I hope that Representative Sherman is the victim of a bad game of “telephone”. If he is not, if the administration really did threaten to impose martial law if the bill weren’t passed, then the time has come for us to cast out the vipers in Washington D.C.
Category Archives: Military
Some readers have questioned the veracity of the article I cited in yesterday’s post (which is a good thing and should be encouraged). I am not familiar with the work of the article’s author, Amir Taheri and cannot speak to his credibility one way or the other. I realize that there is a great deal of misinformation from both the Right and the Left in the Blogs as well as the MSM concerning the top candidates running for president and vice president. Like many people, I’m just trying to find the truth.
Having said that, the charge by Taheri is very serious and deserves to be investigated further by the MSM. There’s an article in today’s New York Post written by Geoff Earle which reports that the Obama campaign has responded to Taheri’s article:
WASHINGTON – Barack Obama said yesterday he didn’t urge Iraq to hold up an agreement with the Bush administration over the status of US troops serving in Iraq.
“Obama has never urged a delay in negotiations, nor has he urged a delay in immediately beginning a responsible drawdown of our combat brigades,” said Wendy Morigi, an Obama spokeswoman in response to a column in yesterday’s Post.
Morigi cited “outright distortions” in an column by Amir Taheri, but the Obama camp did not specifically dispute any of the quotes in the piece.
I’ll see if I can find the actual statement from the Obama campaign to find out which parts of the Taheri article they claim to be “outright distortions.”
More to come…
Iraqi Foreign Minister: Obama Asked Iraqi Leaders to Delay U.S. Troop Withdrawal Agreement Until After the Election
If this turns out to be true, this could be the most damning scandal exposed of any of the candidates seeking to be the next president or vice president. According to an article in The New York Post, Sen. Barack Obama told Iraqi leaders to delay a U.S. troop withdrawal agreement until after the presidential election:
WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.
According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.
“He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington,” Zebari said in an interview.
Obama has made many contradictory statements with regard to Iraq. His latest position is that US combat troops should be out by 2010. Yet his effort to delay an agreement would make that withdrawal deadline impossible to meet.
Obama has made ending the war in Iraq a hallmark of his campaign. Is he more concerned about bringing the troops home sooner than later or does he really want the troops to remain in Iraq just long enough so he can take credit for fulfilling a campaign promise? The idea that a presidential candidate would try to keep the troops in harm’s way any longer than he believes necessary is truly disturbing.
Regardless of my political differences with Sen. Barack Obama, I sincerely hope this turns out to be untrue. Perhaps those in the MSM can get over their “tingly feelings” for a moment and actually do their jobs and follow up to find out if this is true.
Time has an ongoing series which advocates the need for “voluntary” national service. In the magazine’s latest article by Managing Editor Richard Stengel, the author praises both John McCain and Barack Obama for their urging of Americans to “serve interests greater than self.”
It is a unique moment for the idea of national service. You have two presidential candidates who believe deeply in service and who have made it part of their core message to voters. You have millions of Americans who are yearning to be more involved in the world and in their communities. You have corporations and businesses that are making civic engagement a key part of their mission.
If “millions of Americans” wish to be “more involved” in service to others and “their communities” what’s stopping them? Do we really need a President McCain or President Obama to
force “inspire” these Americans to serve their fellow Americans? Is their really a “volunteer” deficit?
In Stengel’s original article on this subject A Time to Serve he seems to suggest the opposite:
Polls show that while confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low, volunteerism and civic participation since the ’70s are near all-time highs. Political scientists are perplexed about this. If confidence is so low, why would people bother volunteering? The explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young people, think the government and the public sphere are broken, but they feel they can personally make a difference through community service.
I fail to see the problem here. If people do not have confidence in the government, this is a very good thing*! Ordinary Americans are helping others on their own volition, not because some politician told them to do so.
Despite this seemingly positive news, this isn’t enough for Stengel:
[T]he way to keep the Republic — is universal national service. No, not mandatory or compulsory service but service that is in our enlightened self-interest as a nation. We are at a historic junction; with the first open presidential election in more than a half-century, it is time for the next President to mine the desire that is out there for serving and create a program for universal national service that will be his — or her — legacy for decades to come. It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.
Am I missing something here? How does a president “persuade” people who otherwise would not be inclined to national service without using some form of coercion? Toward the end of the article, Stengel offers a 10-point plan on how the next president should implement a national service agenda:
1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution)
2. Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department (a.k.a. taking money from citizens to pay for another Bureaucracy)
3. Expand Existing National-Service Programs Like AmeriCorps and the National Senior Volunteer Corps
4. Create an Education Corps
5. Institute a Summer of Service (a.k.a. teenagers serving the government to learn that all great things come from government)
6. Build a Health Corps (a.k.a. “volunteers” helping low income people access government healthcare programs which they are not already taking advantage of such as SCHIP)
7. Launch a Green Corps (similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps but would improve infrastructure and combat climate change).
8. Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps (a.k.a. volunteers doing the job the National Guard traditionally does in the wake of natural disasters).
9. Start a National-Service Academy (a.k.a. a school to train government workers)
10. Create a Baby-Boomer Education Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution).
In one way or another, every one of these proposals requires government to use force**. While this form of coercion is not as visible as directly “drafting” people into government service, make no mistake, coercion is still very much part of the equation.
To Time’s credit, the magazine did offer a counterpoint to Stengel’s article. Michael Kinsley calls B.S. on this whole notion of national service (particularly on the part of young people):
One of the comforts of middle age — a stage that the editor of TIME and I have both reached — is that you can start making demands on young people, safe in the knowledge that they won’t apply to you. Having safely escaped the Vietnam era draft ourselves, we are overcome by the feeling that the next generation should not be so lucky. Many of these young folks are volunteering for socially beneficial work, and that’s good. But it’s not good enough. “Volunteerism” is so wonderful that every young person should have to do it.
I’m perfectly prepared to believe that today’s young people are deplorable specimens, ignorant and ungrateful and in desperate need of discipline. Or I am also prepared to believe that they are about to burst with idealism like a piñata and only await somebody with a giant pin. But they aren’t the only ones who could use a lesson about social obligation. What about grownups? Grownups, who still have some hope of collecting Social Security and Medicare before they go broke, who have enjoyed the explosion in house prices that make the prospect of home ownership so dim for the next generation; who allowed the government to run up a gargantuan national debt, were miraculously bailed out of that, and immediately allowed it to be run up a second time; who may well have gone to college when tuition was cheap and you didn’t automatically graduate burdened by student loans. We are not in much of a position to start dreaming up lessons in social obligation for the kids.
