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August 10, 2007

The Media Floats The Draft Balloon

by tarran

Today, on NPR, “War Czar” Lt. Gen. Lute was asked about whether he wants to see a return to government slavery, also known as conscription or “the draft”.

Here’s his answer:

I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another. Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well. It would be a major policy shift — not actually a military, but a political policy shift to move to some other course.

What is interesting though is that he a minute before had been describing the manpower shortages bedeviling the U.S. military:

As an Army officer, this is a matter of real concern to me. Ultimately, the American army, and any other all-volunteer force, rests with the support and the morale and the willingness to serve demonstrated by our — especially our young men and women in uniform. And I am concerned that those men and women and the families they represent are under stress as a result of repeated deployments.

There’s both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families, and ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions. And when the system is under stress, it’s right to be concerned about some of the future decisions these young men and women may make. I think our military leaders are right to be focused on that.

There’s also a professional and broader strategic argument to this, and that is that when our forces are as engaged as they have been over the last several years, particularly in Iraq, that we’re concerned as military professionals that we also keep a very sharp edge honed for other contingencies outside of Iraq.

So, the good general basically said that the all-volunteer military was under a great deal of stress, that a draft was not yet needed, but that the military wouldn’t have a problem with one.

This of course is 180 turn around from a few years ago when the senior officers were opposed to conscription.

Meantime the media had a very different take on the interview. Notice the spin:

Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush’s new war adviser said Friday.
“I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

“And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another,” Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a “major policy shift” and Bush has made it clear that he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“The president’s position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

In the interview, Lute also said that “Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well.”

Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.
“There’s both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families,” he said. “And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions.”

The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re-established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.
Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.

Now, to my jaded eye this is quite interesting. The wire report makes it sound like the General was suggesting that there be a political debate to bring back conscription, when in fact he was declining to rule it out after the interviewer raised the subject.

Folks, this is Fabian socialism in action: Let’s say that these news reports prompt a furor. The General can point to his actual comments and claim, truthfully, that he didn’t recommend a return to the draft. Those who kick up a fuss about the draft are made to look stupid, and the idea will float in the back up people’s consciousness, ready to be raised again.

On the other hand, if there is no furor, then the debate will probably take place. In the meantime, the media has actually made a case that the draft is reasonable and a traditional part of U.S. history. In effect the wire report is an editorial in favor of bringing it back.

Why the change on the part of the Bush administration? The problem is that to continue occupying Iraq, they will have to continue to activate and deploy reserve units. This means middle aged people with families and mortgages will find themselves deployed 3 or 4 times every 10 years. This tempo is not sustainable.

I think that with this interview, the White House is signalling an interest in returning to conscription, because General Lute is lying about the ease with which the military can adopt conscription. Instituting conscription requires a massive change in a millitary’s doctrine and organization. Imagine you managed a business that made whiskey with free laborers, and one day the owner called you into his office and told you that he would be bringing in slaves to do much of the labor. Now, would you be able to put the slaves immediately to work? No. You would need to arrange for overseers to watch them closely. You’d have to put locks on the doors so that slaves can’t escape. You’d have to stop work periodically to count your slaves etc. The claim that such a change is not a “military shift” does not pass the B.S. test. The lie effectively torpedoes the most effective argument against the draft, which is that the military does not want one. In this way, the Bush administration could get conscription without seeming to agitate for it. In fact, given their unpopularity and political weakness, the only way they will get a return to the draft is by having someone else do the heavy lifting while they put up an seemingly ineffectual false resistance.

It is shameful that, over a hundred years after the U.S. government claimed that it had eliminated slavery within its borders, its officers are still infatuated with it and wish to bring it back. Slavery has no part in civilization, and it is high time that the U.S. government, and governments thoughout the world for that matter, abandoned this disgusting practice of systematically enslaving young men.

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28 Comments

  1. This administration was “elected” by all the American people. This administration got us into this ill-conceived adventure in Iraq. I think it only fair that all the American people have a chance to effectuate the policies of the “elected” government, and not have them carried out mostly by the least fortunate among us whose other choices for employment are limited. A draft is totally appropriate.

