11/19/2006

The Draft

Rep. Rangel wants to reinstate the draft.

"Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

'There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way,' Rangel said."

Beacon correspondent Phil Primeau wrote a piece about reinstating the draft recently.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Ho boy, where to start... I read Phil's piece when it came out and considered writing a letter to the beacon about it. Though now I guess I can simply post my thoughts here.

Following 9/11, our nation pulled together in overwhelming support of the Bush administration and the invasion of Afganistan. We felt that the attack on our soil justified a military response. In doing so, we paved the way for the Bush government to set up its Iraq platform based on the war on terror (or "tura").

The road to Vietnam was propelled by a similar mechanism, a war on an "-ism" and prevention of the supposed "Domino effect". Nam occured regardless of the fact that a draft was instated because of the fear of Communism, yet the country became fiercely divided as the war progressed.

Should Iraq have had a draft at the forefront, chances are it still would've occured. Indeed, since we would've already been in Afganistan, it's easy to stipulate that many draftees would've already found themselves in the service. With these bolstered military numbers, the principle arguement that Iraq would've been a short, sweet campaign would've gained even more momentum. Many early supporters of the war cited the weakness of Saddam's army as a factor in their belief that it was not only the right thing to do, but a practical thing to do as well.

Furthermore, Phil's theory that a draft would unite the country is historically flawed and logically unfounded. Vietnam had a draft, it went on for (arguably) over 4 years. Yet the country found itself more divided than ever. A draft before the war would not have united us, but rather polerized us further. Those against the war would've been marginalized even more while those for the war would've ostracized dissentors as traitors and other foolish nonsense.

This, however, only applies to a scenario in which a draft had been instated pre-Afganistan. Were a draft to be instated now, with the war's current popular view; its almost certain our role in the war would end. However, the question of whether or not this would be ethically sound remains.

That said, there are many legitimate reasons that a draft would be impractical at this point. Perhaps most important is the fact that the pentagon and the military do not want conscripts and unwilling soldiers (and they've said so many times). A volunteer army greatly GREATLY lessens the liklihood of the kind of behavior and amorality we saw in Vietnam. It doesn't eliminate it, as recent events have shown. However, many in the military believe that conscripts make for the worst possible soldiers, and in a combat situation as complex as Iraq, we're better off without them.

prp said...

"Furthermore, Phil's theory that a draft would unite the country is historically flawed and logically unfounded."

You miss my point, I'm afraid. I didn't say that it would unite opinion -- nothing can do that short of black magic. I was speaking quite more literally. Without a doubt, the draft would unite the nation in terms of drawing all rungs and layers of society into the conflict. It's not about opinion, it's about civic duty. Plenty of draftees in the 60's and 70's opposed the conflict . . . many still went, despite moral hesitation.

"Perhaps most important is the fact that the pentagon and the military do not want conscripts and unwilling soldiers (and they've said so many times)."

Bullshit. The Pentagon would love to get their hands on as many good men as possible. The majority of the military institution (and many civilian leaders, including John Kerry) fought tooth and nail to keep conscription. Such sentiments are now kept on the DL for fear of negative backlash being direct towards the White House.

" A volunteer army greatly GREATLY lessens the liklihood of the kind of behavior and amorality we saw in Vietnam."

Two can play at that game: An army of professional soldiers desensitized to violence and long shaped by the elements of war increases the "liklihood" of the kind of behavior and amorality we are seeing in Iraq.

Let's face it, "amorality" is a sympton of war, draft or no draft.

Also, consider this: The current military establishment is overwhelmingly conservative and pro-GOP. Right now, given the stability of our internal order and the general atmosphere of respect towards law and Constitutional tradition, this does not present a real problem. But 50 years down the road . . . 100 . . . ?

I would rather not have a standing army of hundreds of thousands of well-trained, well-equiped soldiers, most all of whom are loyal to a particular political faction. Call me cynical, but that's the way I'd like it, thank you very much.

Jeff said...

"the draft would unite the nation in terms of drawing all rungs and layers of society into the conflict. It's not about opinion, it's about civic duty."

I see I misunderstood. I like this idea, but I question its practicality. Many citizens with wealth/power/college education were able to dodge the draft effectively in Nam, see our president for example.

On top of that, a non-draft army is required to provide greater incentive to enlist. This means increased pay and better benefits. A draft army can still draft people in poverty, and don't have to provide them with shit.

"Bullshit. The Pentagon would love to get their hands on as many good men as possible."

- "My read at this time is that there is not a lot of enthusiasm or support for [the draft], either within the civilian community or perhaps most importantly within the military services themselves," -Rep. John McHugh, (R) N.Y., former chairman of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, 2003.

Quotes like that are a dime a dozen. The Bush Administration has also been vocally anti-draft for the entirety of its term thus far.

"Two can play at that game: An army of professional soldiers desensitized to violence and long shaped by the elements of war increases the "liklihood" of the kind of behavior and amorality we are seeing in Iraq.

Let's face it, "amorality" is a sympton of war, draft or no draft."

I can't say I agree with you here, as our all volunteer army has conducted itself far more ethically in Iraq than our drafted army did in Nam. Again, I'm not saying its anywhere close to perfect, but you simply cannot argue that its anywhere near as bad.

prp said...

What the hell are you talking about? More ethically? Our conduct in Iraq is little different than our conduct in Vietnam, it's just that the latter conflict had much larger dimensions.

Civilian killings are typical now, civilian killings were typical then; civilians are constantly caught in the crossfire now, civilians were constantly caught in the crossfire now; there is rape, harassment, and thuggery now, there was rape, harassmnent, and thuggery then.

If there's a new sort of morality, is with the brass and in the Pentagon. It is they who have (generally) held back from ordering the sort of mass bombings and scorched earth tactics which decimated Vietnam in the 60's and 70's.

Also, the disorder amongst our guys in Vietnam was due largely to social and political circumstances there and at home. The draft army worked well in both World Wars, as well as in the Civil War.

Jeff said...

Iraq has more parellels to Nam that WWI/II or the Civil War by more than a longshot. Since we're arguing about Iraq and a draft, it seems like comparisons the Nam hold much more water than other draft-wars.

Yes, rapes have occurred in Iraq, so have US soldiers committing terrible crimes. The difference in numbers is clear, though. That sort of thing was both common and generally unpunished (with a few notable exceptions) in Nam. Tim Obrien's work alone is evidence of this. In Iraq, with the US and Arab media constantly watching, these incidents have been few considering the terrible nature of the circumstance.

I'm getting a bit tired of playing devil's advocate, though. I agree with you that war brings amorality. But if you believe that, how can you think that drafting a few hundred thousand more soldiers, many of whom probably don't want to go, won't greatly increase this amorality?