Does America Need a Draft? Hell No.

Tom Ricks says we need a draft. This is nonsense.  If we want to prevent stupid wars, make the country pay for them.

Since the end of the military draft in 1973, every person joining the U.S. armed forces has done so because he or she asked to be there. Over the past decade, this all-volunteer force has been put to the test and has succeeded, fighting two sustained foreign wars with troops standing up to multiple combat deployments and extreme stress.

This is precisely the reason it is time to get rid of the all-volunteer force. It has been too successful. Our relatively small and highly adept military has made it all too easy for our nation to go to war — and to ignore the consequences.

Conscription is bullshit. From the Revolutionary War to 1973, the draft never worked. The Continental Congress tried to conscript men and the states wouldn’t do it. The War of 1812 was fought by an all-volunteer military. Neither the Union nor the Confederacy could make conscription work: every such effort led to riots. By the numbers, of the 2,100,000 Union soldiers, only two percent were conscripted and six percent were substitutes for rich boys whose fathers could afford to keep their dainty sons out of the military. The rest were all volunteers.

WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, the scions of the rich managed to avoid the fighting and dying. There were a few exceptions, glory hunters and patriotic types but they were few and a good many of them got killed in the process.

Even if we did institute a draft, as Charlie Rangel has proposed, how long would we want to keep a draftee in the service?  Rangel served with distinction in Korea. Rangel was seriously wounded and earned a Bronze Star with the V device for valour. But Charlie Rangel was a volunteer, not a draftee. He served from 1948 to 1952, leaving the Army at the rank of Staff Sergeant. Lt. General Douglas E. Lute advocated a draft in 2007 as a way of relieving stress on overcommitted troops but quickly backed away from that position, saying it would be a major policy shift. Yeah. And George W Bush knew exactly how the country would react if he tried to institute one.   It really doesn’t matter, the country wouldn’t stand for it.

Want to quit fighting stupid wars? Make Americans pay for them up front and not borrow those sums. Want a war? Raise taxes to support it.

A few more suggestions for improving things:

Quit hiding the reality of military and intelligence budgets behind firewalls of national security. Stop funding weapons systems the military never asked for and can’t use in the wars we’re fighting. Get rid of the untold tiers of military contractors. Shoot a few profiteers. Stop bribing warlords and corrupting the countries we’re occupying.

Start listening to line unit commanders and their supply sergeants: they know what’s needed. Sixty percent of everything our military needs in the field can be gotten off the shelf. The other forty percent ought to be the product of bottom-up needs assessment, not some fat ass Congress Critter prostituting himself to the military-industrial complex.

Americans know our troops have endured the unendurable. Ricks is wrong: if the all-volunteer force has been too successful, this comes as news to the troops who fought and are fighting. Our military is not relatively small: our military is enormous. Nor is it highly adept: our military never learned Arabic or Pashto or the rudiments of how to fight the war of counterinsurgency they were sent to fight. If is has proven too easy for our nation to go to war and to ignore the consequences, the financial consequences would provide the necessary obstacle to reckless and interminable war making.

Sun Tzu, Art of War, Chapter 2.

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

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141 thoughts on “Does America Need a Draft? Hell No.

  1. Rangel was seriously wounded and earned a Bronze Star with the V device for valour. But Charlie Rangel was a volunteer, not a draftee.

    Bubububu leftist America-hater!

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  2. “Lt. General Douglas E. Lute advocated a draft in 2007   … And George W Bush knew exactly how the country would react if he tried to institute one.   It really doesn’t matter, the country wouldn’t stand for it.”

    What makes you think it’s any more likely we could raise taxes to pay for our wars?

     

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  3. Also what is the military supposed to do with all those new draftees. We don’t need all sorts of new infantry men and radio operators. It wouild dilute training and quality to bring all sorts of people who don’t want to be there. Our military is huge now, we don’t need it to be hugerer.

    All your suggestions are good but as likely to happen, at this point, as the draft. Military spending in the Keynesian stimulus beloved by all.

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    • I’ve long believed in a period of mandatory service. Everyone owes two years, but you can spend it in the military, teaching, fighting fires, or in any number of other public service positions. You are trained and paid and given time to complete it (maybe by age 27).

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      • I’ve always thought this was a very good idea, provided the military is just one option among many.

        Let kids who don’t know what they want to do after high school do their service for two years and then start worrying about college or trade schools. It’s never made sense to me that we let our 18-year-old selves make such monumental decisions for us.

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      • Forced labor has a rather dubious reputation at this point in history, I’m afraid. I seem to recall significant bloodshed leading to constitutional measures designed to eradicate the institution occurring not so long ago. You may find the period of American history from 1860-1865 enlightening.

        Drafts are a grave moral evil that can only be justified in the case of an equally grave threat. Forcing someone at the point of a gun to do your work for you disrespects every claim to autonomy a citizen has. That you would be willing to so cavalierly throw that dignity away in exchange for a nebulous collectivist benefiting is terrible.

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          • Milton Friedman was also an idiot who never read Machiavelli.

