i think there are some upsides to a universal draft. i think, for instance, that last summer's lebanon war was as short as it was because it was mostly reservists fighting, & it seemed like it touched every family. & enough of those families raised enough of a stink, & just said "no". louder & louder until it happened. (there are other, & probably shadier, theories for why the ceasefire came about when it did. there are also definite downsides to a militarized society, in that most politicians are former brass to whom everything looks like a nail, & the odd sexism prevalent in a society with such tough, mouthy women.)

israel kinda-sorta has a civilian national service, but it's only an option for orthodox women. other populations, such as the ultra-orthodox, bedouin & druze women & all palestinian israelis, are totally exempt.

if i imagined my ideal scenario, i would have a compulsory, say, two years for everybody. it would be your choice whether you did the inner-city tutoring (etc.) or the army. the army couldn't force you to join if you were a perfect physical specimen with five languages, or bar you from joining if you were an out gay. perhaps the army would be able to have the incentive of paying more, but not drastically so.

there would be medical deferments, & there's probably a million more holes in this fantasy of mine. but that's what i'm working with right now.

#84 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 01:02 AM:

I'm sure the Army could use more qualified Rangers.

Hey, look! Bush knows plenty of Rangers. Draft them!

Admittedly, a couple hundred folks won't make that big a difference to the troop numbers, but you have to start somewhere; we can move down the donor lists over time.

#85 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 01:26 AM:

If we end up with a draft I'm expat-ing. I still have an outstanding bet with my ol' brick and mortar bookstore manager that Bush will attempt to stay in a third term under some 'Doomsday Legislation' caveat ...

I hear there's a need for quality bookstores in Australia... who's in?

#86 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:26 AM:

albatross @ 66

So it's OK to force kids to go to school until they're 16, but not to get them to provide some service that helps more people than flipping burgers does? Why?

There are some things society makes mandatory and some it leaves as voluntary. I think a military draft is unconscionable because it forces people to sacrifice their lives involuntarily; I think a non-military draft can be acceptable because it can provide service in areas where our capitalist society otherwise refuses to put it. Yes there are some nasty practical problems in making sure that it isn't used as a strike-breaking force, for instance, but almost anything can be perverted if you try hard enough.

I will grant that I don't want to see such a service instituted under the present administration, because they almost certainly would try to pervert it. On the other hand, if we never again have a government we can trust more than Bush and his buddies, we are in serious trouble anyway.

#87 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 03:12 AM:

Rushedly, Bruce, note you are comparing under-16s to over-16s. That, and the fact that we see school as a positive for the child, not just for society generally, explains a large part of the difference.

#88 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:48 AM:

A depressing article on the state of the US Army, from The Observer.

One tour in Iraq is more time than from D-Day to VE-Day.

Two tours is more time than my Grandfather spent on the Western Front in WW1, and, by my reckoning, he spent more time out of the front-line trenches.

It does look at the draft option, towards the end of the article, but look at what it says about officers leaving the Army.

#89 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:56 AM:

Don't worry about the draft, I have the solution that's bound to turn up sometime in the future: Draft Mexicans!

After all, cheap Mexican labor already carries a large part of the U.S. economy, so why not extend this to the military as well?

(There was supposed to be a [SATIRE] tag here, but...)

#90 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:03 AM:

On Leaders and Military Service

At least the elected President Bush went to war, and got shot down too.

King George VI was a Midshipman at Jutland. Prince Philip was an RN officer in WW2. The Queen served in the ATS, Prince Andrew was a helicopter pilot in the Falklands, and Princes William and Harry are now serving in the Army.

In the Falklands, if Prince Andrew has been captured, the Geneva Conventions would have applied.

There was a big debate about whether or not the Princes should serve in Iraq. What's different to other wars is that they would be a huge prize for any terrorist or insurgent group. That political liability would be the same for any child of a US President.

And, of course, we don't know what all these military veterans would say to a British Prime Minister who insisted on being stupid. But there are the photographs of the Queen and Dick Cheney, and we can guess.

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:14 AM:

Keir @ 86

That, and the fact that we see school as a positive for the child, not just for society generally, explains a large part of the difference.

I could easily make the same argument for a properly constructed service program. And what's the magic age of consent / adulthood? 13, 16, 18, 21? I can find examples of all of them being used for one purpose or another. My point is that this isn't the black/white issue that albatross insisted it was. Every society has to make decisions about the use of compulsion, and at some level of granularity those decisions become somewhat arbitrary. Is it immoral to extort taxes from citizens? Some say it's theft and some say it's simply collecting the individual's share of the burden for supporting common services. Is it immoral to disallow citizens access to deadly weapons? Again, this is an extremely controversial issue. But in neither of these cases, or a lot of others, is the question clearly answered the same way by all moral people.

What I'm saying is that it's reasonable to impose a tax of service to the community which does not automatically endanger the citizen's life or health (as combat does). There need to be safeguards, just as there need to be safequards with monetary taxes, to prevent abuse of the system by those who administer it, but I don't see the need for safeguards as either a practically or a morally insurmountable objection.

