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Tilting at Windmills

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September 13, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MORE TROOPS....The New Republic reports on the state of our military today:

After failing to meet its recruitment target for 2005, the Army raised the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 40 in January only to find it necessary to raise it to 42 in June. Basic training, which has, for decades, been an important tool for testing the mettle of recruits, has increasingly become a rubber-stamping ritual. Through the first six months of 2006, only 7.6 percent of new recruits failed basic training, down from 18.1 percent in May 2005.

Alarmingly, this drop in boot camp attrition coincides with a lowering of recruitment standards. The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005, and the Army has doubled the number of non-high school graduates it can enlist this year.

There's nothing all that new in this article, but it's worth reading it to get the big picture. Two-thirds of active Army units are unready for combat and the situation is even worse in the National Guard. The number and quality of recruits is down. Equipment is wearing out and not getting replaced. As the authors say, we simply don't have any more combat-ready troops than the ones that are already in the field.

This is why it's not merely rhetorical to ask guys like Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol to tell us where they're going to get the extra soldiers they keep telling us we need in Iraq. They've already tacitly admitted that we can't win the war without more troops, but they're too timid or mendacious? to ask the obvious next question: If we need more troops to win, but there aren't any more troops to be had, then what?

Kevin Drum 5:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (135)

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The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005

Is it just me, or is this sentence completely devoid of value? If score distributions haven't shifted, it would just mean you doubled your recruit pool. If they have, it could mean that you were finding more 'stellar' candidates, and the count of recruits below average would decrease without lowering their quality.

Posted by: Fides on September 13, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmmm. I'm 42, they're gonna take you before they take me.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on September 13, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, we don't need an army as long as we have our RESOLVE! Resolve is what wins wars, not troops, or equipment, or strategy.

Posted by: grytpype on September 13, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol knows he is too old, and the little twerp thinks he's too elite, so it may be a way to suggest a draft. Just what they need this Fall, to mention renewal of the draft.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 13, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the thinking goes something like this:
We're Americans: we buy on credit! Surely this will work with soldiers as well; it's not like they're real people!

Posted by: Dan on September 13, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Fides - I had the same thought, then realized that the way things are going, this country is coming to resemble Lake Woec'mere, that quaint little town that time forgot, where all the men are ugly, all the women are weak, and all the children are below average.

Posted by: marcel on September 13, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

If we need more troops to win, but there aren't any more troops to be had, then what?

Actually it's very simple Kevin. We can just hire citizens of other countries as troops. Since libs love the French, we can do something called the American Foreign Legion which is similar to the French foreign legion. These troops would be even better because they could be paid less but still do the same job as American troops. So getting more troops is not really a problem.

Posted by: Al on September 13, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of spending resources and money on sending unqualified troops to Iraq, we ought to spend more money on raising the standard of living for Iraqis. Clearly there is no easy solution to the secratarian violence in Iraq, but there is no doubt that it is being exacerbated by the increasing poverty there. The $4.2 billion that the U.S. recently spent on two B-52 bombers could uplift not only the Iraqi people, but also the 40% of the Iranian population that lives in poverty. I can't believe that we've spent more than $300 billion on the war in Iraq when $19 billion per year could end global poverty by 2025. See borgenproject.org for some facts and figures that would shock you.

Posted by: Maureen206 on September 13, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Join up, send your kids, or just shut up about it.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 13, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

They can't SAY 'draft' before the Nov. election. But they' can talk just enough about the need for more troops so that, after the election, they can start the draft and call it voter-approved.

Posted by: gar on September 13, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Soon, we will achieve our aim of getting Iraq regiments to the point at which they equal ours.

Not, of course, by improving the Iraqi regiments.

Rather, by defining "ready" as "equal to American"

And, so it appears that we are now lowering the quality of American troops.

That is progress, but only if you are a Repukeliscum moron like Al.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 13, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The senteince makes perfect sense. The number of Army recruits who scored below (the entire, national civilians-included population) average, doubled. We have twice as many recruits from the bottom of the national barrel as the year before.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 13, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Expect a lot more raped and incinerated little girls. For breakfast.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin, we don't need an army as long as we have our RESOLVE! Resolve is what wins wars, not troops, or equipment, or strategy."

That's right just ask the Japanese, they had resolve during WWII.

Posted by: j swift on September 13, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Just win

Posted by: wingnuts from wingnuttia on September 13, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

As the Iraqi Army stands up, the US Army will dumb down.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

If you voted for Bush in '04, your equipment is ready, and your transport to take you to Iraq is just over there.

That will be $2500, please. Cash only.

Welcome to "actions have consequences" - or is it "truth or dare"?

Posted by: craigie on September 13, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mimikatz gets it. Obviously the issue is the population against which the average is being measured.

As for protofascists Lowry and Kristol, they simply lack the courage to call for a draft. If we face the existential annihilation that results from this being WWIII, shouldn't we reinstate the draft?

Posted by: SavageView on September 13, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Al:

Actually it's very simple Kevin. We can just hire citizens of other countries as troops.

You means mercanaries? Heck, think like a true Republican and just privatize the whole damn thing. Sell the Army to Halliburton, and let it use "guest workers" as soldiers. They can then charge us $100,000 per soldier (while paying them dirt) like they are already doing for private security forces.

Posted by: dmbeaster on September 13, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

kd: Two-thirds of active Army units are unready for combat and the situation is even worse in the National Guard. The number and quality of recruits is down. Equipment is wearing out and not getting replaced.


.
.....we told you so...

Posted by: educated americans on September 13, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

But, instituting a draft, in order to increase force levels, would cost money, right? Like, er, tax money? Hmmm...

Posted by: Superrich member of Bush's base on September 13, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Al: Actually it's very simple Kevin. We can just hire citizens of other countries as troops.

I hear Hessians are really good.

Posted by: alex on September 13, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Two-thirds of active Army units are unready for combat and the situation is even worse in the National Guard.

I recall the spectacular dishonesty of George Bush during the first series of presidential debates in 2000, when he attempted to paint the Clinton Administration as weak on the military by claiming that two full divisions would have to report not ready for combat.

Of course, if memory serves me right, this was because they'd just returned from deployment, and needed to restock and refit. Of course, neither Gore nor the so-called "liberal media" called Bush on the falsehood.

Now Bush is genuinely wrecking the military, with genuinely detrimental effects on our national security. Forget planning new invasions of Iran -- what if North Korea or even the Russians decide to get uppity? Exactly which troops can we deploy to defend our allies and interests?

And, of course, it needs to be said that the Army is so desperate for recruits because Bush absolutely refuses to even suggest that even his supporter -- supporters of the war -- pay a price for it. He already insists on paying for the war with a tax cut (read: going into hock with our good, good friends the Red Chinese). He knows damn well that if he were to institute the draft necessary to do what the hawks insist must be done, support for the war, even among the chest-beating jingoists, would collapse more than it already has.