As I pointed out in my last post, many people are in favor of “service” and “sacrifice” if it is being done by someone else. Kinsley also points out that the answer to serving the needs of others is good old fashioned Capitalism!***
Let’s be honest. If you really want to “serve your country/community/world,” again I ask you: What’s stopping you? Your level of service has not one thing to do with who occupies the White House at any given time.
John McCain must hate little girls. It is one of many inescapable conclusions that arise from reading his National Security position paper, which promises all things to everyone – well almost everyone. His foreign policy plans promise more submarines, more ships, more aircraft, more divisions, more security, more military assistance for allies, more attacks on enemies, more purchases from the military-industrial complex. About the only thing he does not promise in the document is to give every little girl in America a pony. I presume that this is not an oversight. Sen McCain is very focused on foreign policy and military matters, and I cannot imagine that the omission of free ponies was anything but intentional.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s go through the document together and we can look at all the things he does promise, and you will see the glaring omission of ponies for little girls in this fantastic proposal.
In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. scratcccccchhhhhh
Wow, one sentence in, and I can already see Sen McCain’s famed courage – I see this was published without being reviewed by an editor who knew how to write English well! This is the public relations equivalent of going commando. Just as charging recklessly at the pillbox can get you shot needlessly, Sen McCain has opened himself up to an attack – Do we really want a president who wishes to defend that national security apparatus of the United States? What happened to defending American’s who are not involved in national Security? Of course, this attack is unfair. Rather, Sen McCain or a staff member merely screwed up the topic sentence of one of his more high profile position papers.
In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. scratcccccchhhhhh
Does anybody remember the strategic surprise of the Russians capturing that airport in Kosovo? Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora? The first attempt to smash Fallujah? The U.S. military gets away with a lot because they have an overwhelming amount of firepower, and have faster communications than the little tin pot dictators or rudimentarily armed militias they’ve been fighting. If the U.S. military has the best officer corps in the world, then we must be entering into a new age of prosperity and peace since all the other militaries must be officered solely by incompetents without a single officer of average intelligence amongst them.
But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.
John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth – and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.
And here we go!
The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country’s vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Wow! It seems that the United States taxpayer must take part in every fight on Earth! Let’s review the conflicts:
The occupation of Iraq
The occupation of Iraq is a purely discretionary exercise. Iraq does not, nor did it ever pose a threat to U.S. citizens living within the borders of the United States. If the United States were to withdraw all its forces as fast as possible, it would be decades, if ever, before whatever gang took over and proclaimed itself as the government of Iraq had mustered up the firepower to launch a significant attack on the people of the U.S.
It did however threaten the Saudi monarch, and John McCain understands that preserving freedom at home requires sending U.S. soldiers overseas to die to prop an unpopular king on his throne.
The occupation of Afghanistan
Many people consider this to be required to defend the U.S. from attack. Certainly, if you accept the need to fight a global war on terrorism, the occupation of what was Al Queda’s rear areas is a requirement. Of course, this occupation is going badly; Slowly but surely, the United States is controlling less and less territory there. Occupying Afghanistan so weakened the Russian military that it collapsed. the U.S. army’s experience is similar to the Russian one – an seemingly easy early conquest followed by a slow war of attrition that saps men and wrecks equipment. Every month is harder than the previous one.
The Taliban who were bankrolled by the Saudi King (the guy U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to protect), the Pakistani government (who were trying to counter Iranian influence in Afghanistan) and increasingly by the lucrative heroin trade (high profits courtesy of the U.S. War on (Some) Drugs. The Taliban were also bankrolled by al Queda which purchased their protection.
The War on Al Queda
Al Queda’s mission is the overthrow of the Saudi king (whom U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to defend). They targeted the United States because the United States loans soldiers to defend the Saudi King, builds the bases he uses to secure his territory and supplies him with weapons, ships and aircraft. The leadership of al Queda, many of whom survived the vicious Egyptian security forces (funded and trained by the United States) who viewed the religious conservatives as a threat to their power (the Egyptian rulers being old school pan-arab socialists who were bankrolled by the soviet Union until the U.S. government offered to give them taxes collected from U.S. citizens), have developed a hatred of the United States for bankrolling their attackers.
The Iranian government is unpopular. It levies heavy taxes on the population, harasses young people looking for love, meddles in school curricula, and has pursued an inflationary monetary policy which is wrecking the economy. And like every powerful government that is screwing up domestically, they try to play up external threats. They make noises about how they are surrounded by enemies and that other governments pose a threat to the Iranian people, in an attempt to awake nationalist feelings. And they can easily make this case; their substantive negotiations with the U.S. state department in 2002 were shut down by the Bush administration. Most of the nations bordering Iran have U.S. bases with combat troops stationed in them. And the U.S. government, which initiated a war against Iran in 1954 has been obligingly threatening to bomb them… with nuclear weapons…
Officially, the purpose of this new proposed war is to keep the Iranian government from using nuclear weapons (which they don’t possess) against Israel.
Did I mention that Iran has a population that is much larger than that of Iraq? And that the terrain is pretty mountainous. And that they have the capability to cut the southern supply lines of the U.S. army occupying Iraq (in order to help prop up the Saudi King on his throne?
North Korea tried to build a nuclear bomb. It didn’t work. They flooded most of their farm land and now have a permanent famine going. They pose a threat to … South Korea. Except that South Korean soldiers are better fed and have more modern weapons and have prepared defenses, and have a larger population to draw upon. If the United States Government would quit subsidizing the government with food aid, it would probably have collapsed already.
Having largely abandoned central planning, the Chinese economy is booming, allowing the government to levy the taxes to build ships, submarines and aircraft that would have been modern in the late 1970’s. the Chinese people do allot of business with people living in the United States. They have territorial ambitions over a few sections of Central Asia and over Taiwan, and have absolutely no interest in attacking the United States.
The Russians have loads of natural resources and little else. While their government is moving in a fascist direction, their territorial ambitions are focused on “defending” slavic peoples’ hegemony in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
The Equipment Needed When Seeking Out New Enemies
To take on all these enemies, which do not directly threaten the citizenry, McCain proposes a massive arms build up to “modernize ” the U.S. military. he proposes increasing the size of the U.S. military dramatically. He proposes expanding benefits offered to veterans. He promises that the U.S. will prop up more governments that face popular rebellions, thus increasing the number of people who view the U.S. people as enemies fighting against them. He promises to increase intelligence gathering world-wide – more spies, more expensive spy satellites, more payoffs to local insurgents to provide the U.S. with intelligence (payoffs which all too often fund terrorist attacks against U.S. enemies).
