Monday, July 05, 2004

Military draft talk really ramped up this 4th of July weekend.

On the 3rd the New York Times ran a front page story titled "Military Draft? Official Denials Leave Skeptics". Congress is apparently inundated with daily requests for information on whether and when the draft is to be reinstated, and the internet is awash with rumors and conspiracy-mongering (who would be so irresponsible?). Even though the Powers That Be consistently try to reassure us that not only is a draft amazingly unlikely but flat out impossible ("The idea of bringing back the draft, I think the chances are slim and none � and slim left town." Rep. Ken Calvert [R-CA]),
Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, says unease about the prospect of a draft surfaces frequently in his travels around the country. He says unwillingness to accept official reassurances is attributable to public cynicism about the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq.

"I think it is skepticism that we have been misled so many times about this war: weapons of mass destruction, ties to Al Qaeda, a cakewalk," said Mr. Korb, now at the liberal Center for American Progress. "People are clearly worried and figure, 'They are just waiting until the election is over to spring the bad news on us.'"
The San Diego Union-Tribune also ran a draft story on its front page on Saturday, with interesting details on the draft bills introduced in Congress.

On the 4th the Los Angeles Times editorial page carried a piece titled "With Winds of War, Don't You Feel a Draft?" which looked forward to a world filled with many Iraqs.
No young American wants to be forced to kill or be killed, but the agony of the situation is that there may be no alternative to conscription. What other mechanism would be as fast and as effective if we are to find the troops necessary to discharge our global responsibilities as the world's only superpower? Suppose the situation in North Korea heats up? Or in five years, China, or even Latin America? Out of choice or necessity we may need to proceed unilaterally in our national interest without the U.N. or our traditional allies.
And now today, E.J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post is about "A Draft for Some", further drumming on the inequities of an all-volunteer military subjected to stop-loss orders and activation of the Individual Ready Reserve.
It is thus disconcerting that a country that is unwilling to impose conscription is in effect imposing a draft on that small minority of citizens who were good enough to volunteer to serve our nation in the first place.
Dionne presses hard on the #1 reason the military, the civilian Pentagon leadership and most people in the Congress give for refusing a draft: it's too expensive. As the Union-Tribune story points out,
The all-volunteer system that replaced the draft uses incentives, including money for college, to attract recruits. . . . Expanding the military by using draftees would be hugely expensive, military experts say. They would have to be trained and housed, and the investment would be short-lived. Under most plans, draftees serve just two years before being eligible to return to civilian life.
Dionne hits back, saying
God forbid that Americans earning, say, more than $1 million a year be asked to pony up a little more in taxes to support a larger military at a time when, we are told over and over, the country is in the middle of a war on terrorism. Millionaires can't be asked to sacrifice even a little bit. No, they deserve to have their taxes cut while others fight and die. And anyone who speaks up in opposition to this injustice risks being called unpatriotic by those who give up absolutely nothing themselves. Patriotism is defined as a solicitude for tidy incomes, a belief in anything Rush Limbaugh says on the radio and a demand that those in charge of the country never be held accountable for their mistakes.
All true, yet in this political environment we know that a new military draft would mean new taxes to pay for a new larger military, and those taxes would fall on the working and middle classes as more and more taxes in the US do.

Both Kerry and the Pentagon say they can get another 30,000-40,000 soldiers simply through more aggressive recruiting. If this was true, why the hell hasn't it been done yet? Instead, Rumsfeld is doing everything possible to reduce retention rather than expand it. With the new robust Democratic Party platform focused overwhelmingly on war and military security, I can't help but see the old bait-and-switch being dangled out in front of our faces.

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