If memory serves me right, before the war, Americans polled that they woudln't support it if Saddam had no WMDs, no links with al Qaeda and if the war cost excessive American casualties. Well, they've figured all that out, and they've rightly decided that the price in American blood and treasure is too high to continue Bush's excellent adventure in Iraq. Bush simply can't afford to lose the chickenhawk brigade, so he won't ask them to do the bleeding they loudly insist others do for them.

Posted by: Gregory on September 13, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Al is right on the money! Hire illegal aliens! Make them citizens if they come back alive AND unmaimed! Perfect for the Republican Plan for Endless War!

Posted by: ct on September 13, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

And, we don't need soldiers to nuke Iran!

Posted by: Al on September 13, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Short Al: Kill! Kill! Kill them all

-- -- --

...and the army will discharge (honorably, of course) anybody who doesn't "adapt the culture" (if you know what I mean).

So, is it a war... or isn't it?

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on September 13, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

But, instituting a draft, in order to increase force levels, would cost money, right? Like, er, tax money? Hmmm...

Yes, payroll and income taxes may have to be increased on those making less than $100K per year. There is no point in raising taxes on those making more than that, since their money just flows down to the poorer anyway, and since the rich kids won't get drafted there is no reason to make them pay for others to participate.

Posted by: Anon on September 13, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I see Chuckles is posing as a Democrat again. How amusing...not.

Posted by: Gregory on September 13, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

The last person I heard mention that a draft was likely was not a Democrat, but rather Tony Blankley, Wanhington Times Editor, on the Mclaughlin Report.

After the election some difficult choices will have to be made. Do we stay the course, get out, or escalate?

Posted by: NeilS on September 13, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

This administration and its enabling pundits do not have the political will to call for a draft. If the Democrats were clever they would frame the issue that way: challenge the Republicans to call for a draft a month before the election and, when they invariably do not, then tar and feather them as not having the political will to prosecute their policies when those policies require options that are politically disadvantageous.

Posted by: ElectricGrendel on September 13, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is it really that hard to see that 'average' refers to the population at large, compared to which the applicant pool has been slipping?

Posted by: Pat on September 13, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what an Electric Grendel is, but it's exactly right about the November strategy.

Posted by: craigie on September 13, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

The wild bunch was of a scary movie type, tactfully it was not too drafty after the election, no? Wolves are often afraid of time. I am not the one, but children can party, happily.

Sit to piss: sure, but only to make a joke of Australian Aborigines, who were not of the empire, despite currently serving the arms forces to fill the urn of two elections. Aborigines act funny, dont they, serving to honor family. If sounds were reasonable, the screams of the dying would be heard by citizens instead of just themselves.

Posted by: Will on September 13, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Slot Machine Theory explains everything.

Posted by: bob on September 13, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

If we need more troops to win, but there aren't any more troops to be had, then what?

We can pull them out of Europe.

A more fundamental question, with a short prologue. The small size of the military today is a result of decisions made by leaders of both parties, in Congress and in the White House, over the past decades. Don't we need to either expand the military or else lower all of our ambitions about what we want to do with it? It seems as though we are capable of blowing up anything that we choose to blow up in Iran, but we can not control Baghdad.

Posted by: republicrat on September 13, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

We can pull them out of Europe.

No we can't, you dumb fuck. They're not there. You might as well say "we can pull them from my ass."

If you disagree, prove it. Put up or shut up.

Posted by: Arminius on September 13, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Draft? You wanna see the streets full of people saying 'hell no, we won't go.' It'll make the ol Vietnam anti war demonstrations look like a Sunday picnic. We'll even have draft dodgers--maybe some of them will then grow up to be president, or vice president.

Posted by: sparky on September 13, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Rich Lowry volunteering? No?

Posted by: LeisureGuy on September 13, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

This administration and its enabling pundits do not have the political will to call for a draft.

Instead of challenging the Republicans to call for a draft, pretend to be a Republican calling for the base to send their children into the military. Print up cheap flyers urging the enlistiment of upper middle class, white high school seniors. Attack the Republicans' base by encouraging their children to join up using the names of Bush and the local Republican incumbent. The high school football season just started, and it is a gathering place for American Bush voters. Put them in a double bind and see how they vote.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat wrote: "Don't we need to either expand the military or else lower all of our ambitions about what we want to do with it?"

Duh... That's precisely the point. Now can you get the Bush administration, not to mention idiots like Lowry and Kristol, to understand this basic bit of common sense?

Posted by: PaulB on September 13, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

"The number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005

Is it just me, or is this sentence completely devoid of value? If score distributions haven't shifted, it would just mean you doubled your recruit pool. If they have, it could mean that you were finding more 'stellar' candidates, and the count of recruits below average would decrease without lowering their quality."

I think the simplest explination is this:
There are fewer applicants per recruit needed so the army is going further down the stack to get the bodies it needs. If you take only 50% of applicants you would expect a large majority of them to be from the top half on such a test, if you take 75% the majority would be smaller.

Basically it hinges on "recruits" meaning people who are accepted into the army, rather than applicants.

Posted by: jefff on September 13, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Way too much scum like Al in this country, scum that could tear up over a 9/11 montage while they blithely pushed a button to incinerate millions of human beings.

I saw the just-after-9/11 video of John Stewart...heartfelt and eloquent, and especially when he, as others have, contrasted the ingenuity and creativity and sweat and dedication over a long period of time to build something like the towers, with the comtemptibly easy job of destroying them. But doesn't that also apply to the 'edifice' of statecraft, with its long slow accumulation of knowledge about cultures, and systems of government, and longterm urban planning, civil engineering, all the things that the cretins of the right don't want to take time to learn about, they just wanna blow things up and steal what's left.

Little chairbound shitstain baby terrorists.

Posted by: fourmorewars on September 13, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I will say "draft." I may be blue, but I'm not yellow.

We can not maintain our global ambitions with current troop levels. Period. We either have to have serious discussions about returning the draft (and no 'tangs running off to TANG this time around, god-damnit) or we need to pull back to an isolationist stance in the world. One or the other.

What is transpiring today is not sustainable.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record, missiles launch when two keys, placed far enough apart that one person can't do it alone, are turned simultaneously. Not when buttons are pushed.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

gar: They can't SAY 'draft' before the Nov. election. But they' can talk just enough about the need for more troops so that, after the election, they can start the draft and call it voter-approved.

I can actually see them doing this. Down the rabbit hole with us all.

Then again, some low-on-reality-but-high-on-cheerleading troll in some other thread keeps telling us that all we need is an "investment in winning." It seems the liberal "investment in losing," not the lack of troops, a plan or any possibility of unscrewing up Iraq, is what's holding us back. Huh.

