This is a post I've kind of put off. There's been a lot of discussion (Orcinus, Cunning Realist, etc., etc.) about the problems being caused by weak recruiting and retention pressure: soldiers serving who would normally be discharged, or who normally wouldn't be allowed to join in the first place and whose military training and access could well be a threat to our own security in the years to come.
Many on "my side" of the political spectrum would argue that this is evidence in favor of immediate withdrawal; it's certainly evidence that our reach has exceeded our grasp at the moment, that the "planning" for the war and postwar was inadequate. Some have even suggested a draft in order to "share the burden" though my own impression and most statistics seem to suggest that the military is pretty representative (not perfectly, but that's what happens in real life and in a military that barely tolerates women and excludes homosexuals) of the population as a whole; anyway, the reality is that those advocating a new draft mostly want to scare people into backing away from the policies and politicians which have got us here.
But I've started thinking, given that what we're (supposedly) trying to accomplish is both worthwhile and an obligation which we have incurred, and given the fact that we might well have other obligations -- moral, political, etc. -- to follow through on while finish up what we set out to do in Afghanistan and Iraq, that a draft might be appropriate. As things stand now, it would not be a "total war" style draft in which a generation marches to war, but it would be a selective one. Not the "lets pick the professionals we need out of the economy" selective draft that some have discussed, but an truly random segement of the eligible population, with reasonable deferments. That would bring enough people to the table to allow the military to weed out its "weak link" soldiers and recruits and get the job done.
This is not just about "putting our best foot forward": it's about having national policy and national priorities that make sense within the context of what we're willing to do to accomplish them. It's also about self-protection: gang members, extremists, unstable personalities are bad enough without military training.
Here's the thing: if we're not willing to seriously consider a new draft, then I don't think we have any choice but to muddle on the way we've been doing or radically rethink our moral and tactical position.
We need, to be honest, a strategy, which is sorely lacking.
A draft is the last thing we need or want.
This is not WWI, with massive Industrial Age battalions hammering away at each other until one side runs out of battalions. The military has not substatialy lowered thier requirements for enlistement that I'm away of, and thats all to the good.
This kind of open ended, rules-free war requires a very different kind of soldier than the ones who fought in square with Napoleon. We need Bruce Willis, not Sylvester Stallone- muscle-bound shooters who can think.
To put it in terms a kid who grew up watching too much TV in the eighties, like myself, can understand.
One of the things that caused this country to lose in Vietnam was, I beleive, the draft. If a smaller, smarter, more dedicated, better equiped and trained, highly motivated force- if an all-volunteer army- had been sent to Vietnam, would we have still lost? Would Vietnam be Communist today?
Yes, there were other factors leading to our shamefull failure- the stupidity of the high ranking military leaders, the stupidity and moral cowardice of our political leaders, the idiotic "body count system"- but if our military as it exists today had been sent to Vietnam, might it have looked like Afghanistan looks today in 1967, i.e. not so bad?
I agree with the need for a grand strategy, though. It seems that the Pentagon is basically lurching from objective to objective with no real plan in mind- reactive, not proactive. Although I gotta say that for an orginazation with no real plan they aren't doing quite as badly as you might expect them to.
I agree that it's not just a matter of hardbodies in uniform, but if you read the links it sure looks to me like retention and recruitment pressure is lowering standards, much to the detriment of the forces and us.
We've done quite well with conscript forces in wars prior to Vietnam: Korea, WWI and II, Civil War, all fought and won -- quite handily, except in Korea, where no skill or quantity of soldiers would have made up for lousy tactical and political decisions and we still achieved a great deal -- with draftees.
With regard to Vietnam, it's important to remember that we were in that country for some years with an all-volunteer force before the draft was reinstated. Which is why I emphasize the importance of viable strategy in addition to HR quality. (OK, I'm out of italics now)
There's a parallel discussion going on here, in the comments section of this post.
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