Putting to rest a foolish idea about reinstating the draft

The Left periodically floats the idea of reinstating the draft.  They dress it up in an “everyone should share the burden” argument, but it’s pretty clear that the goal is to create a Vietnam War dynamic, in which young people take to the streets to protest a war, not because they know anything about the war, but because they don’t want to be drafted to fight the war.

I have thought that the draft would be a good idea for one reason and one reason only:  I would love to see the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of this world going through boot camp.  More seriously, I have said that, in an increasingly divided country, mandatory military service has the advantage of turning the liberal “salad bowl,” with disparate parts of American culture uneasily coexisting, into the famed American melting pot.

It’s a nice dream, but I wouldn’t do it.  Our American military is one of the great American success stories.  Consisting of professionals and volunteers, it’s a surprisingly tightly run organization, given its size and bureaucracy, and it does precisely what it’s supposed to do, which is to protect Americans from foreign enemies.  Messing with it, especially for the purpose of some pie-in-the-sky social experiment, would be an insane act.  I like to doodle around mental with interesting ideas, but I’m not insane.

Recently, a liberal came out with an entirely new idea for reinstating the draft, and it has the dubious charm of acknowledging my point, which is that the military is one of the best functioning parts of our government.  Thomas Ricks insists that we need a draft because our military is so darn good, it’s an irresistible incentive to get involved in unnecessary wars.  As I understand Hicks, he’s analogizing our military to the high performance sports car some middle-aged guy who lives in a crowded city bought on impulse.  It was a stupid idea, because it’s not much use in the City, so our middle-aged race car driver constantly finds reasons to get that car out on the freeway, where he runs it at high speeds, unnecessarily putting at risk the lives of innocents traveling down those same roads in their sedate family vans.

The Mellow Jihadi and America’s Sergeant Major politely (because they are gentlemen and members of our armed forces) treat Hicks’ idea with the contempt it deserves.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    And “contempt” is the perfect word with which to treat this idea.

  • Caped Crusader

    Born 1934, most of remembered life involved WW2 and immediate scare of Cold War and Soviet aggression post 1945. Harry Truman signed Universal Military Training Act in 1949. Followed by Korean War in 1950 in which as many were killed in @18 months as in entire Vietnam War. It never dawned on my age group that we would not spend time on active duty — part of your life. Experienced 3 years ROTC in high school followed by 2 years minimum in college and four if you wanted a commission. Spent 71/2 years in what was called an Army “Ready Reserve” unit in 1950’s period, maintaining an efficiency to be fully functional and on the line in 15 days if needed. Doctor duty soft, except in war, compared to what the other guys have to go through. After medical school received an O-3 commission and 2 years active duty, followed by 35 years in inactive reserve, retaining commission and willing to serve again in an emergency. Received only call post 9/11 from surgeon general’s office and told them if we were bad off enough to need men in their late 60’s call me up. They had me fill out a new set of forms and never called back — wanted trauma surgeons. It’s everyone’s country and they should be proud to serve if needed. But a totally different mindset in my generation.
    And never forget if it was good enough for Elvis, Clark  Gable, Ted Williams, et cetera forever it’s good enough for everyone, but everyone no longer good enough for service.

  • Caped Crusader

    Just remembered a funny? incident in June 1950 when the Korean War began. No TV yet, but radio bulletins crackling every few minutes — desperate times, almost thrown out of Korean peninsula early in war.  At 16, I was playing American Legion baseball and friend and I were in a sporting goods store looking at gloves. The clerk had just been released from active duty and was nervous about being called back, since the obligation in those days was 2 years active duty followed by 6 years in reserves before final release. A fellow employee returned from lunch and he nervously asked the latest bulletins and was told–“Joe, just go home and put your uniform on, because Russia just invaded Alaska and WW3 has begun.” Nobody laughed or thought it a joke, for the times were that tense, and the blood drained from Joe’s face so fast he was the most pale person I have ever seen.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    My company has an office in France and until very recently conscription was still in force.   It had rapidly decreased to as little as a single day of attending recruiting promotions but used to be 18 months.   During the first Gulf War,  the French had to scramble to assemble an expeditionary force out of regular forces and the Foreign Legion since conscripts could not be sent outside of Metropolitan France.   Perhaps this is the model the liberals are thinking of?