Posted by: shortstop on September 13, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

1) We are NOT at war.

War is a special legal state defined by the constitution. Our founding fathers (wisely) recognized the need to prevent rogue presidents from engaging in war on executive perogative.

They knew what it would lead to... exactly the mess we are in today.

Iraq was never a threat to the United States, and Bush/Cheney/Neocons know this quite well.

That is why the word 'WAR' appears in almost every sentence they utter. They know if they tell a lie long enough the people will buy it. Hitler showed them how it works.

Posted by: Buford on September 13, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

What gobal ambitions do Americans have that requires a humongous military force?

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Al: Actually it's very simple Kevin. We can just hire citizens of other countries as troops.

Alex: I hear Hessians are really good.

Yeah, don't forget the Hessians. Why American corporations are allowed to raise private armies is beyond me. I figure that it should be treated as proof positive of intent to wage war against the people and the state.

Posted by: Wapiti on September 13, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile - I'll take a run at that one - Trying to fight two simultaneous conflicts with inadequate troop strength, inadequate materiel and trying to pay for it all with tax cuts.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Jenna and not-Jenna couldn't pass the drug screen that is required today.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

daCascadian: W didn't read Sun Tzu, but Osama apparently did.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Back tommorow folks. Gotta go to class, gotta grade tests, and after that read four chapters. Might be my first all-nighter of the semester.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record, missiles launch when two keys, placed far enough apart that one person can't do it alone, are turned simultaneously. Not when buttons are pushed.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

And two vowels must be carefully placed side by side in order to form the word, 'oy.'

Posted by: fourmorewars on September 13, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's just a common misconception I wanted to clear up.:)

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, I am charging you with keeping the blue flame of liberals in the military burning...

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 13, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, GC, I fail to understand how fighting two simultaneous conflicts is an ambition of America. It might be a defense contractor's ambition, but I do not think it would be the ambition of the nation.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen >Jenna and not-Jenna couldn't pass the drug screen that is required today."

Too many antibiotics I suppose...

"W didn't read Sun Tzu, but Osama apparently did."

Yea, I don`t think was part of My Pet Goat

On the OBL angle I think these folks are more the string pullers than him alone

gettin in deeper and deeper we are

"People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election. - Otto von Bismarck

Posted by: daCascadian on September 13, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Draft? You wanna see the streets full of people saying 'hell no, we won't go.'

Yes, I do!

If we'd had a draft 3-1/2 years ago the Bush junta would've had a harder time selling this debacle, because maybe someone whose parents made more than poverty wages might have been at risk.

Posted by: mister pedantic on September 13, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

I will recommend a draft when there is an apparent existential threat to the nation. Until then, mothball the military the way we did after WWI. We don't need the military and having such a large force only creates temptation for scum politicians like Bush and Murtha to use it.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

If there wasn't an army 31/2 years ago, Bush would not have been able to invade a country that posed no threat to the security of the US. If we would have had a draft, Bush might have considered invading China.

Posted by: Hostile on September 13, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

sparky >"Draft? You wanna see the streets full of people saying 'hell no, we won't go.' It'll make the ol Vietnam anti war demonstrations look like a Sunday picnic..."

Bring it on !

"...This is not a game." - Lorie Van Auken (2001.09.11 widow)

Posted by: daCascadian on September 13, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

What if they gave a war, and nobody came?

Posted by: charlie don't surf on September 13, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm completely in favor of a draft. It should be triggered EVERY TIME our troops stationed abroad passes some "threshold"... make it 20,000 or so. Would vastly decrease military adventurism, as the soft, mushy, war-supporting middle would now face the prospect of sending their little Johnny and Jill to die for whatever demagoguing, nationalistic fuck is in office.

Posted by: luci on September 13, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

A soldiers tale, but let's see how short I can make this (it's not a short story). A friend's stepson enlisted in the army last year. He had dropped out of high school and has some ADD problems, but the army accepted him and he was doing well. He went through basic training and then through welding school in Kentucky. I am Navy myself so I know nothing about army, but he was eventually transferred to Fort Hood, Texas. I guess some guys in his platoon decided they were being prepared to go to Iraq so the went out one weekend, bought some pot, and got smoked up pretty good. David (the stepson) did the same, but he took it a step further and hit the trail for Mexico where he lived on the beach for about 3 months. Doug, my friend, was able to track him through his cell phone and on-line bank records which he had access to. The kid was living on the beach and the army was still paying him so he had money during his desertion until he was mugged and ALL of his id, military and civilian, was stolen. He decided it was time to face the music so he went to the border to turn himself in. Here is where the story truly becomes frightening. He got to the border somewhere near San Diego and told the border guard that he was a military deserter and needed to turn himself in, but he had no ID. The guard told him that there was nothing he could do about him being a deserter, but he allowed him to enter the US with no id whatsoever.

The Bushies certainly have that illegal crossing under control, don't they?

The kid had an aunt nearby and she picked him up and he tried to turn himself in to a Marine base, but they didn't want him since he was Army. He wound up having to go to a recruiting station to get a bus ticket to travel, unescorted, back to Fort Hood. Keep in mind that this happened months ago and he is still in the Army, he is awaiting some sort of judgement, but it looks as if he will get a general discharge which can be upgraded to an honorable after some relatively short period of time.

I wish the kid well, but this goes to show just how screwed up our military, not to mention our border patrol, is. Doug, the stepfather is an Army vet of Vietnam and knows the ropes well and was constantly in touch with the Army CID agent handling the kids case.

I'm amazed at the depths to which our military has sunk and few seem to either notice or care!

Posted by: Fred on September 13, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

the soft, mushy, war-supporting middle would now face the prospect of sending their little Johnny and Jill to die for whatever demagoguing, nationalistic fuck is in office.

Luci says what I was trying to say, but much more eloquently!

Posted by: mister pedantic on September 13, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

If Americans had the sense that we were going to accomplish something in Iraq, other than freaking out oil speculators, then I suspect recruitment would be more brisk. So would support.

If I knew that my son would have 500,000 of his American buddies covering his back, I wouldn't be worried about him going over there. But with troop levels as low as they are, it's painfully obvious that the whole point of this exercise is "target practice for terrorists" - and no thank you to that.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 13, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

If we need more troops, than why are some of the troops we have sitting on their asses (so to speak) here when they should be there (where ever that may be Iraq, Afganistan, ext). Daily Show actualy has a good quote about it.

"If the struggle of civilization is going on in Bagdad then why didn't we go in with...a...few...more people."

Posted by: nobody on September 13, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Most likely because they are either the wrong troops for the tasks in Iraq or they have already served and are in desperate need of time to unwind and get their lives back together again before being redeployed.

Posted by: PaulB on September 13, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is why it's not merely rhetorical to ask guys like Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol to tell us where they're going to get the extra soldiers they keep telling us we need in Iraq

Kevin, you don't seem to understand the rules. Lowry and Kristol don't have to write solutions, just manifestos.