#92 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:05 AM:

albatross @66: From a country where there is conscription, but conscientious objecting is (now) easy -- a high percentage of the young men (just as the women who decide on a "social year") end up caring for the disabled, the sick and the elderly.

Some of that work might be done by professionals. However, professionals in those lines of work burn out quick, while a 20 yo can to the jobs at a high performance for 2 years if he know it's only for a limited time. Some work would not be done at all, because no one would pay for it: Usually exactly the type that does the most good on a personal level, like helping disabled or frail people who are able to live on their own with some help, but without that help would have to go to a home.

From a legal side, it's not forced work: It's conscription with an "out" for pacifists. There's a joke that conscription won't get abolished because that would make social services break down.

#93 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:29 AM:

so many disagree with me about exempting politician's young adults from the draft.

The horrors of war are exacerbated when the soldier can be used as a media tool.

Upon entering a prisoner of war camp, that politician's child WILL be used as a political tool dramatically more than any other soldier. This, in history, led to torture above and beyond what others experienced. Hitler's nephew was captured on the front lines by Russian troops, for instance, and what was left of his long and painful life was in excess of what occurred to the rest. As a volunteer, and a Nazi, he gets little sympathy from me, but I hesitate to imagine what would occur if, drafted, Jenna Bush's convoy was captured and she was taken by any insurgent with a webcam.

Secondly, the decision-makers who are responsible for all of our children must be dispassionate enough to choose what is best for everyone, like surgeons. We have a draft system, whether we like it or not. In this system, we must keep our decisionmakers dispassionate about hard choices like this one.

Also, why must we keep twisting the language? We keep calling them "Politician's Children", "Their Children", etc. Yes, they are the children of politicians, but they are also adults.

The way we speak, it makes these young adults sound like property or juvenile wards, when the "children" are decision-makers, and adults. We're talking about adults, not children.

As far as the military recruiting heavily among the poor instead of the rich, we also forget basic math. Poor outnumber rich. There should be more soldiers from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the military because there are a heck lots more of those in the nation at large. Recruiting to the rich kids is a bad marketing ploy simply because there aren't as many of them.

#94 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:55 AM:

If there's another Al-Quaida attack on the US homeland with casualties>100, we will likely end up with a draft. If it happens before November 2008 and the casualty count is above 1000, we will wind up with another reactionary Republican administration, a draft, and war in the Middle East until we run out of money.

This concludes today's briefing on bin Laden's plans for the next year and a half.

#95 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:22 AM:

jmmcdermott #92: Also, why must we keep twisting the language? We keep calling them "Politician's Children", "Their Children", etc. Yes, they are the children of politicians, but they are also adults.

Hang on a minute, you were the person suggesting that they be given special treatment as the offspring of politicians. If they're to be treated as responsible adults, let them be drafted along with all the rest, and let their combat commanders make the call as to whether to put them in harm's way.

For instance, Lt. Wales of the Blues and Royals (aka Prince Harry) was (ostensibly) not sent to Basra because his presence there would have endangered his fellow troops, rather than direct fears for him. The difference matters.

#96 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Shakespeare had a few things for Falstaff to say about "The King's Press"

If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet. I have misused the king’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press me none but good householders, yeomen’s sons; inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the banns; such a commodity of warm slaves, as had as lief hear the devil as a drum; such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild-duck. I pressed me none but such toasts-and-butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than pins’ heads, and they have bought out their services; and now my whole charge consists of ancients, corporals, lieutenants, gentlemen of companies, slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton’s dogs licked his sores; and such as indeed were never soldiers, but discarded unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters and ostlers trade-fallen, the cankers of a calm world and a long peace; ten times more dishonourable ragged than an old faced ancient: and such have I, to fill up the rooms of them that have bought out their services, that you would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and pressed the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat: nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves on; for, indeed I had the most of them out of prison. There’s but a shirt and a half in all my company; and the half shirt is two napkins tacked together and thrown over the shoulders like a herald’s coat without sleeves; and the shirt, to say the truth, stolen from my host at Saint Alban’s, or the red-nose inn-keeper of Daventry. But that’s all one; they’ll find linen enough on every hedge. (I Henry IV, 4.2.10 ff)

And more briefly:

Tut, tut; good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder; they’ll fill a pit as well as better: tush, man, mortal men, mortal men. (I Henry IV, 4.2.63 ff)

#97 ::: pedatic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:44 PM:

jmmcdermott @ 92 (and earlier)

We have a draft system, whether we like it or not.

Um, no, we don't. We have a selective service registration system which may be used IF we institute a draft.

Your initial argument does raise an important point: What happens when a politician's child is captured? Yes, they will bw a high-stakes hostage. If it is a president or Congress-critters' kid, this is especially true. A Governor or other state or local figure, still valuable, but less so.

If their children are threatened, what will those politicians do? And how much leeway is there in the system to let them do anything?

Several years ago The West Wing broadcast a scenario where the President's daughter was kidnapped by terrorists. In that case the President stepped down, much like your analogous surgeon. In the real world, this probably would not work out so well.

But the point you have not answered is why "so many disagree with me about exempting politician's young adults from the draft.

