Thursday, September 6, 2007

Not sure what to think about this...

After logging out of my hotmail account a while ago, I saw a link titled Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament.

This opinion piece is written by one Marine Corporal Mark Finelli, who on 9/11 worked for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center. He thinks we need to have a draft like in WWII, not like the one during Vietnam. Not knowing my draft history, I don't know if he's accurate in stating that in WWII, the children of the elites couldn't avoid it as he perceives happened with the Vietnam draft. He thinks that if the children of the wealthy and the political elites were forced to serve, the military would be better funded.

According to the Pentagon, no service personnel have died in an MRAP. So why isn’t every Marine or soldier in Iraq riding in one? Simple economics. An MRAP costs five times more than even the most up-armored Humvee. People need a personal, vested, blood-or-money interest to maximize potential. That is why capitalism has trumped communism time and again, but it is also why private contractors in Iraq have MRAPs while Marines don’t. Because in actuality, America isn’t practicing the basic tenet of capitalism on the battlefield with an all-volunteer military, and won’t be until the reinstitution of the draft. Because until the wealthy have that vested interest, until it’s the sons of senators and the wealthy upper classes sitting in those trucks—it takes more than the McCain boy or the son of Sen. Jim Webb—the best gear won’t get paid for on an infantryman’s timetable. Eighteen months after the Marines first asked for the MRAP, it’s finally being delivered. Though not nearly at the rate that’s needed. By the end of the year, only 1,500 will have been delivered, less than half the 3,900 the Pentagon had initially promised.

He also seems to be saying the military is only getting the dregs of society, not the "best and brightest":

The real failure of this war, the mistake that has led to all the malaise of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the failure to not reinstitute the draft on Sept. 12, 2001—something I certainly believed would happen after running down 61 flights of the South Tower, dodging the carnage as I made my way to the Hudson River [I worked at the World Trade Center as an investment adviser for Morgan Stanley at the time]. But President Bush was determined to keep the lives of nonuniformed America—the wealthiest Americans, like himself—uninterrupted by the war. Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While America’s bravest are in the military, America’s brightest are not. Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and I’ll bet that in six months they could render IED’s about as effective as a “Just Say No” campaign at a Grateful Dead show.

Who says "the brightest" can only come from America's wealthy and elite? I just don't buy that. Kind of sounds like Kerry's "you'll get stuck in Iraq" "joke"...

I don't think he's looking at this quite right. During WWII, the vast majority of the American public supported the war effort. It was a war between nation-states between large armies and navies with tanks, artillery, ships and uniforms. Today's war is not against any nation-state, but the ideology of a death cult called radical Islam who don't have the large armies and navies with the tanks, artillery, ships and uniforms we have traditionally faced on the battlefield.

Today, far too many people do not believe there is anything truly worth fighting and dying for, or who do not believe we are really engaged in a war with persons who wish nothing but either our submission to their will or our utter destruction. I never considered joining the military, although I grew up as an Army brat. I never thought I had what it would take to do well in the military - it was not because I thought I was too good for it. Not everyone belongs in the military, and I really don't think we want people in the military who do not want to be there and don't really believe in what it is our military is asked to fight for, regardless of wanting to make everyone, including the elites of this nation, have a "blood-or-money interest" in this fight.

I know our military has been taxed by current military operations around the world, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I also know I've heard that you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want. After the Cold War, some in power in the United States thought we would no longer need the military we had acquired during the conflict. Our military was cut drastically, and now we, or more accurately, our military and their families, are paying the price for that naïveté about future military needs and the nature of future military conflicts. Yes, we need to expand our military forces. Yes, we need to provide our military with the proper equipment and other resources. However, fixing these problems isn't going to happen overnight. It takes time to recruit and train new soldiers, sailors and Marines. I can only think we want those new recruits to actually want to be there - if they don't want to be there, are they going to do want needs to be done, or are they going to get their comrades in arms killed on the battlefield because they have been forced onto the battlefield instead of having arrived there willingly?

As for getting our military the funding that would be required to keep them properly outfitted, Washington has lots of competing interests for the tax dollars that are collected. How many say we already spend too much on the military? Look at the numbers, as a percentage of the federal budget. In 1956, we spent 57% of out federal budget on Defense. In 2006, it's just 19% of the budget, while Social Security and "other payments to individuals" (can we say "the welfare state"?) is now 59% of the budget. Just forcing the political elites' children into the military isn't going to have a drastic effect on the federal budget - politicians have too many constituencies to pay off with our tax dollars.

Bottom line, I can't agree with Cpl. Finelli's conclusion that a military draft will fix the problems with military funding, and I can't see that forcing someone who doesn't want to be in the military to do it anyway is going to get us "the brightest" in the service. Also, how big does he think our military needs to be? To have military service effect this nation's wealthy and elite and others who seem to be removed from any connection to the cost, in blood, of this war against radical Islam, I think we'd have a military far larger than what we truly need.