John McCain famously commented that he didn’t know much about economics, and this paper proves it. These new divisions, their equipment, the aircraft, ships, submarines and satellites, the bombs and ammunition required for this adventure in world domination will not be produced by elves working at Santa’s workshop on the north Pole. They will be paid for either by taxes on the U.S. citizenry, or by debasing the U.S. dollar. Unless John McCain is going to eliminate medicare, the U.S. citizenry will be paying for these things at a time when they have little wealth to spare. rather than producing consumer goods or other forms of wealth, the labor of people making or shooting the weapons will be wasted economically speaking.
There is one word to describe this proposal: fantasy. this plan will never happen. The United States economy will implode well before McCain has raised half of the divisions he needs to put his plan of world domination into action. and since John McCain is throwing unrealizable wishes left and right in this paper, it’s a shame he decided not to throw in a pony for every little girl in the U.S. Who knows, that is one wish that Santa might have granted…
The rest of the paper.
The rest of the paper continues banging the drums of war in much the same vein as what has already been commented on.I am therefore going to leave reading the rest as an exercise to the reader.
Seymour Hersh writes in the New Yorker:
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations.
This sum, 400 million dollars is larger than the 350 million requested to bail out bad loans in the current mortgage crisis.
So what is the U.S. government purchasing with this princely sum?
In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press “is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country,” Gardiner said. It is, he said, “a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government.” He added, “Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”
Is the U.S. government targeting individual Iranian officers? Probably not. In all likelihood, The U.S. is providing dissident groups with money and arms in exchange for intelligence – and has little control over what these groups do.
Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with “passing money” (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?”
The groups that the U.S. are funding are, to be frank, what George Bush likes to pretend what the war on Terra’ is dedicated to eradicating:
The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.
One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.
The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts—and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”
And, as usual, the amateurish attempts to play “the Great Game” are backfiring:
In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.
Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.—a slap at the U.S.’s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of “Maliki’s increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States.” In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, “Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game.” Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America’s covert operations, he said, “seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad.”
At this point, I would ask all readers to consider what would happen if Canada or China was spending this amount of money to destabilize” the United States through targeted assassinations and the like? How would average U.S. citizens respond to such acts of war? Would they turn against a belligerent government in Washington DC? Or would they rally behind the U.S. government and support it?
The effect of U.S. policy in the region is quite predictable. The United States government, and by extension the United States people, will be seen as a dangerous aggressive enemy. Make no mistake, since 1953 the United States has been in a war with the Iranian people. Every escalation of the conflict has taken the form of the U.S. government initiating an escalation, the Iranians responding and providing the U.S. government with a casus belli for another escalation.
Absent U.S. meddling, the Iranian people would probably be ready to throw out the religious authorities who have ruled the country since 1979. The religious authorities have wrecked the economy through excessive taxation and a loose monetary policy. By attacking the Iranian government, the U.S. is strengthening it. Iranians who would otherwise see a nuclear weapons program as a dangerous misuse of resources become convinced that it is the best hope for a defense against U.S. aggression. They are not blind to the fact that the government of Pakistan has prevented the u.S. government from hunting systematically for Osama bin Laden. They see how the Pakistani nuclear arsenal deters the U.S. from attacking it, and they cme to the logical conclusion that they need one too.
A war with Iran is absolutely not in the interests of either the United States government nor the people of the United States. The American people will lose a great deal of treasure and find themselves confronted by numerous implacable enemies. The U.S. governments will earn enmity and hostility from governments it seeks to dominate. These governments will not only be unwilling to work with the U.S. government but may even provide safe haven for those who wish to kill Americans.
The only people who benefit from this action are those who wish to infuriate groups like Hezbullah while depriving it of monetary support. In other words, a faction of Israeli politicians who seek to expand settlements in the occupied territories and to keep the Israeli policy of anti-Arab apartheid in place.
The fact that the U.S. government is willing to spend a princely sum in an attempt to trigger such a war does more than shock me. I think it borders on treason.
On Thursday, President Bush decided to offer some encouragement to the troops in the war Afghanistan (a war he has often neglected in favor of his disastrous vanity project in Iraq) by offering this bon mot on his personal feelings about the mission and the service rendered by our armed forces:
I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks.
Often this is the sort of wistful atta-boy mentality one will find stated in any number of mediums…old war movies, recruiting posters, articles by crappy journalists, pro-war speeches by notable personalities, etc. I’ve heard it myself a few times, usually whenever somebody I’ve recently met who’s never served in the military finds out that I’m a veteran and they’re trying to stretch a polite compliment into personal bonding. Usually it’s not so much offensive as it is thoughtless, but it never ceases to grate on me nonetheless…partly because it smacks of sucking up (a character trait I can’t abide); partly because if you ask the follow-up question of why they didn’t follow through on their desire to serve their response is either an awkward silence or a string of transparent rationalizations that boil down to “I wasn’t actually considering it.” (exposing them as rather crappy and dishonest suck-ups); but mainly because I tend to have little patience with or respect for people who wholeheartedly rah-rah the idea of jumping quickly into any war so long as people other than themselves are the ones getting shot at.
While part of that attitude is obviously due to my belief in the benefits of individual choice and my libertarian distrusts of the idealism of politicians and the wisdom of government planning, part of that dislike is very much a factor of realizing, from a personal perspective, just how destructive and long-lasting the damage of wars are…particularly wars that have little or no coherent purpose any more. When Bush talks about the “fantastic experience on the frontlines” I don’t envision WWII Rangers scaling the cliffs of Normandy on D-Day or John Wayne gunning down swarms of Japanese troops on Iwo Jima, I think about what happens to those men and women Bush “envies” after the “glory” of combat is a distant memory to the uninvolved bystanders. I think about one of my former soldiers whose marriage was falling apart after he re-deployed because his post-traumatic stress disorder made it almost impossible for him to relate to his wife and his nightmares of having to shoot a 12-year old kid in the face in Afghanistan wouldn’t let him sleep more than an hour or two a night, but who was scared of seeking psychiatric help because his previous unit punished people for doing so. I think about my best friend Tom who’s racked with guilt because he, while trying to do a counter-fire mission in reaction to an insurgent attack, ended up dropping artillery rounds on an Iraqi family thanks to receiving a bad set of coordinates and a freakish wind change. I think about the time that an officer who didn’t know anything about intel, and wasn’t in the mood to hear one of her NCOs point out that she was factually mistaken, cherry-picked one of my reports to authorize an A-10 strike that killed nine little kids and zero insurgents because she thought taking decisive action would look good on her rating. And I look at the fact that, almost seven years down the road, we’ve still yet to accomplish the one primary goal we went to Afghanistan to accomplish, or to put forth any realistic strategy for “victory” Iraq (besides stalling tactics) and I wonder, “What was the point?”
