Whats awesome for all of us is when a good debate begins between two of our loyal readers. You will recall a letter from Island Dweller, in which he supported US Navy ADM Mike Mullen for suggesting a mandatory national service period for young men and women, aged 18-24. The Czar opposed it on the grounds that mandatory national service is contrary to American volunteer liberty (on the theoretical) and that 90% of these kids would wind up working for the Democrats (on the practical).
Island Dweller offers these clarifications:
I understand what you are saying about the benefits of a volunteer military over a draftee military. There are some. I am against the draft also, believing in universal military service – not a draft.
The most successful military experiences this nation has had have occurred in two world wars when in each case we fielded a largely draftee army. The best source of the professionalism of the largely draftee WWII U.S. Army was my father, who witnessed its effectiveness first-hand and partook in a fair amount of it.
To be sure, Dad was a little different than many of the men who were taken into the American army during WWII. As I have mentioned before to your august majesty, he told me any thinking person could see what was coming as early as late 1940, which was why he volunteered his draft in January 1941. He knew it was coming and wanted to ensure he served in the Army’s branch of his choice (Coast/Field Artillery). His motivation and outlook were both a little different from those men who followed him around a year later. The training was the same. The reason this worked so well in WWII was that wartime Army was composed of men who did not want to be in uniform, but who had all heard of Pearl Harbor or what was happening in the world prior to that, recognized the threat and grim necessity of dealing with what had been forced on them, and resolved to do the best job they could, if they were forced by circumstance to do it. They realized they had to be in the Army; they also recognized they were not going to see home again until the threats to their country had not just been defeated, but eliminated, if their political masters allowed that – which they did. The road back to New York, Detroit, Chicago, Des Moines, or Bakersfield ran through downtown Berlin, Rome and Tokyo. This was a powerful motivator to not just learn your job, but to become supremely competent in it, much better than your enemies. They therefore became very good soldiers indeed and were a terrifyingly efficient destructive force, which an army should be.
I suppose another way to put this is they didn’t want to be there; they realized they had to do what was set before them; they were pissed off, heavily armed, well-trained, motivated, and supported at home; a definite end was set; and they got the job done in the quickest and most direct manner possible so they could go home. This made them dangerous men in war, as they should have been. It also got things over with.
This setup worked well because the country was united behind them; the political leadership gave the military leadership a more or less free hand re: the military methods employed to achieve the desired political ends; the country then was very different in its morality, respect for lawful authority, demographics, and the concept of shared sacrifice, from blocking up your car for the duration, to meatless Tuesdays, to those little telegrams (more than 405,000 of them) that came bearing bad tidings.
The men stood it well because everyone was involved, they actually sought to serve. No one is going to do that now, nor behave as soldiers in the manner I have described, if political leadership is lacking, goals and strategies are not clearly set and charted, your own government seeks to hang you out to dry if you actually try to destroy your enemies rather than reason with them, and a volunteer military ensures only a tiny fraction of the populace bears all the sacrifice. Since only a tiny number of service members are involved, and the disruption to the civil populace is nonexistent, a volunteer military almost encourages these conflicts to drag on and on. In fact, the government more or less acknowledges a volunteer military is not truly efficient since Selective Service legislation is still on the books, and 18-years-olds are still required to register for that system.
Sharing the dangers out among all the youth of the nation is guaranteed to make everyone pay more attention to what our political elites are doing overseas.
Sorry about running so long.
A couple of points. The Czar would dispute the notion that the success of the American military in 1917 and 1941-1945 was the result of its draftee nature. The success of the American military in 1917 was more the result of fresh American troops, suddenly improved training, and new weapons deployed against a largely stagnated and exhausted German military. The only reason the English and French didnt knock Germany out was that they, too, were equally exhausted.
Harry Truman was incensed at the slack discipline, disrespect, and functional ignorance of his battery company and frequently muttered that he could do the job with a fraction of men who were merely willing to try. This is a cherry-picked example, but a good one that World War I troops were not all that great.
And World War II was a vastly different game: volunteerism was high because the notion we faced an existential threat was obvious. This was a war a Democrat backed, of course, so the media willingly played how horrible the future would be. But although thousands were drafted, manysuch as your dad and many acquaintances of the Czarvolunteered for better positions. Your fourth paragraph endorses our notion that a volunteer military does better.