Posted by: tomeck on September 13, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

"We can pull them out of Europe.

No we can't, you dumb fuck. They're not there. You might as well say "we can pull them from my ass."

If you disagree, prove it. Put up or shut up"

Amen, Arminius.

Republicrat, I don't recall your exact political leanings, but being this ignorant/detached from reality is part of what has led the GOP astray. I posted at length on this matter in another thread on this board. If memory serves, you were active in that thread as well, though I may be mistaken about that. There are others who could do a no doubt better job of describing the situation, but the facts are well known in any case.

I don't feel like going back to cut and paste in order to rebut a remark as ignorant as the one you made, but in case you don't want to listen to either others or myself, even a simple Google search or a VERY modest familiarity with the U.S. Armed Forces would inform you of this fact - there is NO significant untapped pool of US soldiers or Marines anywhere in the world. U.S. Army Europe sent every one - EVERY ONE - of its combat brigades, plus its corps headquarters, and lots of support troops, to fight in Iraq at one point or another. Most have since redeployed back to the U.S.. So which troops should we pull from nasty old "Old Europe" to use in Iraq, there, hard-charger?

Why does this piss me off? Because I've watched the GOP become a party that crows about it's strength and knowledge on defense, when all the party as a whole really has is it's willingness to bluster and beat it's chest about how tough it is, plus a willingness to write checks for air-superiority fighters. This Band of Buffoons (lump me in if you must - I haven't changed my registration) has resisted any implication they don't fully know what they're doing - Lowry and the pack of jackasses at the National Review in particular doing a hatchet job on anyone who fails to routinely note that Donald Rumsfeld is the pinacle of both military and management genius (I exaggerate, but not by much). Kristol's views on the matter are more complex, criticizing Rumsfeld from time to time, but overall, he's an idiot as well (arguably worse, since he wants to take on Iran despite knowing we have massive problems). There are exceptions, to be sure - Hagel, McCain, Fred Kagan, some others, but all in all, a massive chunk of the Republican party has turned into enablers (psychobabble in a policy post - WTF?!) for people who really, really, don't know what they're doing. In short - they've placed political expediency over readiness, albeit usually out of ignorance rather than malice.

Why does this matter? Because the President of the United States is pursuing a massively ambitious strategic goal - transformation of the most complex, and almost the bloodiest, region of the world - and his Secretary of Defense has utterly failed to either pursue those strategic goals, or promote a military (or any other institution) more able to pursue them. To be sure, that says more about the President than it does about any single WSJ Editorial Board member, but the fact is, the GOP has failed to give a damn about either understanding the war we're in, or promoting the right kind of a military, because, at the end of the day, the party just doesn't get it.

Republicrat, to be sure, you're correct that the military we have is simply too small - that would be true even had we never invaded Iraq. We have a much higher steady-state pace of operations now than we did in the 90s. I would love to fix that. But we had the chance after 9/11. We could have built up the kinds of forces necessary for this kind of war, back when people would have been willing to raise their hands and take the oath. Maybe that Stryker brigade wouldn't have had to extend to go to Baghdad. But we didn't do that. We did a technology heavy, very expensive, "transformation" instead. Conservatives could have protested - overall, they didn't. Alas. I suppose we could start building up now, but we've pissed away alot of money and good will.

One of the favorite canards of the hacks is that every war has mistakes, and that criticizing Rumsfeld or troop levels or doctrine or whatever is simple ankle-biting. The problem with that argument is that America has made very few STRATEGIC mistakes. Some of that was our wisdom in putting the Atlantic and Pacific where we did, but regardless, we got it mostly right. You can make tactical mistakes (e.g. platoon attacks left instead of right and gets defeated) and still win. But we've made the biggest strategic mistake of all - we've failed to understand the nature of the war we're in, or the goals we're really pursuing. There's almost no precedent for it in American history. There have been lesser strategic errors, sure, but even in Vietnam, even if it was a bad idea, we at least understood the purpose of containment. The closest American example is probably the Spanish-American War - which was an undertaking a fraction as ambitious as our efforts in Iraq. We are repeating the mistakes of Israel's recent Lebanon disaster on a far greater scale, and at far higher cost in human lives on all sides. We can either 1)fix the effort and give it our best shot, 2)get out, or 3)keep on muddling through\stay the course. Sadly, I think we're locked in on option 3.


Posted by: hotrod on September 13, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Al is right on the money! Hire illegal aliens! Make them citizens if they come back alive AND unmaimed! Perfect for the Republican Plan for Endless War!"

ct - be generous make them citizens even if they're dead or maimed.

Posted by: kellgo on September 13, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

this is quite something....

Gunman Kills One, Wounds 19 in Shooting Spree at Montreal College

Posted by: qdqd on September 13, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, am impressed at how long BushCo has managed to bumble on without general conscription. I honestly expected mumblings in the Republican party about conscription in 2005. But they've managed to do everything except the D-word for at least two years now: mostly by using a 'backdoor' draft (extending active enlistment times), reducing the cycle between tours of duty, calling up reserves, and hijacking critical National Guard units.

Rumsfield/Cheney and friends dread the day they will have to go to the young public at large for uniformed manpower resources, and will do anything to avoid it. So long they've succeeded; but there's damned little left in the tank, and it has affected readiness for other catastrophes, military or not (as witness the Katrina debacle in Louisiana).

Posted by: Dave Alway on September 13, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

And maybe Jenna & not-Jenna can go along as mascots (and keep the beer cold back in the Green Zone)

Beautiful line, daCascadian. Lets start the draft with ordinary citizens like say....Tiger Woods. Golf lessons in the green zone to the halliburton party organizers.

Posted by: American Idiot on September 13, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

I would think the low recruitment numbers have more to do with the current robust economy rather than any other reason.

Posted by: mark on September 13, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, right on the "robust" economy. People are not joining the Army/NG because of Iraq. Who wants to be maimed for life or worse.

When you lower the standards for enlistment you are going to get low achieving dumb people. Plain & simple. When you extend the age limit, you get old men. Forty-two is too old to go to boot camp and fight a war.

One big problem we have as a nation is the extremely small percent of the population that has served in any branch of the military, including the Coast Guard. If our political leaders had served, their perspective re: how to approach an armed conflict would be decidedly different.

Posted by: Chief on September 13, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

With a little more time (and a few more militaristic interventions), the plan to save social security can just be to recruit everyone over 50 into the army. And don't train them of course. Who needs training when you are being sent over as a human shield?

BUT don't ever, ever, ever let them gays in the military. Because middle aged recruits are fine, but healthy 20 y.o. gay men and women? Completely foolish.

Posted by: DC1974 on September 13, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

hotrod, that was an excellent post.