I also think about the injured or disabled vets who come back from this war who will end up needing the assistance of the often substandard military medical system, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Or the vets who will go undiagnosed for psychiatric problems and end up on the streets once they’re out of the service and aren’t the government’s “problem” anymore. Or my cousin Mike, an infantryman in Vietnam, who, 40 years after serving, still struggles with a case of PTSD so severe that he can’t discuss what happened to him back then without having nightmares for a week now and which has made him the proud recipient of a couple of heart attacks. And I wonder if that’s what the current generation has to look forward to in 40 years and whether it will all have been worth it for what we’ll have actually accomplished. Somehow, I doubt it.
War is hell, and not just for the people who “deserve” it. People like Bush, who has some rather odd impressions of combat and actually ducked the chance to serve in his generation’s “romantic” war (which would make his comment slightly less than honest) never seem to figure that out. But then, why should they? They’re rarely the ones with something to lose. The same principle that Milton Friedman once applied to other peoples’ money also applies to other peoples’ lives…nobody will spend what’s yours as carefully as you do. And nobody is as willing to avoid an unnecessary war as much as someone who understands what it actually costs. Sadly, that’s wisdom rarely found among the ranks of the chickenhawks.
A reader passed on to me a link that asks a question with what would seem like an an obvious answer, but at least one libertarian thinks the answer is no:
Why not? Because no living veteran of any US foreign military incursion has done anything to protect a US citizen. “Gee, Joe, you’re a heartless bastard. How can you say that?” Because no US war since the Revolutionary War has been a just war.
First is that really true ? Yes, the history of America’s war has been rather unpleasant. It’s hard to find real justification for the Spanish-American War or the Mexican War, for example, and America’s involvement in World War One may be among the worst foreign policy decisions ever made by a President — yes, I would argue, even worse than the Iraq War.
But not all of our wars have been unjust.
World War II, after Pearl Harbor, would clearly seem to have fallen within the category of just wars. The War of 1812, which was initiated after the British Navy was intercepting American shipping and kidnapping American sailors and merchantmen, would also seem to fall into that category. So, under the analysis of the author, the veterans of those wars would be worthy of respect. For different reasons, I would argue that the first Gulf War, and possibly the Korean War, could also be considered a just war.
But that just raises another question.
Why should the respect that is owed a member of the military be affected by whether or not the war he fought in was “just” by someone’s standards ?
Members of the military don’t make a decision to fight a particular war, they take orders from the civilian leaders who make those decisions. Why should they be held responsible for bad decision making in Washington ?
Moreover, up until the draft was ended, most of the men who fought in America’s wars had no choice. They were drafted in to the military and they did what was asked of them. Why shouldn’t they be thanked for that ?
And what about veterans who served in peacetime ? They certainly cannot be tarred with having fought in an unjust war and, to the extent that they were acting in defense of the United States, they were, in fact, protecting American citizens seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
I’ve known many members of the military, including family members and a Great Uncle who was among the first group of Americans to cross the Rhine River into the Third Reich itself, and they’re not evil people. Branding them with the responsibility for decisions they had no role in making is as bad as when people spit on Vietnam Veterans when they returned home.
America can do better than that.
I think this brings us up to seven or eight “number threes” killed in the al-Qaeda hierachy since 2001. Must be a hell of a corporate flow chart they have. I wonder what country the next guy will be situated in when our government decides to “promote” him. Somehow I think it will end up being whatever country the president’s taking the most criticism on that particular day.
Update: According to the updated version of CNN’s story on the death of al-Qaeda “number three” Abu Laith al-Libi:
In October, the U.S. military’s anti-terror Combined Joint Task Force-82 announced rewards ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 for al-Libi and 11 other mid-level Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The military distributed posters and billboards with pictures and names of the insurgents around eastern Afghanistan. Al-Libi and the others were described at the time by CJTF-82 spokesman Maj. Chris Belcher as “mid-level bad guys.” (emphasis mine)
Translation: “Mid-level” is not generally a classification for a high-value target, which means there’s pretty much no difference between al-Qaeda’s recently deceased “number three man” and a couple dozen other schmucks running around out there on the AF/PAK border except that the military and the press happened to have a photo and a name for this guy.
The enemy has changed tactics yet again and as a result we are left scrambling to catch up. Despite a large U.S. military presence, he still manages to elude detection and moves with impunity in order to accomplish his objectives. After an investment of billions of dollars and several years of operations, it’s time to cut our losses and pull out.
MIAMI – U.S.-directed seizures and disruptions of cocaine shipments from Latin America dropped sharply in 2007 from the year before, reflecting in part a successful shift in tactics by drug traffickers to avoid detection at sea, senior American officials disclosed Monday in releasing new figures.
Navy Adm. Jim Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the region, said seizures fell from 262 metric tons in 2006 to about 210 tons last year.
“It’s difficult to say why that is,” he said in an interview with three reporters who visited his headquarters with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who expressed concern at the shift.
The 2007 figure was the lowest since 2003, other officials said. Last year’s drop broke a string of yearly increases in cocaine seizures and disruptions dating to the late 1990s. The numbers include estimates of cocaine thrown overboard or scuttled with vessels — a common response by smugglers who are detected at sea.
The biggest dropoff last year was in seizures at sea, which fell from nearly 160 metric tons in 2006 to about 100 metric tons last year, according to the figures, which are preliminary but were described by officials as reliable estimates.
“In any given contest of offense and defense you’ve got to adjust your tactics,” Stavridis said, alluding to a conclusion reached by Mullen and others that the drug cartels are nimbler than the U.S. government. They are finding new ways of eluding detection at sea, such as shipping drugs in semi-submersible vessels, and are flying drug routes from sites in western Venezuela that are harder to stop, officials said.