            Therefore, let him who has no desire to conquer make use of these arms, for they are much more hazardous than mercenaries, because with them the ruin is ready made; they are all united, all yield obedience to others; but with mercenaries, when they have conquered, more time and better opportunities are needed to injure you; they are not all of one community, they are found and paid by you, and a third party, which you have made their head, is not able all at once to assume enough authority to injure you. In conclusion, in mercenaries dastardy is most dangerous; in auxiliaries, valour. The wise prince, therefore, has always avoided these arms and turned to his own; and has been willing rather to lose with them than to conquer with others, not deeming that a real victory which is gained with the arms of others.

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            • Milton Friedman was also an idiot

              This kind of statement makes you particularly hard to take seriously.   It makes you look more ideologue than serious thinker (unlike, say, Friedman).

              I’m pretty sure it was demonstrated a while back that you hadn’t actually read Friedman closely; you certainly didn’t demonstrate that you understood him.

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              • Mind over matter, my good man.   I have long since decided Gravitas and Grand Panjandrum are synonyms.  Both affect unearned wisdom.   Fuck Milton Friedman.   All gravy, no meat with him.   He’s an economic astrologer.  With him, markets, markets, markets shall solve our every problem from measles to mange to menstrual cramps.

                Well the markets didn’t work.   Anyone who takes Milton Friedman seriously after 2008 is a fucking idiot.

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                • Let me retract a bit.  When I wrote that you didn’t understand him, I had Hayek in mind, not Friedman. My bad.

                  Nonetheless, Friedman’s not an idiot.  If you think so, you apparently don’t remember stagflation, and I’m pretty sure you’re old enough to do so.

                  Not being perfect is a long way from being an idiot.

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                  • I am the only Liberal you may ever meet who finds some merit in Hayek’s arguments.   Would that a few Libertarians actually read him, too.

                    As for Milton Friedman, I’ve read him, too.  His disgusting connivances with Pinochet are a matter of record.    His entire corpus is a monstrous collection of feeble excuses and rationalizations for a market system which became as monstrous as his excuses for it. Ronald Reagan led this country on a colossal toot and Bush41 was left to clean up the broken glass and  vomit out of the carpets after his party.

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                    • As for Milton Friedman, I’ve read him, too.  His disgusting connivances with Pinochet are a matter of record.

                      Which connivances were those?  The only thing Friedman had to do with Pinochet was he wrote him a letter giving him economic advice, something he was willing to do for any world leader who asked.  Some of his students ended up with senior positions inside the Pinochet regime, but Freidman himself had very little to do with Pinochet.

                      He’s an economic astrologer.

                      To elaborate on James Hanley’s point on stagflation, Friedman successfully predicted the emergence of stagflation in the 1970s years before it happened.  At the time Keynesian Macroeconomics did not consider stagflation possible – inflation and unemployment would always move in opposite directions.  Seriously, he got a prediction in the social sciences unambiguously right.  Do you know how rare that is?

                      With him, markets, markets, markets shall solve our every problem from measles to mange to menstrual cramps.

                      Friedman was keenly aware of the limitation of markets, he just understood their benefits as well.  A lot of the policy changes he proposed (like using liability insurance as a replacement for the FDA) still required government regulation, and he made explicit use of externality arguments when, for instance arguing about the merits of subsidising vocational vs. liberal arts education.  He also invented what is still the best (from a technical standpoint) welfare system ever devised.

                      Ronald Reagan led this country on a colossal toot and Bush41 was left to clean up the broken glass and  vomit out of the carpets after his party.

                      Don’t confuse Reagan’s economics with Friedman’s.  For one thing Friedman was a deficit hawk.

                      Frankly for all your claims to have read Friedman, it sounds more like you’ve read about Friedman, and from a source with a very poor understanding of what he actually said and believed.

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      • As a Liberal, I don’t buy it.   Anything job worth doing in the public sector will very likely subtract that job from the private sector.   I’m not averse to the proposition of people volunteering for government service, nor am I averse to the idea those jobs might be worth doing, but make-work jobs rub my Liberal fur the wrong way.

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      • Seriously, you want 18 year olds teaching? You think a year’s enough training, or should we just throw them into a classroom and assume they’ll do a better job than those lazy, good-for-nothing union types?

        Also, not 100% sure I want forced laborer’s fighting fires. Or wars.

        But it’s the teaching that stuck out, mostly because — you know — requires a degree and generally a year of mentoring after. What’s wrong with American education? Apparently the belief it can be done by 18 year olds who don’t want to join Americorps or the Army.

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          • The experience of that in the U.S. in fighting forest fires has not been impressive.  I’m guessing that in Singapore you’re combining some decent training with relatively small fires.  But drafting people, giving them a two hour training session, then tossing them on the front line of a 10,000 acre wildfire in the mountains tends not to work well.

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            • I have lots of good friends that are fire-fighters. Here’s what they say: once a fire get over about a quarter of an acre, it can’t be contained. Once it’s in the canopy, it can’t be contained. Once it gets going the only way to put it out is to let it die out. Firebreaks can only marginally aid in this, but not in a big fire, and usually it’s natural breaks that do the work, or the weather.

              From everything they’ve said to me about it, I gather that their efforts are mostly for show. Of the ‘why isn’t the government doing something!’ variety.