Why are those particular young adults -- and their parents -- special?

You have pointed out these "children" are in fact adults -- so are all other potential draftees. Why should some adult children be denied their choice, while others are exempted?

You stated: "The horrors of war are exacerbated when the soldier can be used as a media tool." This is true. Why is one soldier more valuable than another? We already have seen numerous hostages -- military and civilian -- on camera and tortured in order to manipulate us as a country.

If all citizens are forced to send their (adult)children into this danger, why should those who make the decision to send them be exempt? Why are their children and their grief more important or more valuable than mine?

Yes, a "politician's child WILL be used as a political tool dramatically more than any other soldier." This, as politicians and others tell us, is part of the cost of waging war. Why should they pay this cost using others' currency?

In #89, Dave Bell pointed out that others have previously dealt with this issue. Also, your analogy to surgeons, while clever, is not accurate. A surgeon wants to be level-headed, and so will not operate on their own loved ones so their is no emotion to affect the healing.
The politicians sending the troops to war are not healers, and are not doing so from a pure, enlightened, and level-headed analysis of the risks.

I hesitate to imagine what would occur if, drafted, Jenna Bush's convoy was captured and she was taken by any insurgent with a webcam.

And if, lacking Jenna Bush, the same insurgent uses my 19 year old draftee as his example, why is it OK for the government to have sent my child into that situation against his or her will, and not Jenna?

Admittedly, in terms of the current administration, your scenario does scare the bejeezus out of me -- if George Dubious Bush were to face a scenario where anything he wanted or valued was threatened, I have little faith that he has sufficient character not to do whatever he was told, even to the point of attacking London or Israel.

On the other hand, maybe that sort of draft would also make Americans more careful who they elected.

You also said: why must we keep twisting the language? We keep calling them "Politician's Children", "Their Children", etc. Yes, they are the children of politicians, but they are also adults. The way we speak, it makes these young adults sound like property or juvenile wards, when the "children" are decision-makers, and adults. We're talking about adults, not children.

Yes. But so what? The point is these people -- whether you call them "children" or "adults" are exactly the same as all the other draft-eligible people. Equal in age, equally adult, equally "decision-makers." So why should those few get special treatment?

Your last point, however, is wrong.
You stated: As far as the military recruiting heavily among the poor instead of the rich, we also forget basic math. Poor outnumber rich. There should be more soldiers from lower socio-economic backgrounds in the military because there are a heck lots more of those in the nation at large. Recruiting to the rich kids is a bad marketing ploy simply because there aren't as many of them.

"Basic Math" indicates that your argument is true if -- and only if -- the make-up of the US Armed Forces has the same percentage break-downs as the US population. Generally, however, the percentage of minorities and the poor who enter the armed services is statistically higher than their presence in the population at large.

#98 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 12:49 PM:

jmmcdermott #92:

Exempting likely political/media targets from roles where they are likely to get captured and tortured or executed for PR reasons makes good sense. But that wouldn't justify keeping someone like Jenna Bush from the draft, just keeping her from a posting on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, right? If she was doing support operations in Kuwait, or maybe even in a well-secured part of Iraq, it wouldn't be an issue.

#99 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 01:20 PM:

I'd like to suggest that in nearly every war we can think of, the rich benefited far more from the war than the less wealthy groups, and certainly a great deal more than the poor. They certainly suffer the consequence far less.

In most wars we can think of the poor are more poor when the overt fighting stops and the rich are more rich.

So why shouldn't they be fighting the battle that is about them getting more rich? In this particular war, this is undeniable -- see cheney et al.

Also there are enormous numbers of children of the wealthy in this nation, and more so all the time. Yes, even as the population as a whole becomes more poor every year. We were taken to dinner Friday night by one of those scions of the wealthy -- good grief, what is he by now? 4th, 5th generation out of this family, that by now has propagated into hundreds of living members? No chance in the world that he's going to Iraq in any shape or form, while living on the proceeds of a particular invention necessary to the Big Oil Industry made by an ancestor that continues to make everyone in the inheritance line never need to have a job of any kind ever -- and wars only make them more wealthy. So he gets to fly about investigating obscure musical cultures and pick and choose which ones he'd like to record. This is his hobby. He certainly doesn't make any money at it. And asked us to dinner to see if we could tell him just why he wasn't making any money on these CDs. So evidently someone else takes care of his money, since the reasons he can only lose money on this hobby are so obvious even I know the answer!

And speaking of those who have the right or do not have a right to support a draft -- in my family alone right now there is a grandmother, her son and her granddaughter in Iraq. I've lost a couple of cousins, and others. Many of them are in their 40's and 50's.

What it comes down to, if a war is being fought for the whim or the benefit of the privileged, then by thunder they should be spilling their blood for it along with the less privileged -- IF this is a democracy.

But, it was a flawed democracy from the gitgo (slavery, etc.). By now it is not a democracy of any kind. Iraq proves it. One of the most fundamental interests of this new nation was to set up a system that kept the nation out of such sorts of wars, begun and fought as part of the ludic activity of the very wealthy and powerful.