    Comment by Rob Mahoney — August 11, 2007 @ 6:54 am
  2. Coming from a draftee who at age 23, along with Elvis P, was drafted and served from in 1958-1960 in the Army, my advice is bring back the draft! There was no problem then in inducting and training draftees and volunteers side by side and I see no reason why this should be different now. In fact the military discipline will do everyone a lot of good in their later civilian life, as I experienced.
    It’s the only equitable way to defend this nation against the mounting international threats that will not only require more US and UN military intervention as police forces or combatants.
    The draft has been used throughout most war periods in this nation’s history and we need it NOW. The military has a 200 year history of operations and from, my own experience in basic training and thereafter, they are doing a good job.
    I further suggest that draft dodgers or well to do folk who wish to opt out be given the option to buy their way by paying a flat $100k fee into an insurance pool for volunteer soldiers, but not draftees, dying in defense of their nations.

    Herman Rutner, chemist; proud to have served and lucky it was in peace time

    Comment by Herman Rutner — August 11, 2007 @ 7:10 am
  3. Institute the Draft Immediately. Why? Because a country with a “volunteer” professional army soon becomes another ancient Rome. When voters and the greater population can avoid fighting a war that they have condoned, then it is far too easy to wage war. Iraq is a perfect example. Not a single Republican in Congress has a son or daughter in the armed services. Is far too easy to be a hawk if you never have to take up arms yourself.

    A 2-year draft requiring everyone (male and female) to serve this country in some capacity (a non-military public service should be an option when not at war) would be extremely valuable to many youths, especially inner-city kids who have had horrible public education.

    Comment by Ace Tracy — August 11, 2007 @ 7:21 am
  4. Two things are necessary to make a Soldier:
    1. The Ability to Serve, and
    2. The Willingness to Serve.

    Many have the Ability; few the Willingness.
    Some have the Willingness, but not the Ability.

    Those of Ability not Willing to serve in the honorable and noble capacity of Fighting Men when it is absolutely necessary for the survival and continuance their Society’s Culture, Heritage, and Traditions, can serve in other ways; they can be used as Shields.

    Comment by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts" — August 11, 2007 @ 7:35 am
  5. The most efficient an effective army in the world is the British Army. They do not want conscripted troops, because they are of no real use! Has the US really forgotten the turmoil caused by the draft of the 60′s and 70′s combined with inept foreign interventions?

    Comment by Iain Buchanan — August 11, 2007 @ 8:11 am
  6. Are you kidding me, why should we institute the draft for a “war” that we should not be involved in anyway! The current administration lied to the country in order to gain support for the invasion of Iraq, to remove a government that “we” once supported. How is this “war” preserving our freedom and way of life? As someone who served as a volunteer I believe the Draft is a big mistake.

    Comment by James Young — August 11, 2007 @ 8:52 am
  7. Steve Savage,

    Being the killers for a criminal enterprise is profoundly dishonorable.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — August 11, 2007 @ 10:22 am
  8. So I guess Lute is hinting that the administration’s position is “The people won’t volunteer in sufficient numbers to fight an unjust war run by a colossal idiot…maybe the key is to force them to do it.” Classic Bush administration logic.

    No wonder most of the generals who were offered the “war czar” position turned it down. What reputable officer would want to be the mouthpiece for a useless hack like Bush?

    Comment by UCrawford — August 11, 2007 @ 10:25 am
  9. And for all those who like the draft as a form of social welfare, the military’s already starting to have problems from lowering standards for recruitment, those problems will only get worse when you stick more troubled kids in the service and give them guns. I think you’d be surprised to find how many soldiers are actually opposed to a draft, partly on principal, partly because they know how much trouble social engineering causes for the military.

    That’s certainly the opinion I had while I was serving.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 11, 2007 @ 10:31 am
  10. The draft is an inequitable claim on your life and liberty. It also requires a significant bureaucracy to manage all the malcontents who do not want to be there or who are physically unfit for service. It also a waste of time for a lot of people who would rather invest there time for things like science, technology, or the arts.

    Yes, we have a volunteer army. Yes there is propensity by presidents and congress to use it in conflicts that do not represent national security threats. If there was a draft wouldn’t there be the same propensity except the army gets to select which units to use in each conflict.

    The solution to the temptation is not to bring back the draft. The solution is not to have a standing army. Downside the size of the military force – especially the army – significantly, and we’d be rid of this problem.