               

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              • Second everything you wrote. I’m not remotely an expert, but I’ve paid some attention to the issue of forest fires in the western U.S., just out of personal interest.

                Part of that “for show” is also to appease property owners whose homes/cabins/lodges/what-have-you might be in the path of the fire. If no effort is made, the governmental agency involved appears politically unresponsive, and they can be damn sure the relevant Represenative(s)/Senators are going to give them shit.

                There’s also some rent-seeking involved from the private sector, among those who provide supplies and provisions for fire-fighting. They’d also pressure their congressmembers if efforts were eliminated.

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            •  I’m guessing that in Singapore you’re combining some decent training with relatively small fires.

              Yup. I’m not aware of the details, but if training schedules are the same as in the military, then there should be upwards of 8 months of training and more than a year of active experience in an operationally ready unit. Also since things are damp pretty much all year round, if anything does in fact catch fire, it is rare and easy to put out.

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          • Some problems can be solved through sheer quantity. Forest-fires in the US? maybe sometimes.

            Military? Maybe sometimes.

            Teaching? maybe sometimes…..

            Actually in the US, I could see using untrained labors for sandbags, digging firebreaks when you can’t get in equipment and just need lots of people with shovels and chainsaws who know enough not to lose a hand, that sort of thing. But not actually anything near the fire.

            For the military? Not a whole lot these days. Although perhaps we could use them as a cheaper replacement then the military outsourcing that turned out to be more expensive than letting the US Army handle it’s own kitchens. Still, even then you’d want them to have enough training to handle a weapon.

            For teaching? Um…there’s a lot of kids that could benefit from one-on-one time, but doing it in a useful manner means either training the conscripts to a handful of tasks and learning types and divvying them up. Kinda..inefficient.

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      • On the “teaching” part, given the significant barriers put up to keep people who genuinely want to be teachers out of the field, I find the notion of pushing people into the field (even as one of several options) to be kind of funny. The education establishment does not seem particularly interested in opening its doors to others. There are some legitimate concerns about what happens to people who actually train to be teachers if we were to flood the market with people that choose it from a menu because they have to choose something from the menu.

        I don’t disagree with what you’re saying in spirit, though I think the notable thing about the public service stuff you point to is that there is no shortage of people that want to do it (except teaching, but even then in only some parts of the country and in some specific fields.)

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  4. “Want to quit fighting stupid wars? Make Americans pay for them up front and not borrow those sums. Want a war? Raise taxes to support it.”

    Isn’t even monetary payment too divorced from the real cost: individual service?

    Can a democracy be said to exist when all citizens are not equal in expected duty, responsibility, and participation?

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                • Whats the argument for needing to vote wisely, but be free not to vote at all (I assume it’s that abstaining from voting is just as valid a rhetorical and political action?)

                  Perhaps you would agree then that everyone has a responsibility to have an educated opinion and position (evolving and considered) on the events and issues of the day?

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                  • The idea is that if you have not educated yourself on the issues, you’re more likely to do harm than good.

                    From the Ethics of voting

                    Bad choices at the polls can result in unjust laws, needless wars, and calamitous economic policies. Brennan shows why voters have duties to make informed decisions in the voting booth, to base their decisions on sound evidence for what will create the best possible policies, and to promote the common good rather than their own self-interest. They must vote well–or not vote at all. Brennan explains why voting is not necessarily the best way for citizens to exercise their civic duty, and why some citizens need to stay away from the polls to protect the democratic process from their uninformed, irrational, or immoral votes.

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                • Mike,

                  The fact that we need juries does not logically lead to individuals having a duty to serve on juries.  I support people’s right to get out of jury service, which is easy to do by pretending bias against the defendant.

                  Keep in mind, though, that when I say a person doesn’t have a duty to do something, I’m not saying that they ought not do it.  I don’t think I have a duty to push other people’s cars out of the snow in winter, nonetheless I do it frequently, and respect others who do likewise. Likewise, the two times I’ve been called for jury duty I did serve.

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                  • Murali,

                    There’s accuracy and there’s fairness.  Juries aren’t particularly good at either.  But the traditional fear we Amurricans have–well grounded in the English history from whence our legal system sprang–was that judges were even worse at the second of those.

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                    • AFAIK Singapore seems to do well enough without juries. (Edited to add that our legal system has a much more recent connection to the British legal system)

                      Also, it seems we could do better vis-a-vis fairness by building it into the system and just requiring accuracy from judges. i.e.  if we just go for accuracy, we would get a uniformity of law which would in itself be one of the important components of fairness. The idea is that by explicitly striving for fairness, we sacrifice much in clarity and uniformity of law.

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                  • The funny thing about this is that it is rather deliberate.

                    While everyone can be called for jury duty, judges and lawyers will almost never have to actually serve on a jury.  This is because they understand the law too well and can see right through the emotional arguments to the facts and the laws underlying them.  My father was called 4 times and was rejected 4 times.  At one point, he asked the defending lawyer why he wasn’t chosen and the lawyer let him know that he would have been perfect but, due to his profession (publishing lawyer), “well, you know why”.

                    (I got out of jury duty because I inherited the ability to see through the emotive arguments as well.)