Mullen put it more directly during an exchange earlier Monday with several dozen officials at the headquarters of Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., where military and civilian agencies — including the Pentagon and the CIA — coordinate the tracking of drug shipments and drug leaders.
“The bad guy is moving faster than we’re moving,” Mullen said.
The Joint Chiefs chairman also said he is concerned at how long it might take to regain the upper hand.
“I worry a little bit about how we as a government are able to focus on this mission,” he said, noting that the counterdrug mission is a lower national security priority now than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What war did you think I was talking about?
Not that increased seizures are any evidence that the Drug War is going well, but unlike increased seizures there’s no way this can be spun into a good thing for the U.S. government. I find it a little scary that Adm. Mullen would even mention the counterdrug mission with the actual wars we’re fighting.
For that matter, does anyone else find it disturbing to see the Chairman of the JCS discussing how he’s going to prevent Americans from getting high? Not that it’s anything new, but still, it just struck me as particularly incongruous.
Today’s double-speak is: “Al-Qaeda’s Number 3 Man”
A hierarchical description applied to a member of an organization that has no clearly defined hierarchy beyond the top two members. This term is popular with the current administration whenever they kill a probable terrorist whose body the military was able to identify in a timely fashion and who had enough of a profile with the media so that his death was notable (i.e. “The death of (insert deceased’s name) represents a turning point in our efforts here in (insert country name) because he was al-Qaeda’s number 3 man.”) despite the tendency of said individual’s death to have little to no meaningful impact on our efforts in the Global War On Terror. Also used to diffuse criticism of human rights violations committed by the U.S. government against detainees by attaching a superficial sense of importance or urgency to the information said interrogation suspect possesses (e.g. Sheikh Khalid Mohammad), despite a continuing inability of the government to demonstrate that said human rights abuses provided any tangible benefits in regards to the Global War on Terror beyond getting people off the President’s back.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”- Amendment II, U.S. Constitution
As Doug reported yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to take its first case on the Second Amendment in almost 70 years. During this period, legal scholars have debated whether the right to bear arms as described in the Second Amendment refers to an individual right or a collective right. For those of us who are certain that the right to bear arms is an individual right, it seems curious that of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights that only this amendment was intended to be a collective right and a restriction on the individual’s rights rather than a restriction on the federal government.
Still I have found the construction of the Second Amendment to be problematic. Language evolves over time; this gives opponents of the Constitution an opening to make the words mean what they wish them to mean. What exactly did the framers mean by “militia” ? My understanding has always been that the framers preferred a citizen’s militia (not part of the government) to a permanent standing army as the first line of defense (the government would reinstate the army in times of war). If this was their intent, then it would make sense that the framers would want citizens to be armed to form militias in the event that the country came under attack from foreign threats or be ready in the event that the government became to oppressive.
My other problem with the construction of the Second Amendment is that I find the first part “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” completely unnecessary. To me “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is short, sweet, and to the point. Individuals need to have the right to defend themselves, not only from the government but also from other individuals who threaten their lives, liberties, and property. A store owner should have every right to protect his store, his customers, his merchandise and himself from a hoodlum attempting to rob his store. A woman should have every right to carry a handgun to protect herself from the rapist hiding in the shadows. In both of these scenarios, the police (the government) are likely to not be of immediate assistance to these individuals.
Be that as it may, the Second Amendment says what it says and I still believe the authors of the amendment intended the right to bear arms as an individual right. Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller gave the best explanation of the meaning of the Second Amendment I have ever heard in an episode from their 3rd Season of their Showtime show Bullshit!
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” sure we need an organized military force to defend your country BUT “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
This is the people in contrast with the militia. It doesn’t say “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” it says “the right of the people.”
Now why the word “people” ? Because the people who wrote this just fought a war for two years against a tyrannical state militia. They knew the time might come when they would have to do that again so they made the possession of weapons a right that the militia could never take away.
I have never heard this explanation before but it makes perfect sense. Penn goes on to say that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to make certain that the citizens could violently overthrow the government if the citizens found it necessary. It’s only natural that the government would try to disarm the citizen if it was under constant threat of an armed revolution. Moa, Lenin, and Stalin understood this perfectly well and said much the same thing.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. My work has kept me very busy, to say the least. Still, I’ve been here reading and enjoying what my fellow contributors are posting.
But today seemed like a good time to contribute a post of my own. It’s Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day). It’s the one and only day set aside to remember the veterans of the wars that America has fought. For most of us this is a weekend of department store sales, war movies on A&E and a 3 day weekend if our employers observe the national holiday tomorrow. But for some of us, it is a day that brings back memories, some as recent as yesterday and some from decades long gone. And this post is for those men and women.
Why do we care about Veteran’s Day? Most of time we end up marching in the parades that celebrate our day, which seems somewhat backwards to us. I’ll try to tell you a bit about who we think we are and what we want. Bear in mind this isn’t some collective that I’m speaking for, just my thoughts, based on my experiences and the hundreds of other veterans I know.
We think that today should be a day that we set aside politics and remember the men and women that have served in the military in wartime. We are men and women who have gone in harm’s way, been at risk of death and injury, and lived in extreme, austere conditions. Most Americans will never understand what it means, in this day and age of an all volunteer military, to serve in the military, let alone in combat. And that’s good.
Today, we want you to set aside your politics. Stop using us as tools in your political battles, just for today.
Sadly, the extremes of the political landscape in our country have gotten worse, not better. On the one side we have a resurgence of soldier = baby killer and soldier = victim rhetoric. On the other, we have soldiers as martyrs to a glorious cause. I’m a former soldier and a veteran of both the Cold War and the first Gulf War, and we are none of those things. We are not victims, brutalized by war and turned into unthinking, callous killers. Nor are we martyrs in the holy war against whomever the current enemy is.
We veterans of America’s wars are men and women who have, for reasons we know, but often cannot clearly convey to anyone else, chosen to serve in the military during time of war. We put our lives on the line, dealt with sacrifices nearly incomprehensible to the average American living today, and managed to do so with honor intact. We are Americans, just like the rest of you. I am neither hero nor villain, nor are my comrades. We are humans, with all the complexities and frailties of any other person.
I don’t think what I did was special or somehow made me a hero, and so it embarrasses me when you say thank you for my military service. But it also touches me deeply when someone goes out of their way to do so. Regardless of what you think of the rightness or wrongness of the conflicts, it is good to know that my personal experiences and service are viewed with value and respect. I have had people from every political landscape in this country talk to me about Veterans on this day over the years without putting their political views on the line as well.