    Comment by TanGeng — August 11, 2007 @ 11:49 am
  11. Oh my, all these pro-draft arguments remind me of last day of a college history class where all the liberals argued that the draft was necessary so that everyone had to sacrifice something, and not just those who saw the military as their only hope in life. People seems to forget the basics of liberty. When one argues that the draft is necessary they are arguing that the state owns them. No voluntary contract is signed. That is slavery. There are also many practical reasons for not re-instituting the draft, such as ill fit soldiers and the ability of the government to wage war more easily. This debacle in Iraq would have been easier to commence with a draft, not harder.

    Comment by somebody — August 11, 2007 @ 11:51 am
  12. Actually, I think the volunteer Army is fine as is. The recruitment problems and manning problems they’re experiencing are a result of overcommiting our forces with an interventionist foreign policy and are a reflection of the disdain from society at large to support that policy. How can the president tell when the people don’t back his foreign policy? Because fewer and fewer people want to work for him and help him to carry it out. Conscription merely insulates the president from the consequences of his own poor choices and enables him to continue with them.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 11, 2007 @ 11:55 am
  13. Does this mean that Bush has decided to attack Iran before his term in office expires ? He never worried about the troops before, so that couldn’t be it.

    Comment by DukeSaco — August 11, 2007 @ 3:07 pm
  14. A country worth defending doesn’t want for willing soldiers.

    Oh wait…we need soldiers who are willing to invade someone else…well, maybe we do need a draft.

    (Someone tell me again where the WMDs were?)

    Comment by Ben — August 11, 2007 @ 3:42 pm
  15. I totally do not support the draft, and Rob Mahoney is full of baloney. I am American, but I DID NOT elect play any part in electing our current president. I didn’t vote for him so I disagree that ALL the American people elected this administration. No WE didn’t. The sooner “W” is out of office the better. Come on Hillary!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Tigger — August 11, 2007 @ 3:50 pm
  16. The main underlying argument (in favor) is that the Iraq war is a matter of national security; the security and integrity of the United States itself.

    It is not. Not in the least bit.

    The draft should be a last resort measure to protect the United States, not a tool to carry out poorly planned and executed foreign excursions for ambiguous reasons (What were they again? I forget..)

    Attempts to portray the Iraq war as a matter of national security is blatant propaganda by right-wing individuals and manipulative politicians with hidden agendas. Most specifically, it’s these individuals that are part of the Bush/Cheney/Rove personality cult that has infested Washington since 2000.

    Comment by Ken — August 11, 2007 @ 4:29 pm
  17. To quote:

    “Oh my, all these pro-draft arguments remind me of last day of a college history class where all the liberals argued that the draft was necessary so that everyone had to sacrifice something, and not just those who saw the military as their only hope in life. People seems to forget the basics of liberty. When one argues that the draft is necessary they are arguing that the state owns them. No voluntary contract is signed. That is slavery. There are also many practical reasons for not re-instituting the draft, such as ill fit soldiers and the ability of the government, to wage war more easily. This debacle in Iraq would have been easier to commence with a draft, not harder.”

    What “liberal” argues for a draft?? Any and every left-standing liberal citizen I’ve encountered (and my part of the country is primarily liberals) believes fully that a draft violates basic civil liberties, forcing bystanders (or protesters) to become unwillingly active participants in a conflict that if they wished to support, they would have volunteered.

    I do, however, agree with the rest of your commentary – that a draft will institute state ownership of people, ill-fit soldiers, drastically increased bureaucratic management, etc. I have never handled a gun, and I don’t intend to point one at an Iraqi because GW tells me to. I certainly don’t intend to allow my life and liberty to be stripped away from me for a “cause” that began with deception, continues unjustly at the expense of innocent lives (both military and civilian), costs the American and global economies billions of dollars per week, and can and will only end with further losses of innocent life, all the while being run a continent away from the leather chairs of a rancher who has ignored the polls of the people for the last 4 years, perpetually deceives the nation in the current state of affairs, and who openly thought an electoral campaign was more worth his time than the very draft he seeks to implement.