  • Tonestaple

    I can see the value of the melting pot and it would be hilarious to see socialites in combat boots, but you know we can’t trust Congress to make sure that their biggest donors can’t buy an exemption.

    Further, I have read many times that modern warfare is way too technical to teach to uninspired and resentful draftees.

    Finally, I can’t help but think that the draft is slavery. It’s the state saying it owns your life for a period of time, no matter what your thoughts on the subject might be, and we must never ever be expected to concede ownership of our persons to the state.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The rich and powerful always found ways to evade the draft. Que Clinton’s march to Canada. and Ted Kennedy.

    A draft is advocated by the Left because they know rules are for little people and it just gives the federal government more power over the lives of slaves.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    And let’s not forget people like Murtha, ex marine, and John Fing Kerry. Even if you put them in the military, who is to say they won’t become another obama voter like that one SecDef, and a general like Diversity Casey as seen in Ft. Hood? None of you here can guarantee against it. But the Leftist politicians can PROMISE to make that reality. 

  • expat

    Germany has also gotten rid of its draft. Even though many young men opted for alternative service (nursing homes, etc.), the numbers of draftees still exceeeded the need. As a result, the length of service became shorter and shorter, to the point that the draftees were barely trained. Also, women were exempt from both military and alternative sevice, which put the guys at a disadvantage careerwise.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The point is, after Obama is gone, there won’t be enough money in the entire US Treasury to pay for half the people that can be “drafted”… so who gets exemptions? I’ll tell you who. The ones from ‘Democrat families’. You and you children however… will get sent to fight in Iran. Or maybe Libya. Or whoever the Left finds it convenient to entertain themselves with.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The reason why Totalitarian governments often sent their best military units out on far away expeditions is because they didn’t trust the power those military leaders and units could wield if they were sitting around in the capital, when the citizens were thinking about revolting. Stalin did it. It was called Siberia or maybe you just disappeared in the night. Hitler did it with his generals, both purged em and divided em up. It’s nothing new under Obamao.

  • jj

    I agree with Crusader: it never occurred to me that it wasn’t part of the deal – because growing up, it was.  I knew I’d be deferred for a while while I knocked off college, but thereafter: “You are being ordered to report for a physical examination…” on whatever day it was, at the Boston Navy Yard.  (Which all by itself might make you pause and think a bit – how many years has it been since the Boston Navy Yard vanished into the mists of time and shuttered bases?  Wow…)
    Anyway, it wasn’t so strange.  Reassuring, even, in a way that most today would find somewhat peculiar, I suppose.  It gave you a firm sense of order, a firm sense of your place, and a last touch of predictability before the hurly-burly of launching into adulthood.  We didn’t worry about what we’d be doing, trying to scratch out a living, find a job, get a career (a life!) started in the first couple of years after college: we knew what we’d be doing.  (All those of us except those med-school bound, that is; the army needed doctors too, so they’d wait until you wrapped up med school if that was where you were going.)  This also contributed to keeping the boys different from the girls, I think.  The boys rarely had conversations about what we’d be doing right after college: we knew, thanks.  We weren’t aimless.
    And I wouldn’t put the arm too solidly on draftees, either.  It’s easy to concentrate on the negatives of the deal, but keep in mind those draftees won the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, too. Of course the politicians pissed all over what the kids did in the field in the latter two, and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – but that was hardly the fault of the draftees.
    But I agree: the military has become very professional, very motivated, very unwilling to be interfered with by a bunch of people of whom a percentage doesn’t wish to be there.  One volunteer is always worth five conscripted, as Kipling noticed – and pointed out – but the idea of some sort of national service isn’t really a bad idea at all.  I like the idea of alternative service.  All this American infrastructure that’s widely reported to be on its last legs, all the organizations that are starved for manpower from end of the country to the other; all the work there is to be done; here’s a hell of a pool of labor.  Revitalize some of the crap Roosevelt started, and get the youth of the country out there by the roads leaning on shovels, just as so many of their grandfathers did!  We don’t need or want them in the military,  But that’s not to say they’re worthless, and it’s not to say that a refresher course in the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around them might be an entirely good thing.
    You want to occupy Central Park?  Okay – here’s a stick to stab gum wrappers, a bag to put them in, and a nice vest to wear so you don’t get run over doing it.  Go to it, Otherwise-Mostly-Useless-Kid!  I don’t see the difficulty with that.  Of course the unions won’t like it, but on the other hand, f*** them!  They’ll manage, pressed up against the wall with a gun to their heads.  