Love, C.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 01:49 PM:

Bruce Cohen #90:

There seem to be a couple different arguments here:

a. The draft is like compulsory education--it's for the good of the draftees.

b. The draft is like taxes--it's a sensible way to get the necessary functions of society paid for.

Both of these seem wrong to me.

The problem with (a): When someone tells me they're going to make me clean out their stable "for my own good," I'm pretty sure whose good they're mostly concerned with. When a parent tells a kid that, it's at least plausible that the kid is supposed to learn something about responsibility. But it's probably mostly about getting that stable cleaned.

We're talking about compelling people to do jobs they don't want to do--cleaning out bedpans or preaching abstinence education to high school kids or mining coal. It would be a remarkable coincidence if the unpleasant jobs we wanted done below market rates just happened to be beneficial to the draftees forced to do them. It is far more likely, to me, that they will be sent to shovel out stables that someone needs shoveled out, without regard to whether they'll learn any lessons more valuable than "stables stink" from the job.

The problem with (b): Let's think about drafting people to mine coal. This is a dirty, dangerous, unpleasant job, and you can imagine wanting to have it done below market wages.

How does this work in terms of fairness? Some fraction of draftees get sent to mine coal for two years. They have a very dirty and nasty job, which they can't refuse, and for which they're paid the draftee wage, whatever that is. People who are claustrophobic either cope with it, get a psych discharge (which probably hurts their prospects for the rest of their lives), or refuse and get sent to jail or something. When you can't quit, the boss has very little incentive to care whether you're happy with the job or not.

How does this work in terms of productivity and economic consequences? Well, suppose Alice was studying premed when she got drafted, and we have no deferments. She drops everything and spends two years mining coal. Then she comes back and starts school again. She graduates, goes to medical school, does a residency, and finally starts practicing on her own. Everything is shifted two years later, except her retirement probably isn't shifted later, and her age-related decline in health that brings about her retirement isn't. We got two years of mining coal, at the cost of two years of medical practice.

Now, you can imagine cases where this isn't true. Perhaps Bob is shiftless and won't work a day past his two-year draft term, where he's scared enough of his sergeant to work very hard at mining coal. But most people were going to work, and probably most of them were going to do more valuable work than mining coal or cleaning out bedpans. Maybe Carol learns a trade in the National Service corps and follows it the rest of her life. But if we want trade schools paid for by two years of service, we can make that voluntary.

#101 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Constance #98:

How does that track with WW2 in the US? It seems like most people did much better after the war.

Similarly, the US civil war benefited at least one group of very poor people quite a bit. The fact that they didn't get as much benefit as they should have from this doesn't change the fact that going from slave to poor really is a big improvement.

The population isn't becoming more poor every year, as far as I can tell.

And I don't see why the fact that many people in your family have volunteered for military service and gone to Iraq, or that some have died, has anything to do with whether you get to draft my kids for the next war. If I've had family members die in coal mining accidents, do I get to demand that your kids get drafted to mine coal? How would that make any sense?

#102 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:17 PM:

#60 "Do your duty to your country! No, don't join the Army...Vote for Mitt!" This would be a great campaign ploy. Particularly if, worst-case-scenario, supporting Mitt would get all the rest of us a draft deferment.

(Or, in line with Dogbert's campaign pledge "to take money from the people who don't vote for me and give it to the people who do," just use the same criteria for the draft?)

#67 My office put together a care package for some soldiers stationed in Iraq (including a colleague's husband). One of the most commonly requested items is cans of Red Bull. Well, now we know why.

#103 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:27 PM:


I don't understand your use of coal-mining as an example here. Someone upthread said that there was a "conscientious objector" subclass to their country's required service, and that it seemed to be used for largely positive, humanitarian services.

We're also not talking about a "draft" into public service, but rather a year spent in service for the public good, required for every single citizen. If it was set up in the way the "conscientious objector" system was set up upthread, there'd be no coal mining. And it doesn't sound like it's mechanical bedpan emptying either, but rather offering general home assistance to mostly self-sufficient elderly people. I'd assume that things like working on habitat for humanity style projects might qualify as well... I'm not an expert on mandatory civilian service programs.

Now if your objection to a year of service is that you believe the US government will always be so corrupt that it will use this for cheap labor rather than actual public service, then say that. But that's not a problem with mandatory public service as a concept so much as it is a problem with the pattern in our current government.

I just find your coal-mining example a bit like a straw man. I'm not sure I'm in favor of a mandatory service year either, but comparing learning to develop compassion for the elderly and underprivileged with coal mining for sub-minimum wage doesn't sit right with me.

#104 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:39 PM:

"One of the most commonly requested items is cans of Red Bull. Well, now we know why."

Consider smuggling them some modafinil.

#105 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 02:49 PM:

In a world where government is nothing more than an arbiter of agreements between citizens, a draft violates that rule in too many ways.

If you think government is above the people, or that the majority of people can tell the minority what to do, love it or leave it and all that, then you have the worldview needed to support the draft.

But as a nation of equals, no one has authority to compell another to support such extreme and violent action, even indirectly through non-combat roles.