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  5. Sixty percent of everything our military needs in the field can be gotten off the shelf. The other forty percent ought to be the product of bottom-up needs assessment

    My own pie in the sky plan, would likely skew this ratio further to specialization – but that’s because it’s largely to abolish the active duty Army.

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  6. I overwhelmingly agree with Blaise’s general argument, but I do have one quibble.  The draft is a way of making the country actually pay for the war, with blood rather than treasure.  I think it’s quite possible that the one advantage of the draft is that it makes war marginally less likely by increasing the up-front cost to the average American family.

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  7. I like the article Blaise and generally agree. I’m a little vague on the actual nuts and bolts of what a mechanism to enforce war funding through taxation would look like. It’s too sweeping for a law (a future congress could just repeal or ignore it), but it’s too complicated for a constitutional ammendment.

    The only way I see it happening is if it became a sortof ingrained ethos in the electorate and in the political culture. But an electorate and political culture that did that would likely be disinclined to indulge in pointless wars in the first place.

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    • Ever hear of something called the Appropriations Committee?   Anti-war types would laugh at the pro-war types and taunt them by telling them to propose large tax increases to fund the war.   If they tried to borrow the money, they’d be voted down.  No money, no war.

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      • Okay I have heard of Appropriations… but my meager historical understanding is that when the war drums started beating the doves grabbed their ankles and prayed that if they let the hawks have their war that at least a few of the doves could keep their elected positions.

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        • Your point is well-taken:  the opponents of the War on Iraq miserably kowtowed to lies and harum-scarum.  Especially feckless was John Kerry, who said there had better damned well be Weapons of Mass Destruction.   There weren’t.   Bush43 got elected anyhow.   And it didn’t work out so well for Hillary Clinton: her vote for the Iraq War doomed her presidential campaign.   Ah well, she’s now advocating for her own private Praetorian Guard, trying to get the State Department into the meat-eater business.

          While the nation could borrow the costs of the wars, there would be no serious political consequences.  Our kids will end up paying for that war.   Hence my belief, however quixotic, that paying for wars in cash money would kick the wind out of the rah-rah crowd with all due speed.

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          • And I agree with your principal quite emphatically. My question is entirely a matter of execution. We agree the government should be forced to raise taxes to pay for any wars they choose to indulge in. The twenty four hundred dollar question is how would one go about forcing this behavior to occur when history suggests that politicians are strongly inclined (and incented) not to.

            And a good point on Hillary by the way. I’ve always thought she triangulated herself out of the job with that move. But Dems over-learning lessons of the past has sortof been the theme of our current crop.

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  8. I like to think if we were to go to war, it should be accompanied by a complete cessation of all sporting events.  No NFL, NBA, NASCAR, MLB, NHL.  Let’s see how well that goes over.

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    • I wouldn’t go that far.   I’d impose a War Tax on all such events, say, tripling the price of a ticket and making the media pay a huge War Tax for broadcasting them.   War Taxes for all, spread ’em all around the town.   War Taxes on beer and skittles and every other such trifle.   War Taxes on shoes and socks and Spanx and silk undies and soap on a rope.

      Every time our rights are infringed these days, the infringers get to end the argument by waving their arms around and shouting “But we’re at WAAAAR!”    That’s great.   Let ’em justify new taxes on the same basis.

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      • I like the idea of a war tax on entertainment.  My sense is that it would divide the war party in all but the direst of occasions, and these last are the only times we should be at war anyway.

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  9. I think this idea is wrong on three levels.

    Firstly it’s just a bad idea in itself.  Wars cost a lot, but not — at least the current ones — _that much_, so there’s lots of other stuff you could pay for before doing.  Or you could use an accounting gimmick — pay for the war, but borrow for — well, all the other stuff you borrow for.  And besides, in a defensive or genuinely pre-emptive war you shouldn’t balk at borrowing for it, and “interventions” — wise or not — are precipitated by events on a short fuse so you don’t have time to arrange an ad hoc tax.

    More importantly though I think Tom, in mentioning the need for a public that “feels” what the Army feels, brings up a point you don’t address.  Deploying _costs_ me.  Serving the country _costs_ me.  If you pay for that, you _still_ have no idea.  The point isn’t simply to _restrain_ the public, which maybe you could do with their wallets: it is to _inform_ them.  Relatedly, I think there are regions and worldviews that are grossly underrepresented in the military and that creates real limits in how we respond and how well, and people don’t seem inclined to solve that problem without a push.

    Most importantly though I think Tom missed the real danger.  Yes, you have a public that no longer “feels” the weight the Army does.  But ex-military commentators — including Bacevich and Prine — and many AD (like me!) observe that you now have a military caste that in many ways talks like _it_ is better than the rest of the country, than all those “lesser” Americans who don’t serve.  I think that’s a danger to liberty, I think it is a danger to the military itself, and I think it BADLY misserves the young people who do serve.  So, yeah, Tom’s right — you need a draft to englighten the public.  But you also need it to enlighten the military.

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    • Having seen the US military both before and after the draft was abolished, the argument for a draft is specious and disingenuous.   Draftees make terrible troops.   They can’t be kept in long enough to justify the training.   We’ve had a military caste since the creation of West Point and Annapolis, that argument is a dud.   Get it off the firing line.

