The ongoing debate about national service is hardly winding down; the Czar is not certain he has seen this much debate between our readers since a row between Operative Thump (deceased), Minion Hoogle (deceased), and Operative Cheever (deceased) in 1838 over the tactics of the Voortrekkers at the Blaukraans before the Weenen Massacre. Many of you remember that one.
The debate in question began here, moved to here, and then jumped to here.
Island Dweller responds to questions and points raised in his direction as follows:
I most certainly agree with your statement re: special treatment for those non-citizens who put their survival on the line for this nation that technically isn’t even their home. You see, my own father was a citizen of Canada when he entered the Army and wasn’t granted his citizenship until August 1942. The citizenship classes conducted by the Army played a big part in making him an American citizen. He was proud of that. He should have been.
I thank ScottO for his mention of my service, and of OP BJ’s service as well.
ScottO is absolutely right re: disruption or changing of career choices. Mandatory service would be something that would be counted on to happen, like the sun rising in the east every morning. Every young person could plan on this happening at age 18, so the majority who would not opt to make the military a lifetime career could get it out of the way quickly—with an honorable discharge and accrued benefits. Want to be an officer? Simple—get your enlisted service out of the way first, then go to school and prove your seriousness and commitment, and we’ll talk. This includes the service academies.
It would help in other ways also. College professors who had veterans in their classes after WWII noted something about those vets: they tended to be very serious about their studies, asked sometimes difficult questions, studied hard and made good grades. The professors were now interacting more, and on a more serious level, with their students, who demanded answers and the reasons behind those answers. There was no frivolity about these men, which the professors noted was in marked contrast to the prewar student hijinks. The military mindset of setting an objective, marshalling your resources, and conducting a coordinated and sustained assault to achieve the objective had been well-learned and stood these men well in school and in their lives following the war. The post-war boom had a lot of that “GI mentality” behind it. Hollywood recognized this in The Best Years of our Lives
—one of my all-time favorite films. The platoon sergeant talks to his wife about getting back to his job at the bank— “Last year, it was ’Kill —’; this year, it’s ‘Make Money’.” While this scene was meant to have an ironic twist to it, I don’t think these qualities are such a bad thing, and a more serious attitude on the part of young people isn’t such a bad thing either.
ScottO is also correct regarding the mentality of 18-year-olds, who are definitely not adults. As I have said before, yeah, I know they can fight at 17 or 18—but don’t forget in that environment they’re very closely controlled by men older than them. The military recognizes the inexperience and immaturity of these people by setting up this command system. You’re still being told what to do. On the other hand, we’ve given them the vote, putting the country’s fate in their hands. Go figure.
There is an interesting demographic issue here related to age. In WWII the average age in a U.S. Army infantry company was 26. These men had roughly 8 years on average from the transition from puberty to adulthood to absorb some of life’s experiences and were beginning to develop habits that would “stick” in old age. Also many had taken the greatest responsibility a man can assume—marriage. These men had begun to seriously avail themselves of the opportunities this country had to offer, yet put them aside temporarily to handle a very disagreeable and dangerous job. This did make being an NCO or officer a little harder back then, as relates to people skills. It was more difficult to get these older, and in some cases married, men to develop that sacrificial intensity that is required for successful combat. Most young people at 18, the average age in the Army in Vietnam, are quite malleable mentally and have not yet developed those habits that “stick,” and can more easily be trained and influenced to place themselves voluntarily in harm’s way. It is also easier to get them to develop the level of violence necessary for war. Patton understood this problem with the age of his men, which partially explains his regulations governing conduct of troops assigned to 3rd Army, and his expectations of them, as well as his ferocious statements to his troops. Dad knew this, as he was in 3rd Army, was exactly at that age (26), and experienced the treatment and mindset firsthand. The Army’s Vietnam-era training methods involving weapon utilization were an offshoot of this.
The flip side of this is the older married men, there against their will, maybe had more to fight for than the others since the consequences of failure on their part involved potential subjugation of their families to a foreign power.
I would accept National Service as an alternative to Mandatory Military Service, with the following caveats:
- You’re told when to get up, how to walk, how to cut your hair, what to wear, and what and when to eat, where you can and can not go, and how you treat people
- You do all the above under the penalty of a justice system that can fine you or land you in confinement, possibly for yearsnot just expel you from the program
- You have the potential to be sent somewhere that is extremely dangerous, against your will, from which place you may not return
- You can not opt out and just walk out the gate because the lifestyle doesn’t agree with you
There are more I could think of but this will do to illustrate my point. As Dad said, the essence of being a soldier—like being an adult—is doing what you frequently don’t want to do. This is otherwise known as “Duty.” See the last paragraph.
Picking up trash in Newark, NJ, or teaching inner-city kids to read, or clearing undergrowth in a Montana forest (if the EPA allows it), while they may be altruistically honorable things to do, just don’t have the same weight of sacrifice as military service, the same degree of commitment—or engender the same level of seriousness from the majority of those who perform them.