But we've made the biggest strategic mistake of all - we've failed to understand the nature of the war we're in, or the goals we're really pursuing. There's almost no precedent for it in American history. There have been lesser strategic errors, sure, but even in Vietnam, even if it was a bad idea, we at least understood the purpose of containment.

I think you underestimate the degree to which we misunderstood the Vietnam conflict. In fact the parallels are quite striking. In the 1973 documentary "Hearts and Minds" there's an interview with Walt Rostow, one of the "Best and the Brightest" team, who explains that the causes of the Vietnam War can be traced to 1957, when the Sputnik launch gave international Communism a sense of expansionist self-confidence.

This is a ridiculous misreading of the Vietnam War, which was fundamentally an expression of Vietamese nationalism rather than expansionist Communism, and was directed out of Hanoi and not out of Moscow. The idea that the launch of Sputnik had anything significant to do with Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese Communist Party's war for a unified Vietnam independent of any foreign power, which they had been pursuing without a break since the 1930s, is absurd. But it was a universally shared delusion among American policymakers which severed the war they were fighting from any rational goals. The attempt to fit the Iraq war into a "global war against Islamic extremism" is very, very similar.

Rostow's selection of the Sputnik launch as the start date of the Vietnam War is also revealing in another way. The Vietnam War didn't start for the Vietnamese in 1957; it started for them back in 1954, or 1945, or even earlier. But it did start for the U.S. in 1957. WE were the ones who were frightened into a war footing by the Sputnik launch; WE got into Vietnam under Kennedy as part of a global effort to contain nuclear-armed Communism, to shore up the "missile gap".

The same thing can be seen when Americans date the start of the Iraq war to September 11, 2001. That date means little for Iraqis or Muslims in general; it is either too early or far too late -- long after the beginning of American interference in Mideastern affairs (the Iran coup of 1954, the establishment of Israel, backing for the hated House of Saud), and too long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq to be meaningful. For Muslims, the idea that the conflict between America and political Islam started on 9/11 is nonsense; they view that conflict in a different context. And, quite rightly, they cannot see how our invasion of Iraq can be logically seen as a response to 9/11. As in Vietnam, we are fighting our vision of a global threat, but that global threat exists as a coherent actor only in our own minds: the people we are fighting do not understand what we are doing, and interpret our war-waging in their own way. In Vietnam, they couldn't understand that we were fighting "global Communism", because their own actions weren't driven by global Communism; they thought we were trying to install a puppet regime for our own benefit, as the French had. (In many ways, they were right.) In Iraq, they can't understand that we are fighting "terrorists" or "Islamofascists" or whatever, because they see themselves basically as patriots and Muslims; they think we're fighting to install an Iraqi puppet regime and to destroy Islam. (Are they right?)

I think these habits of mind are quite consistent and revealing. It's a sort of overly literal understanding of our ideological frameworks. It's one thing to note the similarities between radical Islam and fascism. It's another thing to posit that this represents a global coherent actor called "Islamofascism", and then to go out and kill Iraqis who appear to fit into that paradigm. I think that to a great extent, what we are doing in Iraq, like what we did in Vietnam, literally makes no sense at all, and that the consequences of simply stopping it are probably much less serious than we generally think.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 13, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Chief,

Agree completely with your sentiments, especially that 42 is too old to go to boot camp. However, perhaps a higher percentage of older enlistees can pass the aptitude test.

But, in reading the Oregonian the past few days, I was shocked to see so many older deaths occurring in our Army Reserve, National Guard and even our Regular Army units. This past week deaths have been reported of NCOs ranging from 32 to 38 to 43 to 48 and finally 52 years of age. The 32 yr old was a SFC in the US Army - The rest were from Oregon NG and/or Army Reserve units. One fellow had a master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Maryland and was a senior land-use planner in Wasco County, Oregon. He had served in the Peace Corps and had one tour in Iraq in 2003. He and three of the others were killed in Afghanistan by either IED or by ambush. They were in country to train Afghan forces.

One will find that in many of the NG and Army Reserve units, there are many older, educated personnel, both male and female. Many have had to place their civilian careers, despite "a booming economy" on hold and especially their family lives.

By the way, Governor Kulongoski of Oregon has attended the 79 funerals of those killed in the Middle East - Now how many has Our Perpetrator in Chief attended?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 13, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should be called up for active duty.

Think of it, this way they'd be able to go over to Iraq and really, really, really earn those merit badges.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 13, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

"If we need more troops to win, but there aren't any more troops to be had, then what?"

Two words: clone army. Worked for Palpatine.

Posted by: nova silverpill on September 13, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe,

Excellent points - May I add to your time frame our shelling of Beirut by the USS New Jersey - Prior to the bombing of the Marine Barracks, a Marine unit had been sent ashore to provide safe passage for Arafat and his lieutentants. The Marines were hailed as heros. Several months later, the Marines were sent back to Beirut as part of a three nation peacekeeping force. During this stint, Cap Weinberger decided to support the Lebanese Army. He had the USS New Jersey and a couple of other war ships provide fire support. Civilians were killed. Shortly thereafter, the Marines had to take refuge in the barracks as they were taking sniper fire. The barracks was attacked. The French were also later attacked.
Cap's choosing sides haunts us to this day.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 13, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

fun walk down memory lane:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1700375/posts

I think this is the second time I ever visited freerepublic, the first being about 2 years ago during the presidential campaign.

Posted by: republicrat on September 13, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should be called up for active duty.

Think of it, this way they'd be able to go over to Iraq and really, really, really earn those merit badges.

Not a bad idea, but why don't we just send former cheerleaders? We could get rid of Jenna, Not Jenna and Smirky in one fell swoop. Gimme an I! Gimme an R!

And hotrod, great post.

Posted by: shortstop on September 13, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need a draft. If we can't field enough volunteers to fight this war, then we shouldn't be fighting it. And if we can't field enough volunteers to defend ourselves, then we deserve to lose.

Maybe the army is dropping its standards a bit, but then, its getting people who are willing to volunteer during wartime. I'm thinking its easier to provide the willing with necessary skills than it is to provide the unwilling with courage.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Nice posting ladies and gentlemen.
A very good read.

No Jay, rdw or all those other buttheads.
Very nice.

I wonder, though, if this message about the destruction of the US Army and the threat of the draft is getting out to John Q Public?

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on September 13, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Pierre,

Of course all the draft talk is just a scare tactic. But what's really scary is that it will probably work. And the reason it will probably work is because a significant number of Americans would rather hit the streets in protest than serve when called.

No, we won't have a draft. It simply wouldn't work. Americans won't stand for it. A professional volunteer military is our only hope.

Posted by: Randy on September 13, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty soon, the Army brass will send you out in your own sandals and a robe. Just dig a hole and wait for enemy to come.

Sound familiar?