      As for accounting gimmicks, I’m sure such stunts would be tried.  Eventually though, like King John before barons of England at Runnymede, they would run out of excuses and they’d be obliged to capitulate to reason.   The barons weren’t necessarily opposed to John’s wars.   They were sick of having literally paid a King’s Ransom for Richard, from which that phrase arose.

      No taxation without representation.   Congress was supposed to declare war and have the power of the purse.   We have an example in miniature of exactly how this works when Congress pulled the funding from the Contras under Reagan.   Poindexter and North and all the rest of those bastards were obliged to find other ways to fund their little adventures in the jungle.

      No, we don’t need a draft.   A draft would only lead to protests and violence.   It wouldn’t lead to any cessation of war, as it didn’t in Vietnam or the American Civil War.   The German soldiers during WW2 observed the Americans were absolutely wretched fighters:  often as not they would freeze up and fail to capitalise on their advantages.  Often they wouldn’t even pull the trigger, they’d wait for the artillery to do their work for them.    The only units which fought reliably were volunteer units.  A draft would not enlighten the public and would not enlighten the military.

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      • I think everything you’ve said is questionable.

        The “military caste” that worries Bacevich and others with long knowledge of the miltary,  isn’t necessarily the West Point one, although I’m happy to argue that we should shut down the service academies, and maybe ROTC.  The military caste I’m worried about is that my NCO’s father and grandfather and great-grandfather were NCOs, and his kids are enlisted.  That generation of West Point leaders understood, and wrote well about, the ciivilian/military divide: today it is common, within the military, to see the idea bruited about that soldiers are the “real” Americans and their ideas and needs “count” more.  “Get that idea off the firing line?”  BS: again, for those who read in military circles there is growing alarm over just that idea, from the old-timers and the young officers.  You need a mechanism to deflate the military sense of superiority to the public it serves, and the mechanism you are proposing seems more likely to do the opposite.

        The “King’s Ransom” thing doesn’t wash either: it would, but, as I said, the wars are _cheap_ relative to other governmental expenses.  So you _can_ earmark taxes to pay for the wars, and borrow more for entitlements or routine DoD expenses (which aren’t always going to be separable) or what-have-you.  And again: it’s just unworkable, because the fuse for military acion will always be shorter than the fuse to figure out a funding mechanism.  I suppose you could “pre-pay” into some rainy day fund but I suspect that that would incite, not deter.

        Picking on the military skills of draftees is a bit silly.  Volunteers — the men I have now — have the same problems!   Combat’s hard, man.  Great chrocinclers like Bing West addressed the same point and didn’t always see a clear distinction between conscript and volunteerperformance and I am skeptical — given that dtoday’s volunteer units can and do have the same problem — of your claim to the contrary; I think on that one I’m going to trust the military guys.

        And it still dodges the point; what Tom is trying to do is have the public better understand the soldier’s situation and sacrifices.  The _monetary_ cost does not well approximate that.

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        • I think it’s interesting that the objections people are throwing out about the quality of military recruits is somewhat similar to what the old guard “professional” military of the 18th century had against allowing widespread voluntarism and militia recruitment during the French Wars. In short, it’s generally more been an argument that would preserve a privileged societal position than one that’s actually founded on the reality of training/efficacy grounds.

          I agree with you here, both that the social costs and burdens of military deployment are simply not being shared or even understood by the civilian population writ large, and that simply putting a financial burden (which isn’t likely anyway) onto the people isn’t going to make that any more likely. The human cost is always going to outstrip however much money you can throw at any variety of issues.

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        • It is pointless to attempt to convince you otherwise:  my own experience in two of America’s wars has led me to these conclusions.  Without resorting to an argument from authority, why bother?   Combat isn’t particularly hard.  It’s rather like being a fireman:  a life of boredom punctuated with a few moments of sheer terror.   Some folks find it addictive.

          Bing West, for all his common sense about the tactics of counterinsurgency warfare, never really came to terms with the politics of counterinsurgency.   The strategy was completely beyond his ken, that something organic must be grown up to keep the peace once we’d left.  Bing West would have benefited enormously from reading Mao on Guerilla Warfare, most of his wise adages about tactics were already well-understood by the time he got to Vietnam and none of Mao’s statements about the politics of guerilla warfare appear in what he had to say about strategy, which was essentially nil.  Our enemies were certainly reading Mao, if he was not.

          The CIA understood what neither MACV nor the architects of that war, nor indeed the authors of our wars in Iraq or Afghanistan understand to this day, that all war must be be to some end.   It is not enough to be against something, we must actually be for something.   Be not merely good.   Be good to some end.

          I come from just such a military caste as you describe.   My ancestors have continuously served in the US Army and colonial militias since this continent was first settled by Europeans.   This fact may only add to your absurd aspersions on the notions of patriotism and service.   Be that as it may, let it be said we did serve our country where others did not.   This does not mean we are any more “real” than any other citizen but it does lead me to believe those who shoulder arms ought to do so willingly and not under compulsion.