    Well, as an innocent civilian who supports the troops who signed up to defend the nation (NOT invade countries), and who abhors the war, my time and life will be spent supporting and raising my family. I shall not, ever, be forcefully committed to fighting a war I never voted for, I never supported, and I certainly never volunteered for.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 11, 2007 @ 4:45 pm
  18. Think of recruitment as a barometer. Were we to see a true threat to our homes, we would have no problem enlisting recruits in a army of defense. Now, seeing our armed forces involved in an act of American aggression, the troops are getting a bit worn and disillusioned. No wonder. If the oil barons and sheiks wish to continue our reign of terror in Arabia and Afghanistan, we must institute a draft. I think that is a good sign. I hope they try it. There is nothing like the threat of getting a letter from Uncle Sam to make you wanna vote with thought, or get out in the streets to make a point. There is nothing like seeing your children dressed in khaki-cammo, bearing arms, and being shipped off to some quagmire to make one think – “Is this really the right thing to be doing?”

    Comment by Katherine — August 11, 2007 @ 5:03 pm
  19. Quote:
    “What “liberal” argues for a draft??”

    Answer:Charles Wrangle, among others. Both sides have draft proponents. Those on the right who advocate in favor of a draft sincerely believe that everyone (not just those with no other choices) has an obligation to serve (e.g. a guy like McCain used to be). Those on the left like Charlie Wrangle (who, unlike Bush, also happens to be a bona fide war hero) who advocate in favor of a draft realize that if a draft were instituted, this ill-advised adventure in the Middle East would continue for about 3 minutes. How did we get into this mess? The real culprits are all of us, not just those who voted for Bush or who supported the idiotic decision to invade Iraq (I never did either). By continuing to live in communities so distant from where we work that we have to commute everyday, by driving alone in a gas-guzzling vehicle everyday, by refusing to use mass transit or to cut out even one unnecessary trip per week, by hiring illegal aliens to tend our gardens and keep our homes, and on and on and on (guilty on all counts). This nation is a shadow of its former self, and we’re going to get exactly what we deserve. We’ll probably wind up being Chinese serfs if things continue going in the same direction. But I digress at the same time as I run out of steam.

    Comment by Steve — August 11, 2007 @ 5:35 pm
  20. Ace: “Not a single Republican in Congress has a son or daughter in the armed services. Is far too easy to be a hawk if you never have to take up arms yourself.”

    As of 2004, at least 6 Republican representatives had their sons and/or daughters serving in the military. I have not found a complete list but this is what I found so far. The following representatives had their sons and/or daughters serving in the military in 2004:

    Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, (CO)
    Rep. Ed Schrock (VA)
    Rep. Joe Wilson (SC)
    Rep. John Kline (MN)
    Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA)
    Rep. Todd Akin (MO)

    While this is not exactly a long list, its inaccurate to say that “Not a single Republican in Congress has a son or daughter in the armed services.” You are also being unfair by denying the service of these young men and/or women. Whether you support the war or not, you should at least be honest in your argument.

    And to the second part of your argument: because the military is all voluntary, none of these individuals were forced to join. Whether or not this is a “good war” or not is beside the point. These young men and women signed up knowing full well that they may be called upon to go to war. They also had to know that policy can change on each election cycle.

    A military draft takes that option away. I agree with Tarran’s assessment on this: conscription is slavery. Regardless of whether or not the war is just, no one should ever be forced to serve. A more reasonable alternative to a draft would be to sweeten the pot by giving volunteer soldiers more money, benefits, etc. If civilization is truley at stake, it should not be that difficult to find individuals to serve. If men and women are required to serve at the point of a gun, such a civilization is not worth saving anyway!

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 11, 2007 @ 11:26 pm
  21. The NEW DRAFT LAW should require ALL the children of all public officials (those living off our tax dollars) to be first on the list of those drafted, starting with the President, Congress, State Governors, etc.

    Next would be the children of the officers of the major corporations, followed by those children of families who earn over $200,000 per year. If we still need more troops, then pay those lower income families $500-$1000 a day like the corporatons pay the 1000+ contractors who have died in Iraq.

    So, let’s have a national referendum. I am sure the American people would approve the new draft law. Do you think Congress would approve and the President would agree?

    Do you think any of the current politicians running for president would agree to support this new Draft law? Can you imagine Mitt Rommey voting to send his 5 sons to the Iraq war, or Clinton sending her daughter to Iraq. So why don’t they ask this kind of question in the Presidential debates, and to those who want to start the Draft.

    Comment by Greg — August 11, 2007 @ 11:44 pm
  22. Greg:

    It’s not the fault of the offspring of their parent’s decisions. They are soveriegn individuals like anyone else. If anything, such a draft should require the lawmakers themselves to serve.