Posted by: Jay in Oregon on September 13, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe >"...WE got into Vietnam under Kennedy as part of a global effort to contain nuclear-armed Communism, to shore up the "missile gap"..."

WRONG !!!

this is, AIR, the second time in ~10days that I have seen this particular mis-statement in a thread here

The first U.S. combat troops were introduced into Vietnam in 1958 by President D.W. Eisenhower (w/V.P. Nixon behind the scenes- remember him ?) while it was only after the Gulf of Tonkin (remember L.B.J. ?) that large numbers of combat units were sent in.

Got It ?

"A country which proposes to make use of modern war as an instrument of policy must possess a highly centralized, all-powerful executive, hence the absurdity of talking about the defense of democracy by force of arms. A democracy which makes or effectively prepares for modern scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic." - Aldous Huxley
If you are going to make a point at least blame the correct political individuals

Posted by: daCascadian on September 13, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

More troops, eh ?

So, this NOTHING like Vietnam.

Sure.
.

Posted by: VJ on September 14, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Pierre Asciutto >"...No Jay, rdw or all those other buttheads..."

Be careful cause they are all probably at a "seminar" w/Rover getting a new set of instructions for the next few weeks

Boy, talk about Hell Week(s)...

"...Democrats believe in checks and balances. Republicans believe in giving checks to rich people who already have large balances." - windje-firedoglake.com

Posted by: daCascadian on September 14, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Look, VJ, the US was actually financing the entire French war in Indochina from about 1952 on, and the decision to back the French rather than Ho Chi Minh was taken under Truman. There's plenty of blame to spread across different administrations. But the big escalation in US military support for the Diem regime took place under Kennedy. He was the one who introduced tens of thousands of US military "advisers". (As under Eisenhower, the fiction was maintained that they were just advising ARVN, not actually fighting, until the introduction of US fighting forces in 1965.)

None of this is particularly relevant to the point I was making, which is that US intervention in Vietnam was driven by late 50s/early 60s Cold War hysteria about the global Communist threat, not by an intelligent analysis of what was going on in Vietnam. By the time LBJ got into the game, we had already made a commitment to "win" that war; the analysis was frozen in place. LBJ was motivated from the beginning as much by the desire not to be the guy who "lost" Vietnam, as by an assessment of its place in the global war against Communism.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 14, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

The prison system?

There are a lot of folks there under 40 that are physically fit and street smart. The ones with long sentences would have a big incentive if we gave amnesty after a three year tour. Think how many folks we could enroll if we offered to remove them from the sex offender registry.

Posted by: B on September 14, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Lowry and Kristol and the Rapture-yearning White House see the lower classes providing their cannon fodder, just as they are doing now. A weakened economy, a devastated social safety net -- horrendous healthcare and no Social Security are conservative wet dreams -- that should ratchet up interest in the military and its three squares and all the medicine you need among the kids now thinking twice and a third time about sacrificing their bodies and souls to IEDs. And there is absolutely no reason to think they would have any compunctions about crafting conscription legislation to allow them to excuse from service anyone that the rulers choose and let the excess brown bodies man the front lines of the holy crusade. They are that cruel, that demented, that brazen.

Posted by: secularhuman on September 14, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe >"...the big escalation in US military support for the Diem regime took place under Kennedy. He was the one...until the introduction of US fighting forces in 1965.)..."

Eisenhower introduced U.S. combat troops in 1958

Kennedy was killed in November 1963

I see how it is

You just intentionally misrepresent the facts so they fit your own little version of how things are

"...With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power..." - Henry Wallace

Posted by: daCascadian on September 14, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

the military we have is simply too small - that would be true even had we never invaded Iraq.

The military is too large. Way too large and it only makes trouble and temptation.

Posted by: Hostile on September 14, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

I think that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should be called up for active duty. Think of it, this way they'd be able to go over to Iraq and really, really, really earn those merit badges.

Funny but actionable. Make Republican pamphlets with both Bush and the local Republican incumbent's name on it asking for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to join the military and serve the mission in Iraq, distribute (put the pamplet on the windshield of the cars) at functions. Soccer moms and NASCAR dads will be outraged, even though they voted for Bush twice.

Posted by: Hostile on September 14, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals should all support mandatory national service (with no exceptions) for the good of the country. Read the Washington Monthly article 'The Case for a Draft' or Andrew Bacevich's book and/or fairly recent interviews.
I suggest we don't push to implement this policy until after 2008 however.

Posted by: national service on September 14, 2006 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

daCascadian,

I have no idea what weird political location you're coming from -- Kennedy worship or something? -- and still less what you hope to accomplish by calling me a fascist. How about a little Stanley Karnow to try and bring you back to reality.

"Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place." -- Kennedy to James Reston in May, 1961

"The number of advisers had already quintupled before the Taylor mission [in Oct. 1961] from fewer than seven hundred to some three thousand, and the figure climbed to sixteen thousand over the next two years. American pilots began to fly combat sorties out of Bienhoa, an air base north of Saigon, their flighs camouflaged as training exercises for the Vietnamese." -- Karnow, P.270

As I said, it was under Kennedy that the US deployment in Vietnam grew from a few hundred to sixteen thousand. Kennedy was the one who made the Vietnam war a major test of American willpower and capabilities in the Cold War. Had he lived, he almost certainly wouldn't have bungled it as horribly as LBJ did: he was far more sophisticated in foreign affairs, and would have figured out a way to pull out once it became clear we couldn't win. But I don't see what purpose is served by obscuring the historical record.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 14, 2006 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

The $4.2 billion that the U.S. recently spent on two B-52 bombers could uplift not only the Iraqi people, but also the 40% of the Iranian population that lives in poverty.

Statements like this are why "liberals" have no credibility with today's Republicans or hawks.

There is a vast visual and operational difference between a B-52 and the B-2 stealth bomber (which has never worked properly and costs more to operate than the B-52, which has a larger crew and uses more fuel). It's a glaring and obvious distinction that blows all your valid points out of the water for anyone predisposed to disagree with you.

The last B-52 was built in 1965, and is still in operation today. We're not spending $1 Billion per jet to keep them flying, for sure. Out of 700+ B-52s built, only about 45 are still flying, and are projected to until 2040, when their wings will finally wear to the point that they are no longer repairable.

one thing worth noting is that a re-engine program drafted by Boeing to save hundreds of thousands of gallons of jet fuel and thousands of hours of maintenance costs by replacing the antiquated, noisy, and unreliable engines of the B-52 with newer turbofans used by commercial jets has been killed twice. Once by the Cheney-appointed Air Force generals in the Clinton administration, and once by Rumsfeld. I guess you go to war with the 50-year-old bombers you have, not the 50-year-old bombers you want.

Posted by: F'in Librul on September 14, 2006 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

National Service,

Re; The draft being necessary for the good of the country.