And that is all that we ask.
(WSB Radio) — Despite the threat of legal action by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Army Corps of Engineers says it has no plans to reduce the release of water from Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.
Army Major Darren Payne tells WSB’s Pete Combs the Corps is required by law to send water down the Chattahoochee River to protect endangered wildlife, power plants and water needs along the river.
“At the moment there’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Payne. Gov. Perdue has given the Corps a deadline of today to respond to the state’s demand to reduce the amount of water, under the threat of legal action.
Payne says the Corps will continue to release 2 billion gallons of water a day.
“We cannot deviate without some action being taken on the endangered species act or special legislation,” said Payne.
Ah, the Endangered Species Act strikes again! A law which has arguably done more to undermine property rights in our country than any other could potentially endanger the lives of Georgians. The Army Corps of Engineers apparently has no choice but to follow the law as it is currently written meaning the federally protected mussels and sturgeons have priority over the people of Georgia.
As Gov. Sonny Perdue threatened legal action, the Georgia delegation to the U.S. House as well as both of the state’s senators introduced legislation to amend the ESA to allow states to be exempt from the law if either the Secretary of the Army or the state’s governor declare emergency drought conditions (Personally, I would prefer a complete repeal of the ESA but this proposal seems like a reasonable enough compromise for now).
I fail to understand where the controversy is. Does anyone really want to argue that these animals should have priority over American citizens who are being forced to cut back their water usage so they can have water to drink, bathe, and clean with? Outrageous!
Neal Boortz proposed a rather interesting idea: the governor should order the Georgia National Guard to seize the dam from the Corps of Engineers. I have no idea of what the legalities of doing such a thing are and other legal options should be exhausted first, but I believe one could make a good case for doing just that. During the War of 1812, at least one governor who opposed the war refused to allow U.S. troops to come into his state. If one were to look at a more contemporary example, certain “sanctuary cities” refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.
While I normally advocate the rule of law, it seems to me that if cities and states can pick and choose the federal laws they wish to follow, then ignoring the ESA in this emergency seems to be quite appropriate. Endangered species should never have the ability to endanger people.
Yesterday, President Bush addressed the American people to give his assessment of both the progress and the way forward in Iraq based on General Petraeus’s report and testimony before congress. As is customary when the president gives a speech, a member of the opposing party gave a counterpoint speech. This time the Democrats selected Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.
As one would expect, President Bush focused on the positive developments found in the report while Senator Reed focused on the negative. You could say that they each “cherry picked” the information to support his side (which is also normal). I also expected that Senator Reed would focus his criticisms on the Administration’s past failures in Iraq (and he did not disappoint). The only part of the speeches I was interested in, however, was the way forward. Surprisingly, I did not see much disagreement there. Senator Jack Reed did not call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq but proposed a “rapid” troop withdrawal, a refocusing of the mission to counterterrorism and training of the Iraqi army, and improved diplomacy among rival factions.
I read over the transcripts from both speeches to see if I could find any significant differences in the way forward. You may notice that I used much more of the President’s speech than I did Senator Reed’s. The reason for this is because Senator Reed did not focus much of his speech on the way forward but instead focused on past mistakes (otherwise I would have posted more of Reed’s speech regardless if I agreed or not). While it is quite proper to criticize President Bush for his mistakes in Iraq, criticism is not the same as coming up with a useful solution. I think most Americans on both sides of the Iraq debate are more interested in solutions than platitudes (I hope).
President Bush and Senator Reed on troop reduction
General Petraeus believes we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces. He has recommended that we not replace about 2,200 Marines scheduled to leave Anbar Province later this month. In addition, he says it will soon be possible to bring home an Army combat brigade, for a total force reduction of 5,700 troops by Christmas.
And he expects that by July, we will be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from 20 combat brigades to 15.
We [Democrats] have put forth a plan to responsibly and rapidly begin a reduction of our troops.
I’m sure that President Bush and Senator Reed have differing opinions on how “rapidly” troops should be reduced. The president at least offers some specific numbers; Senator Reed keeps his statement generic so that he and other Democrats can say the troops are not being withdrawn quickly enough. If the Democrats actually do have a plan in place for troop reduction, it sure would have been more helpful if Reed had given some details about this plan in his speech. To be fair though, Senator Reed did point out that most of the troop withdrawals come from the surge and that most of the 130,000 troops would remain. Still, Reed fails to say how rapidly the Democrats want to withdraw.
President Bush and Senator Reed on counter terrorism and the training of the Iraqi army
According to General Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired General Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable, although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the National Police…
General Petraeus also recommends that in December, we begin transitioning to the next phase of our strategy in Iraq. As terrorists are defeated, civil society takes root, and the Iraqis assume more control over their own security, our mission in Iraq will evolve. Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces. As this transition in our mission takes place, our troops will focus on a more limited set of tasks, including counterterrorism operations and training, equipping, and supporting Iraqi forces…
I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other members of my national security team, Iraqi officials, and leaders of both parties in Congress. I have benefited from their advice, and I have accepted General Petraeus’s recommendations. I have directed General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to update their joint campaign plan for Iraq, so we can adjust our military and civilian resources accordingly.
That is why our [Democrat] plan focuses on counter-terrorism and training the Iraqi army.
While both President Bush and Senator Reed seem to agree that the Iraqi army needs to be trained and shift the focus of American troops to counterterrorism, Senator Reed’s mention of the Democrats’ plan could fit on a bumper sticker. If the Democrats are offering a different strategy, it would have been very beneficial for the senator to tell the American people what their strategy is.
President Bush and Senator Reed on Diplomacy
Now the Iraqi government must bring the same determination to achieving reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking after more than three decades of tyranny and division. The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks – and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must.
Yet Iraq’s national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They are sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They are allowing former Ba’athists to rejoin Iraq’s military or receive government pensions. And local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad. As local politics change, so will national politics.
It [the Democrat plan] engages in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the table and addresses regional issues that inflame the situation.
Once again, isn’t President proposing the same thing? Have Republicans and Democrats found common ground on the way forward in Iraq? This all depends on how future events unfold. If the troops can be withdrawn sooner than later, if the Iraqi army takes control of their country, and if the diplomacy works to where rival factions begin to work together, the Democrats will try to take credit for pushing President Bush in this “new” direction. If, however, all of these strategies fail, the Democrats will have plausible deniability. This would explain why elected Democrats continue to be vague on the way forward in Iraq.
