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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bring Back the Draft?

For John, BLUFBringing back the Draft is a bad idea.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank is advocating the restoration of the draft (military conscription).  Here is the story.  I skipped the lede and went straight to the next three paragraphs.
As I make my rounds each day in the capital, chronicling our leaders’ plentiful foibles, failings, screw-ups, inanities, outrages and overall dysfunction, I’m often asked if there’s anything that could clean up the mess.

My usual answer is a shrug and an admission that there’s no silver bullet.  There are many possibilities — campaign spending limits, term limits, nonpartisan primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, a third party — but most aren’t politically or legally feasible, might not make much of a difference or, as with Harry Reid’s rewriting of Senate rules, have the potential to make things even worse.

But one change, over time, could reverse the problems that have built up over the past few decades:  We should mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18.  The idea is radical, unlikely and impractical — but it just might work.

I wasn't impressed with the argument.  And that isn't counting the economic costs and the risk sharing.  For most of our history we have not had a draft and yet the last caning of a US Senator, on the Senate Floor, was over 150 years ago.

Then Mr Bob Goldich, retired from the Congressional Research Service, where he was an expert on military manpower, wrote the following response at the Web Magazine War on the Rocks:

In 33 years on the Hill, I never noticed any appreciable relationship between military service and understanding of national defense matters among Members of Congress.  Dirty little secret: for most draftees, their military service went in one ear and out the other.  They didn’t like it (historically most men have never liked military service), although they usually felt it was a necessary duty and were proud of it, and because they didn’t like it they had no particular desire to relive it or think about it much.  For instance, only one-quarter of World War II veterans ever joined a veterans organization like the American Legion, VFW, Jewish War Veterans, and so on, and most of them didn’t stay active in the organization for a long time. Furthermore, when they do look back to their service, it has usually been between 20 and 50 years or more earlier, which can be highly misleading when dealing with current defense policies and issues.  When Milbank states that having more Members with military service would change much of anything about politics and governance, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Then there is this comment:
How do you get around the problem that if more politicians with military experience = a more perfect union, the Nation's only Civil War was fought by men who had served together in the Mexican-American War and (in some cases) were West Point classmates?
That may be a bit overdrawn, but read The Killer Angels.

Regards  —  Cliff


Craig H said...

I'd suggest that the first thing missing from this analysis of service and its impact on policy-making is the immeasurable impact that service has on creating a sense of national pride and shared values among the population at large. Shelby Foote wrote of the American Civil War that before the conflict the common literary and oratorical usage was "the Unites States are", and after the conflict the phrasing immediately became "the United States is". That's a profound change, and that's among people bitterly opposed and just recently shooting at each other. But the second thing missing from this analysis is the presumption of service as being military, and military only. Why can't we envision a nation dedicated to service without insisting that the service be violent? Our most cherished ideals are those that are won by our fight to preserve them, and there are may ways to ensure those ideals that do not involve our Armed Services.

National Service is more than this argument allows, and we are impoverished by not embracing a broader definition.

Jack Mitchell said...

"National Service is more than this argument allows, and we are impoverished by not embracing a broader definition."

Fully concur.

Not everyone is made for the military. And, because of the 'life and death' aspect of the military, should remain an all volunteer gig.

That said, I'd be fine with a conscription of service that takes America's children and binds them together in a common cause.

Take them away from Mom & Dad, make them toil with others that are unlike them, outwardly, so they will see how we are so much alike, as humans.

Stir the 'sleeping giant' in young Americans.

For this they should receive the scantest of stipends. But upon completion, either a full boat to an academic or vocational training,; or down payment assistance on a home.