No, military service is not like a "tax", any more than capital punishment has anything to do with "justice".

We must maintain a military by choice, not draft.

#106 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 03:23 PM:

albatross: The broadening of prosperity post WW2 (and not WW1) is because we worked at it.

The GI Bill sent tens of thousands to college. Which changed a huge swath of folks to tech jobs (expanding on the speedy infusion of tech the war spun off).

We also had strong unions, so the working classes moved up.

Combined with a tax structure which reduced incentives for huge pay gaps between the boss, and the rank and file. Why would someone want an extra ten million in pay, when nine-million of that was going straight to the gov't?

But investments in new plants, R&D, etc., were exemptions on the corporate taxes.

Unless those sorts of things return, a big draft is just a drain on the economy (because it's several million people being clothed, housed fed and paid.

There are some other things which come into it as well. If the skills I have, as a fifteen year soldier, leading troops, planning, managing, teaching, etc. aren't being paid a decent wage, I'll be more likely to take those skills out of the Army.

Which means either a two-tier pay scale (draftees, and career soldiers) or a brain drain.

Or an even larger hit to the economy as you pay those people who are drafted a decent wage.

#107 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Leah #102:

I don't see any difference between your phrasing and mine, except that yours sounds nicer. "A year spent in service for the public good, required for every single citizen" really does mean that you're drafted into some kind of service, which is almost certainly assigned to you based on what the authorities think they need done.

Or do you suppose I can meet my national service obligations by sitting on the beach thinking about math, or taking care of my own children? If those things aren't acceptable (and they aren't), then someone is going to have to tell me what my service will be. Maybe they'll offer me a choice, but I wouldn't bet on it. Certainly at some point, there will be unappealing jobs that need to be done, and draftees standing around waiting to be assigned some jobs, and these two problems will be resolved in the obvious way.

You objected to my example of coal mining. Why? What would be worse about sending draftees to mine coal than sending them to clean out bedpans? They're unpleasant jobs that need doing, and it costs money to pay people enough to want to do them.

Obviously, you can try to describe things in some way that's less nasty. Perhaps they'll spend a couple years learning compassion for the elderly. Or maybe they'll be dragooned into cleaning bedpans in old folks' homes. Perhaps they'll be drafted and sent to the coal mines. Or maybe they'll spend a couple years learning to work in a respectable and old trade, getting an understanding for all kinds of important safety equipment and engineering necessary to allow the nation's mineral wealth to be extracted. Phrase it how you will, I expect the draftees will understand the real situation--they get assigned some job, and they either do it or go to prison.

#108 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:30 PM:

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the "Federal service" of Heinlein's Starship Troopers yet in this discussion. Or is that so obvious a connection that everyone's taking it for granted?

#109 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:45 PM:

A voluntary military, rather than a draft, also provides an important check on a leader's ability to resort to violent politics.

Shrub may want to invade Iran, but to do it, he's somehow got to convince enough people to join the army so that he can pull it off. Most people have seen what his track record is, and he isn't going to get enough volunteers.

One of the jobs of a leader is to convince people to follow, and one of the jobs of followers is to watch the leader with a critical eye, and refuse to follow where it is immoral or ill advised. A draft short-circuits this safety measure.

The whole concept of "following orders" when it comes to violence is scary enough - people thinking that they aren't responsible for the consequences of their actions. Expanding it to not just orders within a conflict, but to participation in the conflict itself, can only make things worse.

Right now, we can't count on either Congress or the Courts to provide a much needed check on Shrub. The one tool we have left is the willingness of people to obey his orders. People thinking that, even if it is a good economic choice, the military is a poor choice for other reasons, and people who might join up out of patriotism, even if they don't need the economic opportunity, deciding that the patriotic thing to do is not sign up to follow a madman, and people who might be convinced to join up to fight the right war seeing that this isn't the right war, and not joining. Giving him the draft, as a tool to override the refusal to join up and follow, would be a really bad idea.

#110 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Joel Polowin: The difference is such that it's apples and orangess. Federal Service, in ST is both voluntary, and universal.

There is no restriction. If one is homosexual, commie, blind in one eye, deaf, quadrapalegic, etc., the FS in ST will take you.

Not so the present military, not even when it had a draft.

#111 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Terry Karney @ 109: I was referring to the part of the discussion relating to some form of required service, not necessarily military.

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Joel Polowin: I understand, but the Federal Service in ST isn't required.

So it's not a valid comparison. Everyone in that book who is on Federal Service is a volunteer.

All: And now we are, after way too many man hours of packing, on the road.

#113 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:37 PM:


Maybe they'll offer me a choice, but I wouldn't bet on it. Certainly at some point, there will be unappealing jobs that need to be done, and draftees standing around waiting to be assigned some jobs, and these two problems will be resolved in the obvious way.

er, what about the fact that there are countries which have national service, & where people in national service never do dangerous jobs for less than minimum wage? why do your assumptions trump reality?

#114 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 05:54 PM:

albatross @106

I think we're having some confusion on two counts: firstly definitions and secondly executions. To me "draft" has inherent in its definition a selectivity, an implication that not every single person will have to participate. The definition in the American Heritage Dictionary is: "The process or method of selecting one or more individuals from a group, as for a service or duty."