“The noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and the war’s desolation.” Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers
For as long as I can remember, people interested in politics have been debating various crises where the main question was whether or not the U.S. military should go and bomb somebody who was doing something bad. All too often the debate involved two camps talking past each other, with the proponents arguing that the bad guys were really bad, and the opponents arguing that it was a waste of tax-payer money. Eventually Hitler is brought up, and then the debate becomes useless because few things kill rationality in a conversation quicker than accusing someone of supporting the Holocaust.
These arguments pit two truisms against each other. The first is Jon Stuart Mill’s observation that “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” The second principle is Thomas Jefferson’s observation that “War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.” Both truisms are correct yet seem to be irreconcilable.
Often, when two principles that are correct seem to contradict each other, it is because the thinker is making a bad assumption, and this is the case here. The choice is not between “looking on and doing nothing” on the one hand and “war” on the other. There are many ways to resist or oppose evil that do not involve “war”. » Read more
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.
I use the above phrase to attack socialized medicine a lot. I’m not trying to be hostile or sarcastic when I say this. I’m not trying to convey an “America…love it or leave it” type message, nor am I interested in cutting off the debate about the problems with health care in this country, which I agree do exist. I say this to people who try preaching the doctrine of universal health coverage (or, more accurately, socialized medicine) because, frankly, I believe that the best counter-argument to their ridiculous proposal is for those people to go live for a few years in a country that has socialized medicine (as I did) so they can see for themselves what a horrifically bad idea it is.
To fill in the gaps a bit, I’m UCrawford. I’m a libertarian (small-l) from Wichita, Kansas and a guest poster here. Until 2006 I spent 10 years as a member of the United States military, just under six of them stationed at a small base in northern England (five if you don’t count a short vacation I took to Afghanistan on the Army’s dime). Due to the fact that the base I was on was both small and rather remote from any other U.S. bases we ended up falling between a lot of administrative cracks, most of which aren’t worth going into here, which often led to problems with funding. Needless to say, the U.S. government was often forced to improvise to provide quality of life services for us at a reasonable rate, so one of the solutions they came up with (since the closest base with medical services was 4-5 hours away) was to arrange to have all of our health care provided by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). That decision provided all of the military personnel on our base with the unique experience of living under a system of socialized medicine that Michael Moore recently held up as among the best in the world. That decision also made it unlikely that anyone stationed at our base will ever end up in one of Moore’s little press conferences singing the praises of socialized medicine…the experience was terrible.
My first indication that something shady was up with our medical care came in my first year when I went into our base clinic (staffed by two NHS doctors) with a chest cold, only to be told that my cold was likely “viral” and wouldn’t require antibiotics. That in itself wasn’t really so odd. We worked in a close environment and doctors aren’t supposed to prescribe antibiotics for viruses. Except that after talking to other people on the base I eventually came to realize that about 90%+ of the people who went in with colds were told the same thing. I’m saying “90%+” because in the three years where the NHS staffed the clinic unchecked nobody I met on the base (I knew almost everyone and we all got sick at least once or twice a year because of the climate) could actually identify anyone who had been diagnosed with a non-viral cold or had received antibiotics for said cold. I’m not willing to bet there weren’t at least one or two in three years, although I never ran across any of these people. My platoon sergeant certainly wasn’t one of them. He later came down with severe pneumonia as a result of his untreated non-viral cold. I couldn’t figure out why this skinflint attitude towards medicine was happening, until I talked to my uncle (a doctor who had studied in Scotland for awhile) and he told me about the key to many of socialized medicine’s problems…controlling costs. More on that in a second.
The cost controls took a variety of forms at my base, ranging from the merely annoying (as when our base physician refused to order x-rays unless you had a bone sticking out of your arm), to the mildly amusing (as when the local hospital refused to admit our First Sergeant’s in-labor wife, forcing her and her husband to deliver the child in their car on the drive home), to the ethically questionable (as when one of my soldiers was discharged with a severe case of appendicitis on the grounds that surgery would be too expensive), to the medically indefensible (as when my best friend’s girlfriend nearly died because the hospital didn’t bother to check her for internal bleeding after a very complicated miscarriage). For the first couple of years, I thought it was because our area had the most incompetent doctors in Britain. Eventually I realized that the problems we had in our area were pretty much standard in comparison to the rest of the country (or compared to any country that uses socialized medicine). And the reasons for that are pretty simple.
Basically, the NHS’s “free” medical system isn’t really free at all, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who doesn’t believe in magic money. It’s funded by taxes…income taxes, corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, property taxes, and hidden taxes (revenue generated for the national government from things like Value Added Tax, speed cameras, fuel taxes, and congestion charges that you often don’t notice or think of as taxes unless you’re paying attention). In exchange for all these taxes, the British government provides lots of services for the taxpayers like public transportation, a pension system, and socialized medicine, often at subsidized rates which has several regrettable effects:
1) It makes unobservant people who don’t understand economics think they’re getting a great deal by giving them medical treatment at a superficially low price, which
2) Pretty much insures that low-cost private alternatives don’t develop (since it’s tough to compete with “free”), which
3) Removes any incentive for the health care users to try and save costs by limiting their use since they see health care as a free (as opposed to “free”) entitlement, which means that
4) Demand for services often outpaces the ability of tax revenue available to pay for those services.
When these things happen government is then forced to find new streams of revenue to pay for the additional demand (more taxes). And when they can’t find more revenue or raise taxes any higher, they’re forced to control costs by reducing services where they can, by doing things like telling their doctors to prescribe less drugs, or understaffing medical facilities, or extending wait times for surgeries and consults (unless you’re willing to be extorted, of course), or starving terminal patients to death against their wishes, or skimping on oversight to insure that their doctors aren’t serial killers. Basically, when it comes to a choice between quality of care for patients or saving a buck, government-run health care will choose the money, same as socialized medicine proponents accuse private industry of doing. They’ll just offer you a lot less in return.
Unsurprisingly many Britons I knew had very little faith in the NHS’s commitment to excellence. Unsurprisingly many Britons I knew chose to pursue private routes to get medical treatment where it was available. Unsurprisingly, it was usually very expensive (partly because they were still paying taxes for a health care system they no longer used). Fortunately for us, after my soldier had to be medevac’d to the distant military hospital to get his appendix out, that base saw fit to provide our base with military doctors who had the authority to override the recommendations of the NHS doctors , and with the support of our command they enabled us to get access to private clinics in the local area more often. Frankly, I’d say that getting us away from government health care was one of the best things our government ever did for us. And if our politicians want to do the right thing by us back here in the States, they’ll do everything they can to stop socialized medicine from popping up here.