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          • I’m sorry, but is this even buyable as serious thinking?  Telling me Bing Westdidn’t understand the nuances of COIN, or getting into questionable military philosophy, doesn’t really answer that West and other officers in Vietnam didn’t find a significant, predicatable performance difference between volunteers and recruits: the only argument you can really make here is “from authority”!  What actually happens in the field, man?

            Throwing out imagined “aspersions” on service isn’t a smart thing to do to somebody who says, I’m active-duty military: obviously I think it’s worth doing!  Nor yet have I heard any attempt to discuss the relative cheapness of wars, the impreacticability of setting up a funding scheme on the relevant timescale, and the fact that there _is_ a chasm, and an unhealthy one, between the military and society at large (you see it right now, when the SMA seems to think he can impose a different cultural standard on the military from the civilians.)

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            • Yes, that is exactly my point.   What happens outside the wire and what happens in the briefing tent remain as divorced from each other as night and day.   You never knew a military with draftees in uniform.   Neither did the Sergeant Major of the Army.   That means you can’t speak to the problem.  Nor can he.   I did and I can.

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              • Who said I never knew a military with draftees?  I certainly did!  (So, for that matter, did the SMA).  I just also know the literature written by commanders in that military.  And, for that matter, I’ve also served alongside soldiers from countries with mandatory service, today.

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                    • No he wouldn’t have.   The last draftee entered service in December of 1972.   If that troop did two years, though most only did 18 months if they went to RSVN, he would have ETSed in Dec 1974.   If he or you ever saw anyone who was a draftee, he would have re-enlisted.

                      You don’t pass my smell test.   What’s your current MOS and duty assignment?

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                    • It’s AOC, not MOS, for us, and my duty assignment pretty much eliminates my anonymity.  My major command is currently MEDCOM; it’s been others.  And, again: so, who went to AIT with you?  I’m not very worried about your smell test; you still haven’t answered a single substantive comment, so I don’t think there’s a lot of doubt where those’re coming from.

                      Actually an O6 buddy of mine — recently retired out off IRR — came in as a draftee. There’s still a couple around.

                      Speaking of smell tests, I have an armful of studies here on draftee quality — agreeing with everything I’ve read before, they seem to think it generally surpassed volunteers (which is sorta surprising, given the reasons for deferments.  I’m sorry, is there a research report somewhere saying the opposite?

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                    • I’ve got you pretty well sized up.   I’ve got Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day sitting right here on my desk and I’ve been waiting for the monkey to climb far enough up the tree for me to see his ass.   Your MOS or AOC wouldn’t reveal anything about you.   I’ve answered every substantive comment I’ve been asked.   You say you knew draftees, shit, boy, I’ll bet you weren’t even born when I was serving.

                      You read studies, huh?   That sorta makes me smile.   Yes it just does make me smile.

                       

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                    • There are none.  The last American draftee left the military last year.   CSM Jeffrey Mellinger.   Now, I suspect you are in the military, and I’m not here to impress you with war stories, but kid, you’re too young and stupid to understand what was going on in 1971 when the shit hit the fan for me.   I was too young and stupid to understand what was happening to me at the time and I don’t even pretend to understand how you feel about the Army today, so why should I expect you to understand it?

                      Draftees — here’s my experience, not that the sum of anecdotes equals data.  Some of them fought really well.   They were a product of good training cycles and good leadership.   But most of them hated being in the military.  Who can blame them?.   It was an extremely stupid war, based on a mountain range of lies and misinformation.

                      There’s a reason the military hasn’t asked for the draft again, even though the current military is strung out and overburdened.   Morale.  You think the military has problems now, kid, you wait and see what happens when the draft riots start up again in earnest.   I remember them.   You don’t.   All these idjit studies about how this draft business would be a great idea — ha fucking ha.   The one lesson we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.   Every generation or so we have to re-learn the same stupid shit over and over and over.

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                    • Oh, bullshit.  The SMA — and I — have been well before 2011.  And even then, you’re arguing with guys like Bacevich.  Many folks who saw fire and know the draft are on my side of this; winking and saying, “you don’t know shit” is brainless.(For that matter Tom knows a fewsoldiers himself).

                      And every study I’ve seen of draftee qualtity points out the same thing: you got smarter, better trained soldiers than you would’ve otherwise.  If you knew anything about COIN or otherwise that would stick: one Arabic speaker is worth a couple dozen riflemen.  If you tell me I’ll get more of the former and take a small hit in the latter — only the stupidest of officers would turn that down.

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                    • James, the consensus is that you got more “intellectual” soldiers — samrt guys savvy about culture and language — via conscription.  BlaiseP is arguing (wrongly) that you got less good trigger-pullers, and I’m saying, even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter because the academics are easily worth the trade.

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                    • KK,

                      I’m not in the military, but I’ve known lots of folks who are, and I had the privilege of observing Marine Corps officer training at Quantico a couple of years ago.  What you say doesn’t jibe with my casual observation.  It also doesn’t jibe with the fact that you normally can’t keep conscriptees that long–by the time you train someone to speak Arabic fluently, you need more than a two-three year term of service to get any return on investment.