I find it kind of funny that the people now speaking of the need for a draft are the very people who made the draft infeasible in the first place. I wonder who they've got in mind to be drafted since they themselves refuse to serve.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe,

I have always found your knowledge of the conflict in Vietnam impressive. I don't know what daCascadian is talking about either. But it is important, in my opinion, that an accurate history of our involvement in Vietnam be accessible to a larger audience.

Acting out on the basis of ignorance is all too 'American.'

Posted by: obscure on September 14, 2006 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe, good one with the outrage at the facist comment. Maybe someday we'll shame D'cscdn into killing that f'n random quote generator.

Posted by: B on September 14, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

A Short Treatise on Credibility & republicrat:

Persons like republicrat could easily, and with a minimum of effort, boost their credibility and prestige on these boards by means of a simple act, commonly known as "contrition."

Perfect example: republicrat makes an asinine assertion about more US troops being available in Europe. He is immediately called on this asinine assertion by more than one well-informed commenter. But when republicrat reappears on the thread he makes no mention of his error, let alone apologize for it.

That's why you're a schmuck, republicrat, and not someone likely to be taken seriously.

Posted by: obscure on September 14, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

"I wonder who they've got in mind to be drafted since they themselves refuse to serve."

they right wingers know that the military will soon look great from a career perspective. economic conditions will worsen steadily until the rank and file are mean enough to kill.

understand that there will always be chicken hawks. always. the courage of the majority of those oppressed will be the lightning rod of the next revolution.

Posted by: chris from boca on September 14, 2006 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Chris,

Revolution? Give me a break. There are no revolutionaries in this country. Just a lot of people with free time, big egos, and access to computers. Hell, your ultimate objective is to saddle yourselves with a bigger government. Talking about revolution while making plans for becoming a serf - is that irony? I always get confused about the definition of irony.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

randy: Maybe the army is dropping its standards a bit


a bit?

in October-2005, the Army had such a hard time filling its slots that 12-percent of that month's active-duty recruits were Category IV.

Category IV recruits = applicants who score in the lowest third on the armed forces aptitude test.

For the past 20-years, that number was kept at..LESS THAN 3%

so quadrupling its use of such troops is...

a bit?...


how about this...

"The Army spent approximately $426 million on reenlistment bonuses in fiscal year 2005 or almost 8 times more than its budgeted amount to meet its retention goals." - gao.gov

8-times is....a bit?

Posted by: mr. perspective on September 14, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

randy: Of course all the draft talk is just a scare tactic. But what's really scary is that it will probably work. And the reason it will probably work is because a significant number of Americans would rather hit the streets in protest than serve when called.


what i find scary is...

bush won by 3-million votes....

yet the military still had to take extraordinary actions to hit even reduced quotas...

of a few thousand...

Posted by: mr. perspective on September 14, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe,

In 61 and 62, A teams from C Company of the 10th Special Forces stationed in Bad Tolz, Germany were operating in Viet Nam. However, their APO was still Bad Tolz. I was on my way into transferring into B Company when I was told by an officer in my unit that they were only in Germany on paper. As I checked the map and found that there were no ski areas such as Garmisch in Nam, I did not transfer.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 14, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

randy: I find it kind of funny that the people now speaking of the need for a draft are the very people who made the draft infeasible in the first place.


i think its funny that the president says iraq is a battle for civilization...

yet in 1991...400k troops were used...

but in 2003...150k troops were used...

and cheney said he had reconstituted nukes...

Posted by: mr. irony on September 14, 2006 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Just a historical advice to everyone that think that US can hire citizens of other countries as troops: the falling Roman Empire finally acepted german barbarians at its Legions... and that german Legions helped their german friends to sack Rome.

Mercenary soldier only fight for you while they are paid. If there is an economic crisis that make the dollar be a fiat money with no trade valour, that mercenary soldiers will want be paid with other currency or they will not fight. Or worse... they will fight against the US.

Joo Carlos

Posted by: Joo Carlos on September 14, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Mr. Perspective, like I said, if we can't field enough volunteers to fight this war, then we shouldn't be fighting it. And if we can't field enough volunteers to defend ourselves, then we deserve to lose.

And I hear you on the difference in numbers too.

My belief is that our ability to field enough troops depends primarily on tradition. My family, for example, has had volunteers in every war going back to the civil war. A great many of today's service members come from a similar tradition. But as society moves towards the belief that war is "wrong" in all but the most extreme circumstances, it moves away from a tradition of military service as well. Its not a problem that can be solved by a draft. A people who do not believe in war will not stand for a draft. And hell, maybe its not even a "problem" at all. Maybe the world is finally ready to beat swords into plowshares. Certainly we are. Time will tell if that decision is wise.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

If Ronald Reagan were still President, this would not be a problem. He would defeat the terrorists in heroic single-handed toe-to-toe nuclear combat, just like he defeated the Soviet Union.

Posted by: rdw on September 14, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Joao Carlos,

First, the opposite of a mercenary is not a draftee. I would trust a paid professional over a conscript anyday.

Second, the idea of the idealistic volunteer is very rare in history, and where it has occured, such forces were not particularly effective except as an adjunct to a professional or conscripted force.

The Roman army, for example, was a well paid and professional force - its why they won. Yes they did hire mercenaries, but this had been done since the times of the Punic wars. The Romans weren't very good with horses so they often hired cavalry forces from from their allies and tributaries. And later, entire legions were raised the same way. But Rome survived as long as it did because of, not in spite of, its use of paid professional forces. Money is critical to waging war - always has been and always will be. Is it possible that, as you suggest, Americans may someday serve against the state for financial reasons? Yes it is. Hell, that's how America got its start.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Jason,

Re; "Because I think the ultimate reason there won't be a draft is because the American people won't stand for a bunch of trust fund rich kids avoiding service."

You do have a point there. The rich dropping out may very well have been the beginning of the end for the tradition of military service. But the draft is still not a solution. It would simply allow those who have dropped out to continue to be protected without earning the right to be protected. Better, I think, to let those who think the world owes them protection to find out the hard way that they are wrong. Those with courage should inherit the earth - and they will.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK
Is it just me, or is this sentence completely devoid of value? If score distributions haven't shifted, it would just mean you doubled your recruit pool. If they have, it could mean that you were finding more 'stellar' candidates, and the count of recruits below average would decrease without lowering their quality.

The aptitude test is given to a wider range of people than just those enlisting in the military. (I—and most people I knew at the time—took it in high school, most of us weren't even considering enlisting.) Assuming the "average" referred to here is the whole pool, and assuming that the universe of non-enlisting test takers is large enough that any changes in the number of recruits are comparatively insignificant in the recruits:nonrecruits ratio among test takers, and assuming that the demographic characteristics of the larger pool are fairly stable (all of which seem likely to me, but by no means certain), this would seem to indicate a significant drop in recruit quality.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 14, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Randy, re: I find it kind of funny that the people now speaking of the need for a draft are the very people who made the draft infeasible in the first place. I wonder who they've got in mind to be drafted since they themselves refuse to serve.

