Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is about as unexpected as thunderstorms in July.
With tens of thousands of their citizen soldiers now deployed in Iraq, many of the nation's governors complained on Sunday to senior Pentagon officials that they were facing severe manpower shortages in guarding prisoners, fighting wildfires, preparing for hurricanes and floods and policing the streets.

Concern among the governors about the war's impact at home has been rising for months, but it came into sharp focus this weekend as they gathered for their four-day annual conference here and began comparing the problems they faced from the National Guard's largest callup since World War II. . . .

Much of the concern has focused on wildfires, which have started to destroy vast sections of forests in several Western states. The governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, said in an interview after meetings here Monday that the troop deployment had left his National Guard with half the usual number of firefighters because about 400 of them were overseas while a hot, dry summer was already producing significant fires in his state. . . .

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican of Idaho and departing chairman of the National Governors Association, also said through a spokesman that he was worried about the deployment of 2,000 members, or 62 percent of his National Guard, who are now training in Texas for a mission in Iraq. . . .

In Arizona, officials say, more than a hundred prison guards are serving overseas, leaving their already crowded prisons badly short-staffed. In Tennessee, officials are worried about rural sheriff's and police departments, whose ranks have been depleted by the guard call- up. In Virginia, the concern is hurricanes; in Missouri, floods. And in a small town in Arkansas, Bradford, both the police chief and the mayor are now serving in Iraq, leaving their substitutes a bit overwhelmed.
This is the real entre for a military draft next year. The future president -- Bush or Kerry, it doesn't matter -- can sell it as "mandatory public service" with young Americans drafted into the National Guard. Most of those won't go to Iraq, or Iran, or wherever the next war will be. But some will.


At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three points:

(1) Sending public-service draftees into wars through the backdoor can be prevented pretty easily by setting up non-military services that are restricted to domestic and "peaceful" purposes, like disaster relief, social servies, etc. Tinkering with the purpose of the service force can probably be done by congress, but then it may become a voter issue, depending on "how strong democracy is" in the US.

(2) This sounds to me quite a bit like "pay a lot of taxes for this government service and then help yourselves". The real tax debate should be less focused on who is paying how much (federal+state!), but where the money is going. (Iraq, corporate welfare, etc.)

(3) In Germany, (mandatory) military service counts towards social security entitlements, and provides healthcare during the service period (of what quality is a separate issue). Any mandatory public service should, for various reasons.


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