Something that was universal to every single citizen doesn't seem to be a draft to me. However I have heard the word "draft" used to specify any sort of compulsory recruitment, so I'll allow that the word has a broader definition nowadays.

Now for the question of execution. When you talk about compulsory social service, you seem to be talking about something entirely hypothetical. If you have a real world example of a mandatory social service turning into the type of situation you describe, I'd very much like to read about it.

When I talk about compulsory social service I am talking specifically about something like the FSJ (which I think may be the social year igne was referring to @ #91). The only difference between a year of public service and the FSJ is that the FSJ is an alternative to mandatory military service (and I'm certainly not for mandatory military service), whereas a public service system could potentially be just that... something that exists independently from military structure, but which is still required of everyone.

You can find some information about the FSJ here. It sounds to me as if people participating can chose from a number of fields and be given an assignment somewhere, where they work normal hours helping people and are given room, board, pocket money, and health insurance. There's a FOJ as well, for ecological work.

If you want to argue against mandatory social service, please use something like this as your example of what it would be like. I can imagine arguments about how this kind of service is harmful to the job market and young people or why the US would not be able to carry them off as well as Germany has.

To me your arguments seem to indicate you believe social service would turn out to be slave labor. Well the German one didn't. So any statement that a mandatory year of public service will eventually equal slavery doesn't make sense to me, when I have an example to present here of a mandatory public service that seems to be quite beneficial for the participants and the country.

I'm not even arguing FOR a year of social services here. But if you are going to argue against them, at least argue against what they are really like. Or argue why one in our country would definitely be different from the ones that already exist, rather than arguing that positive ones would not exist.

I know Wikipedia is sometimes inaccurate, but I learned a lot from their article on Conscription in Germany. Now imagine German Conscription WITHOUT the military aspect.

I feel that your "coal mine, work or go to prison" example is an exaggeration. I felt it sounded so incorrect that I actually began to research a subject I had never been concerned with before, in an attempt to somehow counter your argument. I thank you for that.

I suppose my instinct towards looking favorably on a civilian service like the FSJ or FOJ is based largely on a number of people I know who have no experience dealing with anyone who has been unfortunate and who may need social aid. I find that once they have a relative or friend in such a situation, or once they do some community service, their tune often changes. While I'm not sure a universal social service would be a benefit, I can see the appeal. There are a large number of young people I know who would benefit immensely from exposure to those less fortunate.

It would also create situations where the rich and the poor end up in a common workplace. It would make it less possible to be entirely disconnected from the price of milk and the rest of the world, for at least a year.

It's tempting.

#115 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:04 PM:

you said it much better than me, leah.

i am not dead-set sold on the idea of universal mandatory public service terms, & my goal here is not to convince others that it's a good program to implement. just that an informed argument is a better argument. er, again, like she said.

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:51 PM:

Leah@113: I suppose my instinct towards looking favorably on a civilian service like the FSJ or FOJ is based largely on a number of people I know who have no experience dealing with anyone who has been unfortunate and who may need social aid. I find that once they have a relative or friend in such a situation, or once they do some community service, their tune often changes.

This may be true, but the list of things that people change their opinions about once they've had some real experience about it is actually pretty big. If this were sufficient justification for mandatory service, it could justify a lifetime of mandatory service.

I don't have a problem with people learning new things and expanding their understanding. I have a problem with it being mandatory and bureaucratic, which is itself someting that some poeple do not appreciate the problems with until they've actually suffered it. Not that I'd recommend a mandatory bureaucratic experience for everyone so they understand its pitfalls.

Which isn't to say it can't be done well. But more to say it could be done extremely poorly.

The only example of mandatory service in America we have is jury duty. I got paid $50 a day. My job covered me for two weeks. The trial lasted a couple months. Sure I learned quite a bit about our justice system. But would I support a year's worth of mandatory civilian service at $50 a day just so everyone can learn that CSI Nevada is a bunch of science fiction? No thanks.

#117 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I wrote, "most wars," have left the poor more poor and the wealthy more wealthy.

As for your example of the Civil War: well it sure as heck didn't benefit the poor citizens of Confederacy one bit to fight for a system that they not only did not participate in (i.e., not being slave owners in an economic system in which slaves were used as money), and left most of them worse off than before. But then, if they bought the kool-aid, I suppose you could say they got what they bought.

In the meantime there were quite a few Southerners who did actually become very very wealthy from the war, and some others who got more wealthy than they were before. Always happens that way.

But still, your argument doesn't wash too well. Because, if you are having a war from which you benefit, you really shouldn't expect other people to be pleased that they and theirs are expected to die for it and you are not, because well, you just don't like that job. In my case, the people in my family who have been killed and wounded are Reserves and Guard, not gungho as you seem to think. People in the 40's and 50's. Who first were sent out to Kosovo, and since this thing, have been re-deployed several times.

There are lots of jobs that people don't like. Clearing wilderness to plant cotton was one of them. That was solved by a draft too, er, um, slavery.

