For those not keeping pace, we have been having a fun, informative, and delightfully expanding discussion going on here over the idea of mandatory national service. If you are just joining us, please start here and then read this followup. If you have been following along so far, the length of the responses has increased to where we need to compress the appearance. Scroll to read the full bits.
First up, Island Dweller wishes to expand on some of our earlier ideas:
Your observations are greatly appreciated.
The US Army in WWI was a one-of-a-kind animal, and does not directly compare with its WWII counterpart. I would argue the appearance of the American troops, in great numbers and with fresh spirit and aggressiveness, were what tipped the scales against the Kaiser’s army. We had to borrow many of our weapons from our allies, mostly the French, and our standard infantry rifles – the 1903 Springfield and 1917 Enfield – were knock-offs of the Germans’ Mauser. Our tactics weren’t all that different from our allies’, either. It was, again, the numbers and the aggressiveness – the ability to absorb casualties and keep going – that set this army apart from its French and British neighbors.
While it truly was in retreat at the end of WWI, and exhausted, remember the German Army left the field of battle undefeated – a point impressed on them when they returned to Germany (in some cases through hastily-erected “triumphal arches”), which they remembered, and which partially fueled its resurgence within a generation. This also explains why Gen Pershing pushed his attacks right up to 11AM on November 11th, 1918. He wanted the Germany Army chased right back into Berlin; he was convinced to do otherwise would necessitate doing it all over again in 20 years or so. Turns out he was right, wasn’t he?
Your refrigerated minion recalls a visit to an old folks’ home many years ago when he had a chat with an elderly gentleman, one of “Pershing’s men,” as he called himself, who said “AEF” stood for “American Expeditionary Force” – and for “After England Failed.” Confidence and pride, even after all those years.
Truman’s observations are interesting. He was a National Guardsman at the time, like his men, and his observations were true of most Guard units from that time until their training was really standardized with the active Army. Dad was training cadre for Guard units at Ft Jackson, SC after he returned from the Aleutians and the fight on Attu. He had little use for National Guard units then, and for the balance of his life. He was a pre-war regular, always considered himself that, and their standards weren’t then up to his. The Guard is an entirely different organization now, an excellent organization and in some respects better than the regular Army for reasons Esteemed Associate and I have discussed off-line but which I won’t go into.
The military doesn’t want any conflicts prolonged. My point is their political masters frequently take the viewpoint of “Well, they volunteered for it knowing it might take them into these situations. They’re paid to take risks and maybe die. We don’t want that to happen, but if it does it’s an occupational hazard. They’re also well-paid to take those risks (ed: Dad’s pay in January 1941 was .70/day!) If they don’t want that to happen they shouldn’t join.” I’ve also heard this expressed by some callous people on the street as well. The military doesn’t want their people to die – but their political masters, having a volunteer army at their beck and call, have a different attitude toward its use than if it were composed of people pulled away from their civilian lives and anxious to return thereto. It’s the politicians who have to change, not the troops. Let’s count in the people who elect those politicians, too. Less foreign adventurism, and if you’re going to get involved, Win It – and it can be done.
Those conflicts? Gulf War – we won round 1, round 2 looked good after the surge but now it’s going in the toilet. Panama? Agreed, resounding victory. Somalia? No win there, it’s a haven for pirates and AQ. Eastern Europe? Age-old bad feeling remains and people still die there, we just don’t hear about it because the media doesn’t find it attractive any more. AF/IQ? Well, if you’re talking about what happened during our presence, then yes, we did well – we kept things down to a simmer. With us pulling out, again everything’s beginning that circular journey down the drain. I am considering legacy results, not just the immediate aftermath. We did very well indeed in Germany, Italy and Japan, lasting free governments left in our wake in all three places. Can’t say that about AF/IQ.
Like Op BJ, I was in school and had a low SS number in 1972 (in the low 30s, as I recall) so I did the same thing he did, only in a different service. You want to hear a definition of the proverbial “bite?” Try sitting in basic training in February, 1972 and seeing Nixon sign legislation ending the draft. If I’d only waited . . . Anyway, I also left school to enlist, and even qualified for a commissioning program – that died with the draft. All my service was stateside as an EM around wonderful, beautiful airplanes that cost me a lot of my hearing.
I can certainly empathize with Op BJ’s sentiments. I in fact had one of my two sons in the military for 14 years before the PC became more than he could stand and he did not reenlist. This after 7 combat tours to AF/IQ plus another one to an area country not considered hostile territory. I sweated him through every one of them. In my own case, yes, my life was interrupted. Like Dick Cheney, I too had “other priorities” – only, unlike him, I was unable to obtain a deferment. It took me 14 years to get my degree – but I got it.