CJ said...

The good Corporal is just plain wrong. During Vietnam, changes were made in the law to prevent more deferments. Mostly only students could avoid being drafted. But you are right that during WWII we almost didn't need the draft because practically EVERYONE was signing up. The country was behind us. The sixties were a selfish generation. Only 1.8 million people were drafted during Vietnam (compared to more than 10 million during WWII). The system was actually more fair during Vietnam.

Before the lottery was implemented in the latter part of the Vietnam conflict, Local Boards called men classified 1-A, 18 1/2 through 25 years old, oldest first. This resulted in uncertainty for the potential draftees during the entire time they were within the draft-eligible age group. A draft held today would use a lottery system under which a man would spend only one year in first priority for the draft - either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended. Each year after that, he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly. In this way, he would be spared the uncertainty of waiting until his 26th birthday to be certain he would not be drafted.

Today, a student can only apply for a deferment through the end of a semester. There will ALWAYS be rich people and powerful politicians who can pull strings and have their kids exempted somehow. I don't need necessarily the "smartest" people on the battlefield (though I think we already have that). I need Soldiers who can make split seconds decisions and kill the enemy. I need Soldiers who know right from wrong and can analyze the current situation. Today's military is smarter than any other time in history - more educated. A draft will not solve those problems. All a draft of the likes he speaks of will accomplish is having a bunch of "smart people" in the ranks complaining all the time and putting the rest of us who want to be there in danger.

Sarah said...

Hi. I put my two cents up on my blog, but I can't figure out how to send you a trackback. So...trackback :)

William said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,
While I understand the young man's frustration, I could not disagree more strongly with his conclusions. If we use college education as a measure of intelligence (I have problems with this assumption, but it seems to be the one he used) the ratio of enlisted service members that I know with college degrees to civilians that I know with college degrees is roughly equal (please note that officers were not included in my review). So much for the bravest but not brightest meme. (I would like to mention that the percentage of self made millionaires is comparable also.)
The gentleman goes on the cite the lack of MRAPS as a sign of the reguard in which he and his fellow soldiers are held by his government elites. I can only say that ramping up production takes time (think liberty ships. Ship #1~230 days, a few years later 1 ship~42 days) and the government tends to order larger blocks, and to do so more slowly, than any private company. On a more serious note, if we have a problem with, or disconnect from, our elected officials WE need to correct that. The responsibility is ours. And it is a responsibility that I believe too many of us have shirked for too long. We (service members) can not reasonably expect to take precedence over pork barrel projects until we (the citizenry) correct our officials. Drafts won't help, the fortunate sons will simply work for momma or dad's campaign or, if drafted, find themselves in a comfortable state side job until their time is served. So has it always been, so shall it always be.
It is with much thought on many long nights on watch that I can say that I would not want a draftee on my boat (or in my platoon from a prior life). I will grant that every unit has its bottom 10%ers, but, it is my experience that being able to point out the fact that a problem child freely and knowingly signed "the papers" and had "an obligation to stay true to his word" has had, in many cases, more influence than the threat of punitive action (a la UCMJ).
The gentleman has the background to write with credibility, but I got dizzy following some of his logic leaps. They are simply not congruent with my experience and exposure. A draft is not the panacea that he appears to wish for. It is the attitude of the greater society that we need to look at changing (think MTV, Oprah, and the 60's generation running the media and Washington) and that will take more than the stroke of an elected pen. We currently have the finest forces that history has ever known, why risk a good thing for the sake of another "feel good" social experiment? I don't want to bet my life on its success, And that is exactly what would happen.

William sends.
(Former USMC Sgt.; current IT contractor, college student, and USNR Patrol Craft Coxswain/Patrol Leader)

Carole said...

Well said, Miss Ladybug. And CJ too.

Anonymous said...

Social Security doesn't come out of income taxes it is a special trust fund, which as I'm sure you know comes out of your check. But it is misleading to lump it into the 'federal budget' like that. The guy who wrote that article you quote is playing with numbers.

Also that 19% figure does NOT include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here is an informative piece that can help you get it in perspective.

Miss Ladybug said...

I know Social Security is SUPPOSED to be in an untouchable trust fund, but it has been raided and given "IOUs" from other parts of the federal government. And Social Security isn't the only entitlement doled out by the federal government. For me, SS is a pipe dream - it will collapse before I reach anything close to "retirement age".

As for military spending, yes, I realize the "emergency supplementals" don't really count in the figures that get published. Government is weird in how it does its accounting - not like private or publicly traded businesses. That still doesn't really go to the heart of the funding issue - the military needs more money that is budgeted for it, especially considering the vastly increased operational tempo we've seen since 9/11. Congress is responsible for that. The same Congress who has toyed with the idea of defunding troops in the field, or employing a reduced funding "slow bleed" strategy. Having a draft implemented isn't going to fix that problem.