I wasn't one of those who lobbied for an end to the draft. I was 10. I was more concerned with keeping Donny Osmond people-paper out of my half of the bedroom and dreading the day Mom would take me on that fateful trip to the nearest Sears store for my first bra.

I am one of those starting to talk about a draft, with an only son who is 23 and physically fit enough for special forces. He was set to go to the Marine Reserves after high school, but whose ASAF retiree-father talked him out of serving this president, before all the fun and games started. ("This guy will get a bunch of young men killed and a bunch of middle-aged guys like me will be the ones responsible for them." became a mantra to him in the days leading up to the decision to resign his commission.)

I say that with the caveat that my kind (first responders) should probably be the first drafted. I say we need to start considering mandatory national service and I am still young enough to be conscripted into the officer corps and all three of my children are over 18 and under 25.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 14, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen,

I can't support the idea of mandatory national service. I'm just too much of a liberal. People should be free to make their own choices - and free to accept the consequences.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, we don't need an army as long as we have our RESOLVE! Resolve is what wins wars, not troops, or equipment, or strategy.

Hmmm - okay. Let's look at how we stack up in our resolve:

Iraqi resistance: willing to trade their lives to resist occupation.

US military: needs raises, enlistment bonuses, GI Bill, etc. to entice ever lower quality recruits, while what little of the US population that "supports" the war would evaporate the moment they were asked to sacrifice anything (draft, raising taxes, etc.).

So on the "resolve" scale, we come up a little short.

We have really neat-o shock-and-awe weaponry though! Coooool! So THERE!

Posted by: Chuck on September 14, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I agree. If you give it a reread, I said it was time for serious discussion. Not screw it, bring back the draft now.

We brats seem a bit schizophrenic sometimes, don't we :)? But it is because we have seen the world, experienced first hand what happens when cultures clash, and we just have a perspective that you don't get living in one bedroom all your life until you go off to college.

You missed the fun. A while back I shocked the hell out of everyone here with my rather hard-line view of the Iranian situation. But I formed that opinion having experienced pre-revolution Persian culture as a child and then living just less than a thousand days within 200 miles of the Iranian border.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 14, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Al, that bottomless pit of great ideas, suggests:

These troops would be even better because they could be paid less but still do the same job as American troops. So getting more troops is not really a problem.

And that money would come from . . . where, exactly?

Not from Al's pocket. Oh no - he wants his tax cut.

And by the way, could someone mention to Al that we're already hundreds of billions of dollars in the red? When you're that deep in the hole, it's generally a good idea to stop digging.

Al: another borrow-and-spend Republican.

Posted by: Chuck on September 14, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I also failed to clarify that I advocate, in the event that national service becomes mandatory in this country, military service should not be the only option. Peace Corp, AmeriCorp, full time with the Red Cross for a while, 18 months with the National Health Service. Lots of options for national service currently exist.

The schools my USAF brat kids attended all required community service every year (or my kids went to a different school) and this became ingrained in them. My son is 23 and a grad student ion history. Three days after he returned from Japan where he spent the last academic year as an ESL teacher he was running a siding crew (as a volunteer) on a three-house Habitat for Humanity effort in the inner city. He has worked on 103 houses since he graduated from high school.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 14, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think there is a much more obvious question than "where are the extra troops going to come from". I would like to hear someone ask the "more troops" group, "how many more". It seems like such an obvious question but no one ever asks people like McCain, "how many would you send". I think the voters would like to know if he would send 200,000 or 500,000 or what.

Posted by: Layne on September 14, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen,

Cool that you lived in Iran. I've spent some time in the region, but at the time we called it the "AOR", and being in a warzone gives a whole different impression than actually living in a country.

My daughters also have to do community service at their school. Again, I'm really not it favor of it. I think there's a big difference between volunteering and being forced to volunteer. And I think that the latter has a tendancy to destroy the former. I think there is a case to be made, for example, that the draft has done much to destroy the tradition of military service. Now we have neither. The tradition is destroyed and the public will not allow a draft.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen,

Agree with you as to the parameters of National Service. As long as Haliburton does not lose their KP contracts, bring back the draft.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 14, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry the ones who are enlisting are neo-nazis and crips/bloods. Its gotten so bad that the prosecutor in charge at Ft Lewis has resigned.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/6089006p-5337951c.html

Posted by: feckless on September 14, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Feckless,

Interesting. It does seem that the military tradition is alive and well in some parts of society.

Posted by: Randy on September 14, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

The problem of military service or national service is that our leaders, whether Democratic or Republican are all corrupt. If you serve in the Peace Corp or Americorp you are going to be doing shit work while someone like Clinton or Kerry are supping at five star restaurants, picking the best looking women to be their 'assistants' and then flying of in a corporate sponsered jet. If you choose military service, you will be taking it in the ass from scum like General Boynksmen or forced to let the Commander In Chief suck your genitals while shooting ambulance drives and old ladies in the face. National or military service is a fools game the elites use to sucker the masses. If we need welfare programs to lift the people up, lets make them explicit and egalitarian, not schmoozy or Chauvinistic.

The US does not need a military and we do not need a compulsory service to indoctrinate our young people. What we do need is lots of free educational benefits with high standards and lots of expensive educational choices with low standards. After our children are well educated, or at least well ceritfied, they will hopefully abandon the US idea that we must be the ultimate hegemon of the world. The world! (Apologies to Snickers.)

Posted by: Hostile on September 14, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Resolve and the Garand, plus the French Battery - That's the way.

Posted by: Walter E Wallis on September 14, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Back when we got married, my husbands top-secret security clearance was suspended whil I was checked out - and I just went from being a dependant of the navy to being a dependant of the USAF. Major Tom spent his first three months as an officer sitting in the "Bat Cave" at Davis Monthan AFB - charging batteries that were used in the old Titan II while all of my high-school teachers and college professors were checked out and I was thoroughly vetted.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 14, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Globe: Major Tom spent his first three months as an officer sitting in the "Bat Cave" at Davis Monthan AFB - charging batteries that were used in the old Titan II while all of my high-school teachers and college professors were checked out and I was thoroughly vetted.

And yet your adamant refusal to observe the most basic fire safety rules was never uncovered. Peculiar. Or did they choose to look the other way?

Posted by: shortstop on September 14, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I just get this contrary streak that fills me with irreverence. Not ordinary irreverence either. We're talking pants-around-your-ankles irreverence.

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 14, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing I didn't say that!

Posted by: shortstop on September 14, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

No one does vulgarity like Jason does vulgarity...

Posted by: shortstop on September 14, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

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