My father told me what it was like to leave my grandfather at the station, where grandpa told him, “I may never see you again.” Dad’s step-brother also served in the USN in a combat specialty. I’m sure that war shortened grandpa’s and grandma’s life spans. They were offering their sons’ lives for their country’s. Isn’t there something written about the tree of liberty needing to be periodically watered with the blood of patriots, and tyrants?
We don’t live in a world where we can all get along, and the West is now facing a challenge from a menace it last dealt with about 1,000 years ago, give or take a few. A military challenge, at least currently? No. Will it eventually require a substantial military response? Yes. Let’s not forget our erstwhile trading partner on the other side of the Pacific who is becoming increasingly bellicose and adventurous. If you value where you live you’ve got to fight for it, there is no choice. We elected those political figures who formulated and instituted Selective Service, and agreed it was for the common good because we don’t have any other choice.
It is a little unsettling to have some massive organization suddenly take charge of your life, and direct your every action. But then, over the period of my own enlistment and then a later over two-decade long association with another branch, I’ve seen most of the young people involved shape up for the better with what they learned, and the discipline imposed. Just look at the rest of the drug-addled youth they protected with their time and in some cases their lives – who have reaped all the benefits of living here without breaking a sweat to protect those same benefits.
Protecting freedoms and liberties is everyone’s job. We’re all stuck with it by virtue of being born here. There is a moral imperative. People tend not to value what they don’t fight for. Vets are very much a minority now. Maybe that lack of “sweat equity” in America’s defense could at least partially explain how we voted in the crop of jerks currently in office.
Next up, ScottO gets in between Island Dweller and Operative BJ for a little MMA.
O Great and Terrible Majesty,
At Your Majesty’s encouragement, may I offer a response to Operative BJ’s response to the mysterious and perspicacious Island Dweller (ID):
First I’d also like to thank both BJ and ID for their service.
I would first like to point out that, if I understand ID correctly, there would be little to no disruption or changing of career choices, because everyone would be required, and thus would expect, to serve. It would be part of the career planning.
Also, I’m not sure of the proportion, but I believe that a significant proportion of college students right out of high school, in the 18-23 year-old age range, change majors and career choices at least once, anyway. I know I did. College and university is a place and time to learn about career choices, and really decide what appeals. Surely there are some who recognize their calling very early (like Jeanne d’Arc), but I suspect they are a minority.
That being said, I do agree with the idea that each adult should be free to make his and her own choices about service and career (which I hold as two separate things, especially as regards public office). I also agree that someone who voluntarily serves, with a sense of duty, will in general perform better than someone involuntarily conscripted and wishing they were somewhere else.
The only rub there is, I’m not sure that most 18-year-olds are really adults. And if we use the PPACA as a guide, we aren’t adults until the age of 26. Or is it 27?
Oh, dear. I fear that may incur His Awful Majesty’s wrath. I’d better stop while I’m still not in место свинья спит, когда он болен.
Your groveling minion,
This is a heady point. The Czar will let ID answer this for himself, but suspects that if the military is good with 18-24 year olds, every other National Service opportunity should as well. This is part of the Czars overall objection: it is way too easy to corrupt such operations with political tinkering. The military gets it bad enough, and they have thousand-year-old structures in place to minimize it already. What good would a government service branch do?
Ghost, on the other hand, comes up with a terrible idea:
Most Awful One,
Sadly, I think the best suggestion for military might came from fiction. Starship Troopers, to be precise. You volunteer for two years to get the right to become a full citizen and vote. I have two older non-corporeal siblings who both volunteered for the GI bill perks, and one of them is back in Iraq right now, despite having been switched to the reserves some 6 years ago. The other calls me every year to make sure I vote.
No, thats foolish. All Americans over the age of 18 on election day have the right to vote. All other Americans here legally, et cetera, are citizens. Having it any other way is totalitarian: whatever group is in charge has the ability to control your citizenship. You want to think that one over.
However, you do bring up one thing that irritates the hell out of the Czar: he has known many people who came to this country as visitors, volunteered for our military, and put their life on the line to exit as…you guessed it…visitors. The Czar believes that any non-citizen who joins our military should be moved to the front of the line. You still take the test and swear an oath, but you move up a lot faster to that test.
Dont you agree?
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.