Friday, August 10, 2007

JMO - The draft

After listening to Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks on On Point and KUOW about his book "Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq", I went out and bought it. It's a very interesting book, a must read for folks about the war in Iraq. But listening today on NPR's All Things Considered and their interview with Lt. Gen. Lute, Assistant to the President on Afghanistan and Iraq, the question of the draft is being considered by the Army and President Bush.

I had a bet with a friend shortly after the war started that President Bush would request Congress to reauthorize the Department of Defense to implement the draft. I bet he would. Remember registration for the draft has never ended and all men turning 18 have to register with the Selective Service. So the database is already there, and I would bet the Army has already activated the resources to start it upon short notice.

It's just the reality of saying the words, "The Draft" to which I don't think the Army and the President wouldn't have a problem saying, because they can sell it as patriotism in the war on terror. I'm not sure any Democrat, and maybe some Republicans, would be very leary of saying the words except to say "No" because they know it's political suicide in the name of two failing war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2008 election.

But the reality is that the Army has lowered it's standards so low they have no place to go except the draft. Army will accept non-high school graduates and give you a GED. They will accept immigrants and give you citizenship after a while. They will accept criminals if their records don't include violent crimes, and they will clear your record after a while. And once you're in the Army, they'll offer you tens of thousands of dollars to reenlist. So how much lower can they go?

The upside of the recruiting program. If you graduate from college they will pay off all your student loans when you enlist and finish a number of years. Not too bad because you can become an officer after basic training, and you can save for the GI Bill for graduate school. Hell, I got a BA and MS degrees on the GI Bill, but they didn't pay my student loans because I encurred them after my discharge.

I enlisted in the Air Force after I became 1-A when the University of Denver told me I wasn't eligible to enroll in the College of Engineering in December 1968. They notified the Army who in turn notified me to report for a physical and be ready to be drafted. This was the first year of the draft (1969) based on the lottery of birthdays. My birthday was number about 100, and the Army said they would draft up to number 150, out of 365, so I enlisted in the Air Force in March 1969.

Anyway, I know the draft isn't the answer, especially in a failing war. We saw this in the early to mid 1970's and protests over the war and draft increased each year, until we left Vietnam and the draft was suspended. It's a repeat of this and if anything will activate the ire of the young, it is the draft. They may be the only good side to the draft, raising the stakes for the young to see the reality of serving in the Army, and being injured or killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I will still bet the discussion will be raised by the Army and then the President sometime soon, before the spring of 2008, because we know the surge along and using existing troops, which will have to be extended into the fall-winter of 2008, will not achieve its objective of securing Iraq so we can draw down the troops. A fresh pool of recruits will be necessary, and all the recruiting incentives isn't work. A draft will work.

It will be an interesting discussion. While I opposed it when I was young - before I enlisted - and still oppose the draft as I do oppose the war in Iraq, but not Afghanistan. But I don't have answers for the Army. I didn't like them then and I don't like them now. And I don't like the standards they currently have for enlisting. It's not good for the country and good in the name of patriotism. We need standards for our citizens Army. It's our history and tradition.

And before you go off about me being a 1960's radical, I will say I am, but I'm also a patriot American and will support my country in any good actions, even if it's war. I served my country to earn the right to express my views on freedom. I will not, however, support a President who engages in acts which are illegal or unethical, or who will direct our nation into an illegal war. And then demand more citizens must die using the draft.

If anything else I hope we have a good debate than the political rhetoric we usually get. It's the minimum we need in the debate about our involvement in the Middle East.

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