                      But as I say, my observation is just casual, so I could be wrong.  I’d appreciate citations, since you say there are studies.  That would be a lot more persuasive than a random anonymous guy on a blog saying so.

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                    • I’ll see quickly what I can find online; I’m at home now without a defense ID card reader nor simple access to the same studies.  On course VanDyke has given you some below, Note that in fact the _end_ of the draft is also commonly associated with degradation in soldier quality as we moved to rote promotion and lower standards for volunteers: see, for example, http://solantamity.com/Extraneous/USMC_Discipline_1970.htm; the end of the draft made recruiting a numbers game and in times of war encourages barrel-scraping.  That has become a problem in the currect wars too (see http://online.wsj.com/public/article/0,,SB111776400852250138-rYue9OsHO9i0IaNz4uApoo5WJ80_20060603,00.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top#MEMO) and was seen as a Vietnam problem: as the war got worse, volunteers got worse and standards slipped, and the draft, contra our blowhard here, didn’t lower soldier quality, it maintained soldier quality.  Charlie Moskos has made this same point (for decades!) and I think you can easily dig up some of his papers, but the upshot is that draftees tends to catch more socially/economically advanced soldiers and can enhance soldier quality.

                      I was looking at some studies earlier today that said that the draftees bought you a lot of so-called “Category I” soldiers (refers to a high score for intellectual skills on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test) but that that came at the cost of even more “Category IV’s,” more suited,supposedly, to be grunts. As I point out — that’s a plus! (Still more so in today’s Army).  But when I Google it now (as you can) I find that fact, surprisingly, being used by libertarian types to argue against a draft, which is back-assward.

                      The language thing is just an example: the point is in today’s military context smarts and cultural savvy (and diversity) are worth more than gruntsmanship.  But it still holds: I’ve gotten capable — we don’t mean fluent, we mean capable — in languages in months, whereas I’ve certainly had soldiers gripe endlessly about how SF won’t pay them a language bonus anymore for Spanish unless they could demonstrate rudimentary skill with it, after they’d been collecting that bonus for years: it’s a different skill set!  And in a draftee war, like WWII or even Vietnam — well, we’ll just see how long they keep you.  But more to the point I’d dearly like my soldiers to get more exposure to “intellectuals” — I think that would multiply greatly their interest in finding how best to deploy their skills.

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      • Falsifiable nonsense.  Of the 88th Infantry, “overwhelmingly” draftees, “Generalmajor Karl-Lothar Schulz …told his interrogators, “the 88th Division is the best Division we have ever fought against.”

         

        http://www.88infdiv.org/wwii.html

        The Blue Devil Division’s accomplishments in its 344 days in combat reflect the valor, commitment, and unwavering devotion to duty of its soldiers. Not only did the 88th earn high praise from the likes of General Mark Clark, Commanding General of Fifth Army and a widely-recognized hard taskmaster, but it was even grudgingly admired by experienced enemy senior officers. Generalmajor Karl-Lothar Schulz, Commanding General of the famed 1st Parachute Division and one of only 159 recipients of the Knight’s Cross with with Oak Leaf and Swords, told his interrogators, “the 88th Division is the best Division we have ever fought against.” A written estimate of enemy unit effectiveness prepared by German intelligence echoed Schulz’s sentiments. It rated the 88th, “a very good division with excellent fighting material.” It also noted that after VI Corps departed for France that the 88th was “the best US division in Italy,” with “very good leadership.”

        In its 344 days of combat, the 88th Infantry Division lost 2,298 men killed in action (258 more died of wounds) and 9,225 men wounded. Although the cost was high, the Blue Devils—as the first of the “draftee divisions” to see combat—proved that well-trained, well-led American citizen-soldiers were equal or superior to anything the vaunted Wehrmacht could muster, under even the most arduous of circumstances. With the victory to which they contributed so much accomplished, their General Sloan’s pledge to keep faith with the Division’s veterans and to uphold the Division’s standards was fulfilled.

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          • i might be tempted to agree w/Blaise that unwilling draftees in an unpopular war might not be as effective as motivated troops who volunteered.  I was asked by a shy observer to fix the historical inaccuracy re our draftees in WWII.  In that case—and this would support your arg—drafting from a cross-section of American manhood could well give you a better pool than the type who volunteer for military service as a career move.

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            • Sure, you might’ve believed it.  But it takes a world-class ass to simply assert it,back it up with made-up evidence, then when challenged by the point that actual, repcected people who know disagree, double down and try to discredit, well, me.  The same type of ass who refutes the idea that military expenses are buriable in the much larger expenses of the welfare state by comparing it to the expenses of King John’s vast war expenditures in the absence of that state, discount the reflections of one of the most rspected military historians by throwing around deep COIN wisdom, and fabricate a military career.  So, well, good job checking that belief.

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    • I think that’s a danger to liberty, I think it is a danger to the military itself, and I think it BADLY misserves the young people who do serve.  So, yeah, Tom’s right — you need a draft to englighten the public.  But you also need it to enlighten the military.

      The last(?) time we had the Army turn its guns on the public, (all of them young people) there was a draft in place.

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      • Well, yes, but those were National Guardsmen.  They weren’t draftees, and without more detailed information we can’t tell whether they were true volunteers or people trying to avoid being drafted.