Military leadership has to be given a great deal more independence from government nannies in overseeing the welfare of their troops. We don’t need busybody presidential spouses determining in a serious way what the troops will eat, and this should have been stood up to by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It’s a symptom of far-reaching micromanagement. Let the senior commanders be commanders, not politicians or budgeteers. If they displayed the same level of commitment, and acceptance of moral danger demanded of their lower-ranked subordinates in re physical danger, you might get started on the way to overcoming that political tinkering Your Majesty has mentioned.
We have a lot of younger people in this country who have never had a thought for anything larger than themselves, and their own furtherance. You always hear, “What about me?” Well, what about you? There are other people involved here, 200-year-old (or more) institutions we’ve got to think about preserving, future generations yet unborn. It really is about more than just you.
Okay, nothing in that sounds the least bit romanticized to you? Speaking candidly, as Czars were once wont to do, you make references to your memories of your father, idealized values in youth, movies, and altruism. These are all good things, but they do not approach the chief objection the Czar raised earlier: how on earth does a program like this not become instantly corrupt? The IRS illegally investigates conservative organizations. The FBI, who once sported the motto Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity, refuses to investigate that high crime. The Justice Department, who overlooks that agency, overlooks the other way while selling weapons to our enemies resulting in hundreds dead. If these three icons of American life can be weaponized into political entities, how on earth does this national service program avoid the same fate on a more dangerous scale?
The Czar will tell you: within 18 months, they are actively campaigning for Democratic candidates until the next Reichskristallnacht. Things have changed an awful lot since Patton. We need to reduce the reach and power of government before it destroys us, and expanding the military with cadres of 18-24 year-olds with no particular job or need beyond what the executive branch would like seems like a long jump in the wrong direction.
And that’s assuming we’ve overcome Operative BJ’s objections, which the Czar does not believe we have. You have answered the question “What good will come of this?” The problem is the bad, which right now seems like most of the plan.
Your four conditions seem interesting, but are fraught with legal perils. Heck, even the draft provided for numerous exemptions and inducted folks out of a stipulated national crisis (emphasis added for irony, because national crises are rich with bad ideas). Your fourth point is little more than forced labor. And you provide no guarantees that it serves the national interest. Beyond hope, that is; and you see where that brought us.
Meantime, let us listen to our Master Sergeant.
Please forgive my tardy foray into this area, but what with the extra chores because of the global warming-induced cold weather (I mean, really! 3° F in Alabama?) and the regular routine of work (the curse of the drinking class) I’ve just now had time to think about it, and decide what, if anything, I could add to the discussion.
First, the draft, as used in WW I and II, was not so much to get people into uniform, but to allow an orderly and manageable means of transitioning huge numbers of men into the service. Absent a workable system for evaluating and processing the surge of warm bodies that swamped the recruiters’ offices, it would have taken much longer to field a viable number of trained people.
As a side note, the influx of U.S. troops to France in WW I was not just a new flood of warm bodies. Black Jack Pershing, when offered command of the Allied Expeditionary Force, refused the job if U.S. troops were placed under command of French or British officers. The success of U.S. forces was the result of better troops, who were better trained, and under leadership that was able to use the technology of the day to best advantage. And while I agree that the service rifles of the U.S. forces were patterned after the Mauser, let’s remember that the Springfield was accepted for military service in 1903, more than a decade prior to the U.S. forces appearance in France, and the P-17 Enfield was probably one of the strongest military bolt actions ever fielded. I can recall seeing some that were rebarrelled and modified to accept the .458 Winchester cartridge, which far exceeds the .30-06 in pressures and boltface thrust. You won’t find that level of strength on a K-98 Mauser.
The draft was used again in WW II for mostly the same reasons, i.e., to make the inprocessing of thousands of recruits an orderly (for given values of the word “orderly”) and manageable undertaking. In the last half of the war, it also provided a means of filling the ranks of the Navy and Marine Corps. I’ve heard stories that the draftee contingent would be lined up after physicals were completed, and they would be counted off in fours; Numbers One and Two went to the Army, Number Three went to the Navy, and Number 4 went to the Marines. (This was the only time in its history that the Marines had draftees.) And since the average age of a U.S. soldier in WW II was 27, this indicates that a lot of the volunteers did not do so to avoid the draft, since they were outside of draft age to start. For example, my uncle’s TC in France was 30 years old when he enlisted in 1942.
