Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Warning: rant ahead

Bring back the draft.

I teach American History. I do not utter those words lightly.

Rational but informed military figures have indicated that 60, 000 additional soldiers are needed for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am still not clear as to why we entered this zone of the world in a military fashion, but now that we're there, we should do the thing properly. I'm of the opinion that as Americans we should be held to a higher standard and if we're going to do this "thing" for another three+ years (if not more, as seems quite likely) we should do it properly.

Our present military force is strained, exausted and needs, nay deserves, assistance and support. 60, 000 additional military folks can only be obtained through reinstituting the draft. All right then - if this is truly war, as I keep being told it is, then make it so.

However, I (in my control of the country) wish to reconstruct the terms of the draft. Unlike Vietnam, we will not send the poor, the minorities, the under-educated (remember, in the 1960s college professors were warned that poor grades would land a student on the front line) and the unconnected. No. This time, Americans will be forced to show how deeply they believe in their bumper stickers. Everyone with a "United We Stand" "Support Our Troops" and "GWB '04" emblem on their car must send a family member to serve in the Middle East. If you support the war enough to put on a sticker (or magnet) then you support it enough to send a loved one over there and, no, I don't mean the Texas National Guard.

I have another student scrambling to complete his classwork before being shipped back (and I emphasize back) to Iraq. He seems like a really great guy - and every time he leaves my office, I want to cry.


torporindy said...

I agree. If we're going to do a job, let's do it right.

John B. said...

Can you run for president?

Joe said...

Funny how much I agree with that point now that my youngest brother is over 26.

But I do agree with it... in fact, I believe the right answer is mandatory Federal service. Every 18 year old joins up for 2 years; no deferrals except for the mentally disabled. COs can do Peace Corps or Americorps. The physically disabled can have office jobs.

But everybody sees the business end of government for two years at the end of high school.

tommyspoon said...

Have I mentioned tonight how much I hate these people?

Jim said...


Bartleby said...

Joe, Joe, Joe ...

Is slavery only bad when it involves armies? Does slavery become OK when it concentrates on the young folk?

I agree that compulsion is less bad when it's equal-opportunity. But it's still bad. Making it "universal" is a hell of a long way from making it acceptable.

Here's an alternative idea: since there will be these "office jobs" available for those who're physically unsound, how about opening them up (i.e., making them compulsory) for the geezers? Or, better still, for the folks in their "prime earning years?" Maybe folks your age, and mine.

Or, here's a (serious) alternative idea: how about we pull our stupendously huge standing army (and navy, and air force, etc.) out of the all-corners-of-the-globe that they occupy today. How about we bring them all home and disband them. How about we retain only a small, elite nucleus, that would devote itself to training, training, training, and training some more, on U.S. soil (or U.S. coastal waters or U.S. airspace), and actually being exquisitely prepared to defend actual U.S. borders from massive invasions from Canada, Mexico, or to repel those amphibious landings on the New Jersey beaches by the Iranians that Shrub and his folk undoubtedly lose sleep worrying about. A small, VERY small nucleus, that is. It can also serve as a training corps for the (volunteer) "militia," meaning the able-bodied citizenry of the country, in the extremely-unlikey event that actual defense against an actual large-scale invasion would be needed. The only routine "recruiting" would be for replacements in this tiny, elite warrior corps, when someone resigns, retires, or is hurt or killed in a training accident. And that recruiting would be extremely selective -- screening out, first of all, any prospective Abu Ghraib-type psychos.

Liberty. It's a good thing.

Joe said...

Bartleby, Bartleby, Bartleby.

Liberty isn't a good thing. It's a great thing.

And its price is eternal vigilance.

Compulsory universal service is no more "slavery" than paying taxes or doing jury service. It is the price of the Republic. It is the duty of citizenship. And if we have to have a draft of us geezers in order to get compulsory service for the young, well, give me draft number 1.

The problem is that we treat too many of our civic responsibilities as something which we can contract out or leave to someone else. We talk about "close enough for government work" and recruit as though the military is the job anyone can do. How can we have a government worth having if we don't treat it with dignity? And how can we honor something we have no frame of reference for?

I should stress my feeling that compulsory Federal service should not be restricted to just the military. I've been to New Orleans; FEMA could use a few more bodies. There are plenty of places for conscientious objectors, and to make this more than just a way to swell the ranks. It's a way to be part of your government, not just a consumer of its services.

As far as the idea that we can adequately protect ourselves with an elite Team America squadron, well, that's a nice thought. I'm sure isolationism can't fail again as spectacularly as it did in World War One. Or World War Two. It has to be the right tactic sooner or later. And it's not like there's any precedent for an Imperial Guard getting out of hand.

OK, that was snarky.

But if we believe that Liberty is worth spreading... if it's something more than a cute little nationalistic quirk... then we have to be prepared to help defend it for all people. Not that you can spread freedom by the sword; you can't make someone else free. Shrub doesn't get that. But in a world of Kaisers and Fuhrers and Kremlins and bin Ladens, sometimes you do have to make a stand.

Bartleby said...

