I agree with a three-star General

Not my problem -- but it should be

I don't find myself in agreement with military leaders that often, but Lt. General Karl Eikenberry and historian David M. Kennedy have a fascinating piece in the New York Times that I have to say makes a lot of sense.

I was in college when Jimmy Carter brought back draft registration, and we all went batshit: We were just a half-step behind the Vietnam Generation, and I had friends and relatives who faced geting drafted (and the very high likelihood of being sent to die in the jungles in an utterly pointless war) and the notion of "the draft" was repugnant. We protested; we formed collectives; we met late into the night and organized. Nobody outside of the college campuses paid much attention.

That's because it was pretty clear to political leaders that, registration or no, there wasn't going to be a return to the draft anytime soon. Congress is happy with the all-volunteer Army: It guarantees that most recruits will be poor people, that very few sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful (or the members of Congress) will ever have to go to war, and that the upper-middle classes will feel no pain whatsoever when other people's children become cannon fodder.

If every young American risked getting drafted to go to Iraq, that war might never have happened -- and certainly wouldn't have lasted as long. The general notes:

The Congressional Research Service has documented 144 military deployments in the 40 years since adoption of the all-voluntary force in 1973, compared with 19 in the 27-year period of the Selective Service draft following World War II — an increase in reliance on military force traceable in no small part to the distance that has come to separate the civil and military sectors. The modern force presents presidents with a moral hazard, making it easier for them to resort to arms with little concern for the economic consequences or political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans are happy to thank the volunteer soldiers who make it possible for them not to serve, and deem it is somehow unpatriotic to call their armed forces to task when things go awry.

The officer corps is made up, to a significant extent, of sons and daughters of military officers, making war a "family business." The rest of the nation is insulated -- both from the experience of military service and the impacts of deployments.

I'm not (exactly) in favor of mandatory military service for all (although it would have a huge impact on Washington's desire to use force every time there's a foreign policy issue), but I like what Eikenberry says, not only about the draft but about the cost of war:

Congress should also insist that wars be paid for in real time. Levying special taxes, rather than borrowing, to finance “special appropriations” would compel the body politic to bear the fiscal burden — and encourage citizens to consider war-making a political choice they were involved in, not a fait accompli they must accept.

A military that operates outside of the civilian world isn't good for the country. A civilian population that sees war as an abstract problem happening somewhere else in the world involving someone else's family isn't good, either.

So yeah, here I am agreeing with a three-star. Enjoy it; that doesn't happen often.




Conscription is tyranny and using it to "even it up" between classes sounds fair but really only means the privileged kids will get into the "Air National Guard" or whatever the dodge is next time.

Yes, pay for wars in real time.

Fact is though, if you shut down an enemy's cyber capability, 1) they can't do a whole lot and 2) no one bleeds.

War is bullshit but if it has to happen, let it be where kids don't get torn to pieces.

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 29, 2013 @ 11:29 am

agree with Tim. Conscription does randomize the cannon fodder although, as we all know, enough money and wits will always keep you out of the army.

However, wars cannot be financed from current taxation. That was true for the Revolution, the civil war, and the two world wars. Compared with that, the Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars weren't so expensive in real terms.

I don't like "tax and borrow" much but wars do justify it, while little else does.

Posted by anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 11:50 am

Man, you're even commenting on other stories now? You do love the sound of your own voice.

Posted by Chromefields on May. 29, 2013 @ 11:55 am

needs a bruiser to fend off those of us who can drive a bus thru the holes in his "arguments".

Posted by anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

This is the kind of inane, pointless, speculative, unrelated to the post crap that drives people away--this post has nothing to do with the piece.

Your obsession with this magazine and website is unhealthy. Try getting out occasionally. 

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

Also, did they fire Caitlyn to make room for Johnny? If so, it truly does end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Posted by Chromefields on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

Caitlin is still here. Johnny and I enjoy our disagreements. He just happens to be wrong and I just happen to be right.

Posted by tim on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

Nope. You didn't think I'd forget that one, did you?

And how about them Sharks?

By the way, if I did replace anyone (and didn't)--that does happen in well, uhm......EVERY OTHER LINE OF WORK IN HISTORY.

Johnny Ray Huston replaced me at the SFBG in 1997. I lived.

It happens and you know what's the best thing about it? Other than myself, Tim and whomever the replaced person was (and isn't), it has nothing to do with your (not Tim's) life at all!!!

Jesus Christ......



Posted by JohnnyW on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

I like Caitlin's gentle dorkiness. But you need to keep your new dog on a leash.

Posted by Chromefields on May. 29, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

So both befit a journal that historically has derived most of it's revenues from hooker ad's.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

A lot of people misunderstood and continue to misunderstand Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers as merely glorifying the military (something he gladly admitted it did). In the book, in order to be able to vote, you had to sign up for paid national service (I think it was for two years).

That service could be military, but most of the time it wasn't; most people didn't qualify for military service. The trick was, you didn't get to choose where the government sent you. Say what you want about conscription, something like this would certainly focus Americans' attention on its government, including its military.

Posted by Hortencia on May. 29, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

his work. Though that was many years ago and my recollections are somewhat faded, I believe Hortencia's comment is absolutely correct.

The idea also ties in with my belief that our having a police force distinct from the regular population is on a systemic level antithetical to democracy.

In the past I've proposed the policing be largely done by people who are conscripted into public service; two years and out. As it is, it seems too many career policemen become jaded and/or corrupted.

The notion that conscription is un-constitutional seems to have merit, and I believe that is what was once the dominant opinion about it. (Seems to me that in the case of the original conscription, during the Civil War, those so called to service had the option of paying somebody to take their place.)

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 29, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

in response to JAW's initial comment made between 11:29AM and 1:39PM with this comment. There was nothing of value discussed.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 29, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

Conscription is involuntary servitude, and as such it is an absolute wrong, made all the moreso by the fact that it's discriminatory. It wouldn't randomize anything. Forget about people buying their way out -half the population isn't even subject to it right from the start. Nor would I be in favor of drafting women. Two wrongs don't make a right. Frankly, I could give a rats ass what secondary benefits arise from it. I don't even care if the country needed conscription to survive (which has never happened, but even if it did). It is a tyranny as repugnant as slavery -it *is* slavery. If the country faced a situation where it needed to enact slavery in order to survive, then maybe it isn't worth saving.

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