Motivated mostly by his opposition to the Iraq War, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, along with New York Congressman Charles Rangel, has been among the most vocal members of Congress talking about the idea of bringing back the draft, and forcing young men, and presumably women, into military service whether they like it or not.
Let’s leave aside for the moment the individual rights argument against the draft….and it is a powerful one in that it argues that no person should be forced to put their life at risk against their will, or otherwise forced to engage in “service to their country” that they don’t wish to perform, and ask ourselves if it is really militarily efficient.
According to a study requested by Congressman Murtha himself, the answer is no:
The report, requested by Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, says that drafting people could make it easier for the Army to reach its 2012 goal of 547,000 soldiers. It might also save some money if Congress opted to pay draftees less than volunteers. But the downside, the report claims, would be a less effective fighting force, thanks to a sudden influx of draftees who would remain in uniform for much shorter spells than todayâ€™s all-volunteer soldiers.
â€œUsually, greater accumulated knowledge and skills come with increased experience,â€ the report notes. â€œBecause most draftees leave after completing a two-year obligation, a draft might affect the servicesâ€™ ability to perform those functions efficiently.â€ To maintain the same capability, the CBO suggests, the Army might have to grow, which could eliminate any savings. On the other hand, increased training costs for draftees – with less time in uniform, more have to be trained – could be offset by cuts in advertising and bonuses now used to entice volunteer recruits.
The report says that while 91% of last yearâ€™s recruits were high school graduates, only 80% of U.S. residents aged 18 to 24 have attained that level of education. And high-school graduates, the military says, make better soldiers than dropouts. The CBO, which does not make recommendations but only charts options for lawmakers, estimates that somewhere between 27,000 and 165,000 would be drafted each year. That relative small slice – some 2 million males turn 18 each year – could resurrect the problems seen in the Vietnam era when deferments and friendly draft boards kept some well-connected young men out of uniform. Under current law, women could not be drafted.
If it doesnâ€™t make military or economic sense to launch the draft, what about the notion of fairness? Critics have claimed that minorities are over-represented in the all-volunteer military because they have fewer options in the civilian world. The CBO disputes that, saying that â€œmembers of the armed forces are racially and ethnically diverse.â€ African Americans accounted for 13% of active-duty recruits in 2005, just under their 14% share of 17-to-49-year-olds in the overall U.S. population. And minorities are not being used as cannon fodder. â€œData on fatalities indicate that minorities are not being killed [in Iraq and Afghanistan] at greater rates than their representation in the force,â€ the study says. â€œRather, fatalities of white service members have been higher than their representation in the force,â€ in large part because whites are over-represented in the militaryâ€™s combat, as opposed to support, jobs.
As more than one military expert has made clear in the years since 9/11, the draft simply doesn’t make sense in the modern military. In the past — whether it’s World War I, World II, Korea, or Vietnam — brute force of arms was a far more important factor on the battlefield than it is today. Today, it’s not the number of men that matter, it’s their ability to use and understand the technology of modern warfare that matters.
And that’s not something you can instill in a raw draftee off the streets the way you could teach him to march and shoot a rifle at Nazis or Japs in WW 2.
But that’s only part of the equation. The other part is the one I mentioned before, the individual rights part. Outside of an immediate threat to the internal security of the United States, what right does the Federal Government have to force me, you, or our children to fight and die in a foreign land ? None that I can think of and, quite honestly, the Thirteenth Amendment would seem to make clear that no person can be forced into servitude against their will.
And then there’s yet another part to the equation.
When a government is able force it’s citizens into military service, it has the ability to raise an army that can accomplish nearly anything, including expanding spheres of influence and creating empires. As Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state. And a state capable of making war when it wishes, is capable of expanding its power, both at home and abroad, far beyond what anyone ever intended.
H/T: Outside The Beltway
Hugo Chavez, like most socialists, is starting to have paranoid delusions. He seems to think that America, a nation stuck in two middle eastern nations, led by a President who considers Venezuela to be problem number 16 on a 10-item list, is going to invade Venezuela. And the man who cares so much about his nation’s poor is spending billions on a Navy and air defense system:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his government may buy a fleet of Russian-made submarines when he visits Moscow next week, continuing an arms buildup that has cost his nation more than $4.3 billion since 2005.
“The only way Venezuela could totally discard the idea of not buying submarines is if we didn’t have a sea,” Chavez told cabinet members at a televised ceremony tonight in Caracas. “We have to protect that sea.”
Chavez said he also is looking to strengthen the nation’s short-range air-defense system to counter supersonic and “invisible” radar-evading aircraft he claimed Venezuela would face in the event of a U.S. invasion. Most U.S. analysts deem such an offensive unlikely.
Chavez, who is using his country’s oil wealth to promote socialist policies across the region, often urges developing nations to unite against the U.S. “empire,” winning allies abroad and scoring political points at home by attacking the U.S. for draining Venezuela’s natural resources, propping up a corrupt elite and funding groups that aim to destabilize his government.
Venezuela spent $4.3 billion on arms in 2005 and 2006, more than China, Pakistan or Iran, according to a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. More than $3 billion of that was spent in Russia, where Venezuela has signed contracts to buy 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 50 military helicopters and 24 Su-30 jet fighters, the report said.
You don’t feed the poor with Kalashnikov’s. The playbook Chavez is using is not a new one. He’s slowly cementing power, because like all socialist nations, eventually the money supply runs out. He’s already had a coup attempt on him, and he knows that his best bet to remain in power is to make sure his generals are fat and happy, and willing to carry out his rule with an iron fist. That way, when the bottom drops out, and the poor who he’s been feeding begin to tighten their belts, there won’t be enough loose power in society to take him on.
As Eric used to point out here while he was still blogging, the best way to cement power at home is to use an external threat. That’s true whether you’re trying to convince Americans to give up essential liberties to fight a vague terrorist threat, or whether you’re trying to convince Venezuelans to support giving you dictatorial powers to fight off an imagined American invasion.
A few billion military dollars spent, and Chavez is home free. When the Venezuelan people finally realize what’s going on, they won’t have the power to stop him.