Well, Joe, there's one thing I can agree with you about, and that's the idea that the price of liberty is vigilance. Question is: vigilance against whom? I'm pretty sure that I haven't lost any liberties to swarthy foreigners lately. But I've lost lots of them to Mordor-on-the-Potomac, and more than a few to my dark masters in Indianapolis.

One thing I don't understand about what you've written: you say that service to the state is the way to be "a part of your government," rather than a consumer of its largesse. FEMA needs help in New Orleans, you say. Why wait until you are conscripted to go there? Aren't you free to go and volunteer right this minute?

"Compulsory universal service" isn't slavery? What's the difference: that it's (allegedly) temporary, or that everyone is (allegedly) forced to do it? Neither goes to the essential nature of the matter.

As for Big Mistakes I and II representing "failures of isolationism" ... I don't even know where to start on that one. I don't think there's a meeting of the minds in our near future. I wish you well, though. Any fellow reader of lemming's blog is someone who has a lot going for him.

Joe said...

You're right, Bartleby, we're unlikely to reach much meeting of the minds. (For what it's worth, we have very similar opinions of this administration.) But I'll answer your question.

I got on a bus and gutted houses in New Orleans for a week. And I did so because my government failed to do its job.

My assertion is that it would be useful information for more of the populace to actually have participated in the working of the Executive Branch. I think, in that world, fewer Arabian horse judges (or defense contractors) would be appointed to Cabinet-level positions, because the voters wouldn't stand for dishonoring their work with such incompetence.

But let me ask you a question, and I'll give you the final word: in our system of jury service, the government compels your presence and your task under penalty of law. If we go right the the essentials of the matter, isn't that "slavery" too?

Bartleby said...

"But let me ask you a question, and I'll give you the final word: in our system of jury service, the government compels your presence and your task under penalty of law. If we go right the the essentials of the matter, isn't that 'slavery' too?"

Final word, singular: yes.

Elaborations on final word: "slavery," like many words, has more than one dictionary definition. In my elderly dictionary, the Webster's "New" Collegiate, published in 1975(!), the first three are: (1) drudgery or toil; (2) submission to a dominating influence; and (3) the state of a person who is a chattel of another. That last turns out to be somewhat circular ... when you look up "chattel," you find that it means either a piece of property (exclusive of real estate), or a slave. I would suggest that the first two are clearly applicable to "jury duty," and the third arguably (although less obviously) is, too.

I concede freely that a person who is summoned to jury duty still has options available. He can say, "Oh boy! Jury duty! Let me at it!" He can say (as I did, when I was summoned), "That's highly inconvenient, but a responsible citizen in a free society is willing to do something reasonable to provide justice to his fellow citizens, so off I go." (This is similar to your commendable response to the New Orleans situation.) He can say, "I'm not willing to do this -- I was planning to watch American Idol tonight -- but since I fear punishment, I'll slouch on down there and sleep in the jury box if I can get away with it." That would be analagous to the guy who takes your place in New Orleans under Mandatory Universal Federal Service. And then, finally, there's the guy who says, "To hell with that -- I'm a free man, and I don't jump just because they crack the whip ... if they toss me in jail, well, they'll just have to do what they have to do." I suppose that last option was also available, in principle, to any field hand in the antebellum South who chose to risk capture and harsh punishment, rather than pick Massa's cotton.

I guess I don't see that the essential relationship between slave and slaveowner is improved much by calling the latter "Uncle Sam" rather than "massa."

Anonymous said...

Great thinking guys! Only one small issue: draftees get paid, slaves don't.

Bartleby said...

Sure, slaves get paid. They just get paid directly in food and quarters, rather than cash.

Marie said...

How does the draft = if you support the war then fight in it. There are alot of young people who do not support the war and I don't see how making them join the war is going to help anything. I say NO to the draft. If they need troops then offer good incentives for young men and women to a living salary, better benefits and combat pay. Americans have always responded when in need at war time. They will continue to do that into the future. All branches of the military have exceeded their quotas and will continue to do so. Young people do not have to join the military to get an education. If they did it's because their parents & guidance counselors did not take the time to advise them of what's available. Joining the military for money for college is a cop out. There is money available if you're willing to sacrafice and work for it.

Drewster said...

Marie, Americans have always responded in the time of war?

Really? Now Lemming might need to do a cram session for us, but what wars were drafted? Did they draft the revolution? Civil war? WWI? WWII? I don't know.

According to nostalgia, men joined up for these wars in droves. It was something they believed in. The American way, freedom and all that.

Did they join up in droves for Vietnam? Iraq? I am sure come brave, well meaning young people did, but it wasn't the same. I know when George the First was "saving" Kuait, I stayed up most of the night one January waiting for the bombs to go. The draft was being thrown around then, and I was still young enough to get conscripted should it happen. I don't have a politician father to protect me. My family isn't filthy rich to buy me out of service. I was very afraid.

Oh, and when was the last time you bought a war bond? Saved tin to be made into bullets? Wrapped gause into bandages? Went without to support the war effort? Just curious?

America does respond in the time of war anymore. It sells. It doesn't sacrifice. Well, except those families who have men and women serving in the armed forces.

Where is Captain America and the Fantastic Four when you need them?