You would also need to provide evidence that a volunteer force prolongs conflicts. The Czar is quite sure you would be challenged to find a soldier, Marine, airman, or sailor who wants his brothers or sisters to remain in harms way because they volunteered and therefore dont wish to get things over with as soon as possible.
By our count, the military has dramatically shortened conflicts. The Gulf War? Over in hours. Panama? Weeks. Somalia? Months. East Europe? Weeks and months, depending on the conflict. Your examples probably include Afghanistan and Iraq, but military objectives were achieved in the former between October and early December, 2001, and in the latter, a new government was in place in less than 24 months.
It is a matter of some debateyou know we disapprove of what if questions, generallyamong military historians but if the modern military faced a situation like World War II, would we have survived? The analogs to the War on Terror are often good ones, and the answer seems to be yesthe military is still meeting quotas without a draft. We would have done it.
Curiously to us, you claim that this National Service would not be a draft, but largely list the reasons you think a draft worked.
Indeed, Operative BJ brings his own concerns into the debate:
O Fear-inspiring one,
This lowly minion wishes to approach and respond to Operative Island Dweller’s comments about Admiral Mullens comments regarding legally enforced conscription into military service, aka “Selective Service.” Or, as it is more popularly known, “the draft.”
I had a very low SSA number in 1972 while I was a freshman studying at Fairly-Ridiculous University. On one particular day, I received a letter signed by someone named Richard M. Nixon. The letter expressed an invitation to me to spend several years in the direct care of the United States Army. To be sure, I was less than willing to leave school voluntarily, but was told that I could either go camping with Uncle Sam (and risk a case of fatal lead poisoning) or go to jail (directly to jail, and not collect $200).
Rather than go camping, I went to a recruiting station and expressed my fear of being killed in a land far, far away by people I didn’t know. The Navy Petty Officer behind the desk gave me his best (and very practiced) benevolent look and told me, “Ah, young one, take but a single series of written tests, and thou may qualify for more than just certain death.” I took the tests and was told that I qualified for almost any “career” choice – except the one choice I had already made: law school. Since I was also interested in electronics, I chose “Electronic Technician.”
Great one, I will not regale you with stories of my 10 years of service in the US Navy. Nor will I relate tales of port visits around the world (literally around the world), the strange and wonderful foods I have eaten, the strange and wonderful experiences I have had, the strange and wonderful places I have seen, and the strange and wonderful women… well, that’s for another time as well. You’re paying for the Flaming Czars and the necessary post-party hospitalization.
I would like to remind Island Dweller that I was yanked out of college back then in order to satisfy exactly what Admiral Mullen wishes to accomplish today: .”.. some sort of universal national service program…” A compulsory national service program. A program that, in my case, forever changed – and destroyed – my career choice. I was never able to return to law school and, instead, studied at night school and received my BSCS at a local college after receiving my Honorable Discharge from the US Navy.
I would ask Island Dweller whether he has children, and how he would feel about The Government taking his children from him, taking them from their schooling, taking them from their career choice; in short, taking them. I would ask the same of anyone who supports conscription: whether they would agree to have their children or the children of other members of their family, taken from them, involuntarily, by force and given a choice between “national service” and imprisonment. For, even if you agree with the need for “national service,” any requirement for that “national service” resulting in conscription violates the very concept of the “pursuit of Happiness.”
Mighty Czar,please don’t misunderstand me: I am very proud of my Navy service, and of some actions I was involved in (I was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal). And I am very proud of the things I did while in the Navy. And of having met my wife of 34 years (whom I am still deeply in love with) overseas. And my visits to the aforementioned strange and wonderful places, which has given me a perspective about the United States that just cannot be learned from a book or be taught in a class.
But I wish those choices had been my choices, and not the choice of The Government.
Today, there are those who wish to devote their lives to protecting the freedom and liberty that we Americans enjoy. I celebrate their choice and support them as much as I can. They have made the choice to lift the flag, hold it high, and “take point” in the defense of the United States of America.
They made the choice. Not The Government. And I support them absolutely and without reservation.
O great Czar, should you decide to conscript this worthless one for service on a ship in your Black or Baltic Sea Fleets, I am ready to be used as a rudder on your command.
The Czar thanks both Island Dweller and BJ for their respective sacrifices and years assisting our great country, and thanks them both for a lively discussion. The Czar expects to hear back from both of you on this, but other readers should please add their voices.
This is a great discussion, and it is only getting better.