The Late Korean Unpleasantness was not a “war,” it was a “police action.” Thus, the need for a draft to fulfill the numbers requirements, especially since the state of equipment and training was so utterly abysmal that the systemic failures could only be ameliorated by flinging vast numbers of bodies into the fray. (My dad told me of troops arriving in Korea whose weapons were still in Cosmoline. They’d never been cleaned or fired, and certainly hadn’t been sighted in. These were personal weapons such as rifles, carbines and pistols, not crew-served weapons.) Granted, it seems to have worked, since Allied forces went from barely holding the Pusan perimeter in June, to landing at Inchon in September, but The Reaper’s share could have been much smaller than it was.
How bad was the state of unreadiness? On June 1, 1950, the 1st MarDiv was at approximately 50% authorized manning. Throughout the armed forces the situation was the same, and there was no money for training, equipment, or pay. (For example, my dad was making $31.00/month as a PFC. His older brother, who had driven a tank from North Africa to Berlin, had made $23.00/month as a PFC ten years before that.)
The situation during the Greater Southeast Asia war games was much the same, except you also had the media and the Rabid Left pushing the idea that military service was for losers, and encouraging anyone who could do so to avoid the draft, even if by legally questionable means. (I had a cousin who was draft age in 1966, when he graduated high school. He promptly enrolled in college, and graduated with a teaching certificate, because teachers were also draft deferred. As soon as the draft went away, he quit teaching and became a welder, since it paid better.) I guess I was stupid. I enlisted in August of 1972, as soon as I turned 17. My 18th birthday was celebrated at Ton Son Nhut Air Base RVN. (Yeah, the “war” was over. Right.)
One of the ways to avoid getting drafted was to enlist in another service, usually Navy or Air Force. I served with some of these “draft dodgers” early in my career, and while some were good troops, most were just marking time until their enlistment was up. These were the ones who convinced me that the draft was a really bad idea. If I’m going out into the Dark-and-Scary, I’d rather go alone than with someone that I can’t count on, because if I can’t count on them, I’m better off alone. Then there’s only me to screw up.)
Sometimes, I agree with Heinlein (and Ghost). Something is worth what you pay for it, and if citizenship costs a person two (or more) years of their life, maybe they will take it more seriously, and exercise their rights more responsibly. But the Oath of Enlistment is to The Constitution of The United States, and I haven’t seen an expiration date on either the oath or the document, so we’re just gonna leave that little adjustment to future generations.
Just my $1.29 (that’s $.02, adjusted for inflation).
To absent companions,
Great stuff, Sergeant, and well said. Indeed, as an aside, your understanding of the Korean War is spot on. And let the Czar add that numerous crew-served weapons were abandoned unfired, simply because the crews serving them had no clue how to operate them, and didn’t have time to learn when an advancing North Korean swarm was within a quarter mile. Anyone interested in military operations and training and administration—whoever on earth that would be—would do well to study the American military between 1945-1950 to see how fast a military can fall into disrepair thanks to politics. Yes, we mean Trumanpossibly the last good military-minded Democrat, to boot.
Thanks for your service, Retired Spook, and thanks for your elegant post.
On a related note, the Czar received another lengthy spam note from some Nigerian prince asking for money. But the Czar played a hunch, and by reading every πth word, we found a steganographic note from Operative SMR.
To the Wise and Prolific Czar,
I have followed with interest the discussion on National Service. I find good points on each side, such that I find I cannot wholeheartedly agree with either.
In your most recent post on National Service, you said, “All Americans over the age of 18 on election day have the right to vote.”
I have heard that idea stated before, and I have also heard it vehemently stated that no such right exists. Amendments 15, 19, and 26 prohibit the denial of the right to vote. For clarification, can you tell me what document defines the actual right to vote? That is, which document either grants that right or states that the right is God-given? I do not ask in order to challenge your assertion, but to request further knowledge.
With all the humility I can muster, I remain
Your faithful minion,
Excellent question, and something that folks do not consider. You are correct: there is no foundational document stipulating that Americans have a right to vote. But, if you think about it, there is no foundational document stipulating you have a right to free speech, either.
What you will find, obviously, is a statement that Congress shall not pass a law restricting your assumed right of free speech. And indeed, you will find various statements that Congress cannot prevent your assumed right to vote based on race, color, or previous prohibition (Amendment 15), gender (Amendment 19), apparent mental impairment (Amendment 23, that is, which admits DC residents can vote), or ability to pay tax (Amendment 23). And the 26th Amendment sets a lower age limit. That’s it.
And reversing it yet again, you will recognize that the Second Amendment is the only amendment that that emphasizes a right not otherwise assumed to be yours.
This question is of even greater interest than it seems, because the existence of unstipulated rights has been abused mightily: do you have a right to a high-paying job? Free healthcare? Collective bargaining? Education? Comfortable housing? These are not prohibited by the Constitution, and therefore many liberals have argued that these are additional unstipulated rights. We talked about this before.
Anyway, hope this is the answer to your question: no law specifically guarantees you the right to vote because the Constitution assumes you have it as an American citizen. All we do is sometimes clarify that right as various parties attempt to circumvent it.