When the wealthy and powerful are bound and determined to have a war and the nation doesn't want it, conscription comes in. The Confederacy needed a conscription even as popular as that war was in many corners. And so did the Union.

When they want a war and not enough people want the job conscription comes into it. That is not going to change in the future.

Shoot, considering the realities of the situation in Iraq, they might have to start a draft just to have enough military to get the worn out troops out.

Love, C.

#118 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:54 PM:

miriam #112, Leah #113:

Fair enough. I have no experience with compulsory national service, so maybe I'm misunderstanding how it really works. However, I'll note three things about the German Conscription article on Wikipedia:

a. The description sounds like it is conscription done in about as nice a way as you could imagine. Lots of flexibility (enough that they point out that a lot of people apparently game the system), fairly short time served, etc.

b. Until reunification, they still apparently had lots of recent high-school graduates moving to West Berlin to avoid the draft. This implies something about how desireable those would-be draftees thought the service was.

c. There's a nice comment at the end about why they don't want to eliminate the draft, involving the fact that various human-service jobs are currently done at very low wages, and it would cost money to cover that.

More to the point, the military form of the draft is absolutely about forcing people to take dangerous jobs at low wages. The exceptions offered for conscientious objectors are at least arguably about letting people avoid killing anyone, not about allowing them to avoid a dangerous job that doesn't involve combat. So I guess I don't see why it's nuts to think that a peacetime version of the draft would be willing to give people dangerous nonviolent jobs to do.

Let's put that aside. Let's assume that compulsory national service makes people spend a couple years working in nursery schools or nursing homes or cleaning government offices or some such moderately unpleasant, but not really dangerous, thing. It's still a job you can't refuse. It's still almost certainly paying you less than market rates for the job--even the German scheme seems to do that.

As long as the service is compulsory, you are going to have the aspect of "Do job X or go to prison." Maybe it will be "Do one of jobs X,Y or Z or go to prison." But that "or go to prison" is pretty much a requirement of having the scheme be compulsory.

#119 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Fragano@57: Rangel's bill was a booby trap; there are several things you can call Republican congresscritters, but "politically stupid" (as a class) isn't one of them -- look at the way they punked the Democrats just over a week ago. A bill that comes out of the executive branch will smell a lot sweeter.

Toru Ranryu: the question is when the Chinese will decide that they want to spend more of our money on buying influence (which they seem to be better at than we ever were, although a general lack of scruples may help) than on lending it back to us to help us act like fools.

#120 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:49 AM:

A lot of comments seem to be dividing the consequences of a widespread draft between military service in combat and social services, with no middle ground. Back in WWII, my father -- short, with poor eyesight and notable mainly for his accounting skills -- worked behind the scenes in the supply sector. They sent him overseas, but he never did any fighting. Is everything so computerized today that people like him are no longer necessary?

I'm not mentioning this in order to grind any axes, but just to widen the field of discussion a little bit more with a question whose answer I don't know.

#121 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:37 PM:

Leah @116, FSJ is what the non-conscripted (third sons and women) can do if they want to. That's why it's "F" for "Freiwillig" ("voluntary").

What COs do is "Wehrersatzdienst". (Replacement-for-military-service?)

#122 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Faren #119:

My impression (I haven't researched this) is that COs in the US military used to get assigned to be medics pretty often, which was sometimes a quite dangerous job. And I believe that all militaries end up having many support people for each soldier actually fighting.

If we had a draft, ISTM that these support jobs are where we'd put people who would be at risk of especially nasty treatment or especially useful for propoganda if caught. They wouldn't be immune to the draft, but they might end up working someplace where they were very unlikely to be captured.

#123 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:37 PM:

There isn't going to be a draft. Period.

General Lute was shooting his mouth off. He's been sat on about it since.

All of us here in the (um, uh) are holding our hands to our heads and going, jeez, why did he *say* that and make everyone's life so much harder?!

There isn't going to be a draft. Fa ghu's sake, think instead of merely reacting. How, for example, would you get one enacted into law?! Think, people!

#124 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Pedantic nitpicking time: 'mandatory' means there are penalties for not doing it.

'Compulsory' means they can actually force you to do it in order to do something else.

Example 1: Getting a license before driving a car is mandatory; if you drive without a license they will arrest you. Having a learner's permit before getting a license is compulsory; they simply will not issue you a license if you haven't had a learner's permit.

Example 2: At my company, there is a certain field in our ticketing system which is very important, but not required by the software. All the users of the system have been instructed that they MUST populate that field, but it's perfectly possible to save a ticket without doing so. This is as near a perfect example of the difference between mandatory and compulsory as I can think of: the field is currently only mandatory, but as of the next software release they will make it compulsory.

The draft as implemented in this country was mandatory: if you were drafted and didn't go, they would come and arrest you. It doesn't make sense for a draft to be compulsory.

That said, I'm aware that people say 'compulsory national service' all the time when talking about a draft. This is because Politicians Don't Know Shit, not because the draft would really be compulsory.

End of pedantic nitpick, with apologies. This is a fine distinction to most people, but it's one of my particular areas of itch.