        One thing that is clear is that they weren’t the best trained unit in the country.

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        • True enough, but in any case it demonstrates that the draft was in itself insufficient to bridge the military/civilian gap.

          But allow me to expound more on The Kid’s theorem that a military civil divide created by the AVF is dangerous to liberty.

          First all, foreign adventurism is the rule, rather than the exception in American foreign policy. So it’s worth keeping in mind that this Republic and it’s democratic values have always been subjected to this kind of background radiation.

          Second, from the very beginning, America has always been fond of military service in it’s Presidents, and more than one President (including of course, the very first one) has propelled himself from General to President using the War Hero cachet.  We are now in one of our longest streaks *without* having a General as President.

          Last, civilian control of the military is a long entrenched feature of our institutions, and has persisted both with and without a draft.  While it is true that political economies with great respect for the military and great disdain for politicians lend themselves to juntas and coups (e.g. Egypt, Thailand), the comparison is at best, superficial.  Also, those that have chosen the path of letting the military take over find that the military wears out their welcome rather quickly, and lose a lot of their former prestige.  The US military knows very well that its currently relatively high favorable rating is due to the fact that, in the main, it keeps itself out of politics.

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          • What you’re saying is true in general, Kolohe, but multiple military observers have suggested it is breaking down; certainly that’s true in my personal experience (e.g. at Bragg you used to hear a lot of insurrection talk, and my (flag officer) rater has Ron Paul posters up in his office.  But you can see it publicly, too: figures like LTC Terry Lakin were never disciplined for questioning the authority of the C-in-C — Lakin was only court-martialled after he refused to deploy (in fact, quite some while after!), when he’d been on record questioning the President’s legitimacy for some long time before, and they gave a wrist-slap to the kid who spoke at a Ron Paul rally in uniform.

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            • I will say 1) based on my one year IA with them, the Army is fished up the way the Navy simply is not 2) a Ron Paulish  rebel contingent would be a significantly *different* thing than the stories of Air Force Christian Dominionists you often here about, or any sort of latter day MacArthur wannabe.

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            • Old article is old, and doesn’t really find that much daylight between policy preferences between military members and the general public (*particularly* when party affiliation is taken to account – only half were onboard with Iraq even before the stuff was hitting rotating blades)

              And as a properly bemonocled libertarian, I can appreciate an elitist opinion of being better than everyone else.  In the same vein, that doesn’t mean I want to take over.

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  10. I’ve kinda had that idea for a while except my idea was always:

    You get the figures to pay for the first year of the war from the CBO  (I’m tempted to say “then you triple them” as the CBO figures have been terribly underweight for years.) and then publicly audited to establish that this is a financially reasonable prediction that follows GAAP.  Then you divide the cost by the total income (line 22 on the 1040) of all non-military citizens in the company.  That cost will be the tax that is included on everyone’s return.  The tax will be recorded on a line 22a and then added to line 46.  This tax must be legally passed before any war can be declared.

    As for why on some of the provision:

    Why non-military?  They’re fighting the war.  It seems wrong to force them to pay for it.  Plus, this is more to make non-military think about the coming war as well as pay for the war.  Coming from a heavily military family, people in the military think about coming deployments plenty.

    Why put the burden on everyone by making it a page 1 tax?  First off, while the rich may profit from the war, the poor often vote for it.  If you put in a tax that is “in your face” rather than hidden behind deductions/exemptions, people are more likely to think about what they’re paying for even if their share is only a few dollars.

    In many cases, this would slightly increase taxable income.  Have you thought of this?  Yes.  The excess would be used to defray the cost of any overages for any war.  Anything above that would go toward the debt.  It is important that this is a non-refundable cost to everyone.

    The only problem is, like Chris Hanley said, how do you get this into law?  Legislators aren’t likely to propose it and the citizenry isn’t likely to force them to do it.  That’s where the whole idea falls down.

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  11. This may sound a bit harsh, but it might be that the only real solution to making wars harder in the modern era isn’t universal service or even financial penalties, but to make military service so thoroughly odious that the military can’t meet its own recruiting quotas.

    Let’s go back to requiring purchases for army commissions (you wanna be a colonel? Put up $500,000 for it), lifetime enlistment and benefits only after 25 years of service, pay far below civilian counterparts, impressment for naval service, etc…

    My guess is that if you did that no one would want to serve (or very few anyway) and it’d quickly make war difficult because you wouldn’t have a standing army.

    …maybe.

    Or you might have a standing army of immigrants from poor countries officered by wealthy plutocrats. On second thought, scratch this thought experiment.

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  12. A follow-up notion that is a bit more practical to implement:

    Reduce the size of the military back down to pre-WWII levels.  Phase it out gradually through attrition by having quotas be 5% of what they are now while encouraging older military personel to step down.

    This still allows us enough of an army for defense and retaliation (especially given advances in technology since WW2) but it doesn’t create so large a military that we feel compelled to use it to justify cost.

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    • This still allows us enough of an army for defense and retaliation (especially given advances in technology since WW2) but it doesn’t create so large a military that we feel compelled to use it to justify cost

      Failing that, we could teach people to understand the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

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