  • Caped Crusader

    jj, thanks for your input and observations. Spot on! Thought of you as a much younger guy.
    Ymarsakar, disagree with the fact that elites will avoid military service. Only true from Vietnam and later period. A few months ago was watching Military Channel or History Channel and learned that of the some 400 graduates of Princeton in a 1950’s year, 325 would be entering military service as commissioned officers through ROTC program at that institution. No more glaring example as to how times and mindsets have changed. Fat chance, today! In this era those who had a superior position or education were, by and large, not taken seriously if they did not serve honorably and often with distinction. None were assigned personal body guards, as was Gore in Vietnam, and were part of the rough and tumble with all the men. A great democratizing experience, and one that prevented feelings of alienation against the more elite in society, since they were in the thick of it with everyone else; something that is lacking today.
    Of the 6-7 guys I ran around with in high school, all are veterans. One was helicopter pilot who picked ip the early astronauts when they were landing in the Pacific Ocean. Another, a multi-engine bomber pilot. Nearly every branch of service represented. Some made it a career. In my med school class every member who had not already been to Korea was called up during the Cuban missile crisis, Berlin Wall, Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1963; 100% vets. “The girl” in my class was a Marine and had already been on active duty. Few know that going to med school in that era was a way to almost guarantee you would serve, since there was a separate law for doctors, and in times of extreme crisis, as in WW2, doctors were drafted up to age 55.
    I know of few people who do not think their military experience was a vital and good part of their lives.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    John Kerry and Murtha didn’t avoid military service. But the ones that did were Democrats. The problem wasn’t elitism. The problem was the Left. Difference in priorities.

  • http://themellowjihadi.com/ Mellow Jihadi

    Caped Crusader, I love your story of the guy in the Reserves. It still happens. A Navy Commander, now a contractor, works for me, but he was retiring right around 9/11. Not so fast. He was sent to Florida (CENTCOM) for a year and then he sat around for 6 months doing nothing until he was released. A Commander. They did not know what to do with him. . .

  • Rick Z

    Having been one who was obliged to “pledge the Mekong Delts” in college after the introduction of the draft lottery, I chose to enlist in the Air Force for a four-year hitch. My opinions about the draft have evolved over time, but I never supported it as an institution.

    The qualitative difference between a force made up entirely of motivated volunteers and unwilling conscripts is enormous, and all the extant social pathologies of the greater society are refracted and exaggerated within that force as a consequence. Moreover, the technical and physical training required to be an effective 21st century warrior is such that the utility of 2-year conscripts would be minimal at best. This was already well recognized in the Vietnam era, if not before.

    Selective service, like the tax code, has never been administered fairly. The very idea that a Paris Hilton, or a Justin Beiber for that matter, would ever be ordered to report to a recruit training depot is absurd. A conscript force would always be comprised of the least-well-connected among us, and would therefore tend to be regarded as the most expendible by our craven opinion leaders who, as always will be the case, be drawn from the class most likely to be exempted by the inevitably corrupt and corruptible operation of the selective service system. 

    As a result, political leaders and tactical commanders will treat a conscript force with far less concern than a force made up of expensively trained and equipped volunteers. Consider that in just two months in 1968, a conscript force suffered more casualties in Vietnam than our outstanding volunteer forces did in 10 years of conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan combined, and with far less outcry.