#125 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Janet, #25: I don't want to see a draft, but I would love to see the perpetrators of this war take the political hit for creating a situation that demands one.


Anna, #34: It's a lot harder to vote for a warmongering draft-dodger when the ones that are at risk to be sent Down There are your kids.

Also Bingo! Remember how Bush (and a lot of others like him) used the National Guard as a way to avoid being sent to Nam? Now that trick doesn't work any more -- precisely because, due to the lack of a draft, there are no kids of the rich and powerful at risk; they just don't volunteer. So there's no reason to spare the Guard, since no one who matters is in it.

(Cynical? Who, me?)

Joel, re Heinlein: Terry's right. And one other thing: the reason that no one was ever turned down for Federal Service was that it was a prerequisite for CITIZENSHIP. If you were happy to be a "legal resident", you never had to serve. But if you wanted to vote, or to go into certain careers (such as law enforcement), you had to be a citizen, and for that you had to have done your Service term. So yeah, apples and oranges.

Tim, #122: I remember when you were a reasonably nice person. What happened?

That said, I'm in agreement with the people who say that a new draft is unlikely. Among other things, it would be Bush as good as admitting that he's failed in Iraq -- and that's the unthinkable, he never fails.

#126 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:46 PM:
How, for example, would you get one enacted into law?!
The same way the last dozen unconscionable, unthinkable, unconstitutional things got enacted into law?

It is no longer beyond the realm of possibility for Congress to pass a law permitting X - regardless of what X is, the possibility can't be ruled out.

#127 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:56 PM:
How, for example, would you get one enacted into law?!
The same way the last dozen unconscionable, unthinkable, unconstitutional things got enacted into law?

It is no longer beyond the realm of possibility for Congress to pass a law permitting X - regardless of what X is, the possibility can't be ruled out.

#128 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:49 PM:

I realized this afternoon that my #118 was optimistic; China may continue to subsidize U.S. lunacy up to exhaustion because it lets them play Good Cop while the U.S. is the Bad Cop. (Other comments have pointed in this direction -- I'm just being blunter.)

#129 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:52 PM:

Meanwhile, General Casey puts down a marker for another twenty Friedman units.

A questioner asked, “What are the prospects in Iraq and how will this war end?”

Casey responded, "Right now, there’s so much residual mistrust left over from the time under Saddam Hussein that they’re not quite ready to go forward. But they have an educated population, they have oil wells, they have water, they have some of the most fertile land I’ve ever seen. In a decade or so, this will be a remarkable country, if we stick with it."
#130 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 07:29 AM:

albatross @117: The description sounds like it is conscription done in about as nice a way as you could imagine.

You should have seen it in the 80s. To get c.o. status, you (generic male "you") pretty much had to bring a letter of recommendation from your pastor that you were a devout Christian and active in church, were threatened that you'd have to clean bedpans and do other kind of women's work, and had to serve a few months longer which meant that you lost a year starting uni or apprenticeship. Not to mention your bosses bullying you because they considered you a coward and a freeloader. Ah, the bad old times.

So I guess I don't see why it's nuts to think that a peacetime version of the draft would be willing to give people dangerous nonviolent jobs to do.

Most dangerous jobs are skilled jobs. There are, in fact, very few types on unskilled jobs in the public sector, or they would have every unemployed person doing those for 1 Euro/hour. (The choice for the worker is, do the job or lose your unemployment money. Which is not considered forced labor, because that would be unconsitutional. But I won't go on a rant here.)

Without unpaid or underpaid labor, be it by women or draftees, the system would probably crunch to a halt. Social and interpersonal work cannot be made efficient -- it can only be made cheap.

As it happens, I agree with you that the system is rotten, even if it works reasonably well. In my ideal world, caring for others would be a job with union hours and union wages. (And everyone would have a pony.)

It is, however, also strange. For a c.o., the social services job is a prize they have to work to get, so you hear very few complaining that on second thought they'd rather have had 18 months (it's less today) of beer and boredom, but you hear a lot of those who did military service say that it were the most useless and wasted months of their lives.

Something like the G.I. bill for people doing a few years of social service work for room, board, clothes money, train tickets home, health insurance and pocket money would probably be a better system. But that would leave us with a professional military, with its negative selection and sub-cultural threats, and the politicos would whine again that they are not getting enough 22 yos with Master's Degrees.

#131 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:51 AM:

inge #129:

I think it depends on the job. Around here, you see a lot of people doing moderately dangerous stuff like roofing/gutter cleaning in ways that don't suggest serious training, and these guys are virtually always speaking Spanish. (There's no way to know if they're here legally or not, but it wouldn't be a big shock if they weren't.)

On the other hand, industries where there's danger and serious safety equipment to protect against it tend to involve highly-skilled labor. I suspect the difference is one of incentives: If a worker dying through bad luck or carelessness lands on the employer (through liability, insurance claims, criminal charges, labor problems), then you get more safety equipment and workers that have to be trained to use it. If a worker dying through bad luck or carelessness lands on someone else, then there's not an incentive for the employer to insist on safety equipment or training, and so he probably won't.

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