    I do understand where you are coming from though. If there is a draft it should be fair (unlike the Veitnam era). No one should be immune based on his or her attendence at a college, family influence, income level, or anything else. A draft should not violate the principle of equal protection.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 12, 2007 @ 1:16 am
  23. To equate serving in the military to defend ones country with slavery is a classic example of apples and oranges.

    Comment by Robert — August 12, 2007 @ 5:46 am
  24. Steve said:
    “Those on the left like Charlie Wrangle (who, unlike Bush, also happens to be a bona fide war hero) who advocate in favor of a draft realize that if a draft were instituted, this ill-advised adventure in the Middle East would continue for about 3 minutes.”

    Steve, yes, you’re right. I hadn’t recognized who had sponsored the Universal National Service Act (HR163 and HR393). I have to confess, I had believed it to be a Republican-sponsored bill. When word of those bills hit the streets in my town, our local college held a forum to raise awareness of it. The overwhelming majority of people in attendance (including myself) were there to find out exactly what was being proposed, and determine how best to fight it. I don’t think person one realized that it had been initiated as a way to deter the continuance of the ‘War’ on terror, with the thinking that forced service will make people think long and hard about military actions.

    As you pointed out, Rangle (no W, but an easy mistake) proposes the draft not to help the militaries bolster their numbers to perpetuate our little overseas holidays, but to stop unnecessary active conflict, and to make the military more representative of the entire American populous, rather than the low-income/lower-middle classes that it represents currently.

    Rangle’s view, I believe, is a far cry from the views of the likes Lt. Gen. Lute, who call for the draft as a solution to the current enlistment problem, which is putting a dent in the ability to continue the war. Just the other day I remember hearing an Army ad offering around $50g in sign-on bonuses. “Wow, they must be getting desperate” I thought, remembering 10 years ago when that number was (literally) ten times less.

    Comment by Anonymous (reprise) — August 12, 2007 @ 1:42 pm
  25. Stephen,

    Actually, my point was that there would be no draft if the law makers had to send their own children to IRAQ. Having the lawmakers go themselves is also a great idea. Sending 18 – 20 year olds to kill others when they can’t even legally buy a beer or go to Law Vegas and place a bet is sick.

    Let’s draft the 35 to 50 year olds (especially those who never served) and that would stop any talk about starting the draft.

    I find it amazing that 15 out 19 of the 9/11 terrorist were Saudi, and NONE were from IRAQ, yet there are still Americans who think IRAQ was involved.

    The idea that fightening them over there somehow keeps them from coming here is a deadly joke.
    Bush has made it easy for them to kill another 3000+ Americans by sending them to the Middle East. If IRAQ had no oil we would not be there. If the President of any other non-super power country invaded another country without being attacked first they would be tried for war crimes.

    Comment by Greg — August 12, 2007 @ 2:30 pm
  26. This administration was “elected” by all the American people. This administration got us into this ill-conceived adventure in Iraq. I think it only fair that all the American people have a chance to effectuate the policies of the “elected” government, and not have them carried out mostly by the least fortunate among us whose other choices for employment are limited. A draft is totally appropriate.

    How Orwellian. Fairness is making every 18-year-old a nigger.

    Comment by Brian Sorgatz — August 12, 2007 @ 4:25 pm
  27. I think you’re right about the media “softening up” the public for conscription but at the same time it is interesting that any official who utters the word “draft” is put on the front pages and people get hysterical when it comes up!
    Lute is a loon if he really thinks the draft is an option!

    Would you be willing to spread the word about http://www.draftresistance.org? It’s a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts!

    Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.

    Thanks!

    Scott Kohlhaas

    PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

    Comment by Scott Kohlhaas — August 12, 2007 @ 9:20 pm
  28. Draft. As a military officer who has been in theater, I want no soldier, sailor, airman or marine in my unit who is there against their will.

    Milton Friedman helped end the draft with sound logic and economics. Let’s not let idiotic emotion and hyperbole resurrect it. Our military need release from a LOT of government restrictions in order to better execute its mission – including a revamping of the guard and reserve structure.

    Our nation was born from free soldiers and should remain defended by free soldiers.

    PS – Mr. Holmes, temper your rhetoric with facts or keep them to yourself. You disgrace this nation, Constitution and its people – all of its people.

    Comment by Citizen Deux — August 13, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

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