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June 27, 2014

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The state department had a plan for the occupation of Iraq but the Bush administration threw it out.

When it comes to Phase IV, the major burden must be on the civilians, not the military. The military can act to prevent the captured nation from rising up again. But the civilians have the burden of establishing a new government which can function and provide basic services to the population.

And there is where Iraq fell apart. First, the "de-Baathification" plan ignored the fact that many Iraqi officials were only nominal members of the Baath party, and were only because it was a requirement for their position. By banning all Baath party members from the government, Bremer et al essentially guaranteed that there would be nobody available to run local government services who had any clue about how they worked. Sure, treating local government employees on a case-by-case basis would have been a lot of work. But 10 years of fighting insurgents turned out to be worse.

And then there was the (American civilian) decision to dissolve the Iraqi military. Anyone with sense would have told the Army, "return to your barracks, and pay and benefits will continue as before." In a country with massive unemployment, that would have been enormously attractive. Instead, we created a massive group of young men with guns and no job prospects. Again, it would have been expensive to maintain the Iraqi Army on their bases. But far cheaper than fighting them turned out to be.

Note that, in both cases, the decisions were taken, not by the US military, but by US civilian authorities. And both were major contributors to the failure of the occupation, and of the effort to build a new Iraqi government which was functional.

I no longer have any references, but I recall the Marine Corps had some pretty thorough plans for occupation & recovery. Not surprising since historically the Marines have been given that job. But those plans were torn up - with contempt - by Rumsfeld.

Frank, wj:

No, I really don't think we can say the failures were all on the civilian side. I just found my notes for the second half of Kaplan, and pp231-232, about 2006:

At their first session with the [Joint Chiefs of Staff], McMaster, Mansoor, and a Marine colonel name Tom Greenwood--who all agree with one another on most matters--tested the limits of the top generals' tolerance for frankness. The first slide of their briefing read: "We are losing because we are not winning. And we are running out of time."

This equation was straight out of Galula (the insurgent has only to sow disorder anywhere, while the counterinsurgent must maintain order everywhere), but it came as a shock to the chiefs. They seemed not to have considered this concept: that stalemate for the United States meant victory for the insurgents.

The JSC hadn't been thinking about how to actually *win* the war in a grand-strategic sense -- even though that's their job.

You may think that Part IV was supposed to be a purely civilian concern, but that's not how Wilson was thinking about it. He was expecting, by the book, that it should have been part of *military* planning.

As for the idea that the military (including the JSC) were obliged to just go along with whatever the civilians told them, this is what Kaplan says about 2009 (p.312ff]:

[Obama had called Afghanistan] the war of necessity on the campaign trail, as distinct from Bush's war of choice in Iraq. He'd authorized his Secretary of Defense to fire the commander he inherited, General McKiernan, on the grounds that he lacked a winning strategy. This new recommendation of forty thousand more troops and a COIN strategy came from the commander that Obama had hired as McKiernan's replacement. There was pressure to take his commander's advice. But he didn't want to get boxed in. He had lots of questions, and he wanted more options.

...

And the [Joint Chiefs] never did satisfy Obama's request for more options; they never answered his question of what could be done, say, with thirty thousand more troops or with twenty thousand. (The vice chairman of the JCS, Marine General James "Hoss" Cartwright, drew up such an option, figuring that his job was to comply with the president's lawful orders. He got an earful from the chiefs; Mullen never sent his paper up the chain to the White House. Cartwright pulled an end run and took his paper to Biden's office; the vice president at least put it on the agenda, but the chiefs discussed it only to dismiss it.)

The JSC were quite capable of stonewalling, footdragging, and getting around Obama when they felt like it. They went along with Bush & Rumsfeld because it worked for them, because they were already comfortable planning a war without thinking about how to end it.

Dr S, I wasn't saying that the military 's plans shouldn't have dealt with the Phase IV situation. I was saying that those plans were overruled by the civilian authorities.

They went along with Bush & Rumsfeld because it worked for them, because they were already comfortable planning a war without thinking about how to end it.

well, also: 9/11

it completely warped everything for many years.

I wasn't trying to give the military a pass. Just pointing out that the Bush administration wasn't willing to countenance any real planning. It would have interfered with stealing everything.

Do not forget that the "cadre" chosen to rebuild Iraq was purposely stuffed with young free-market ideologues with no expertise in Middle Eastern affairs or languages.
Or that L. Paul Bremer consistently chose American companies to do the reconstruction work.

These decisions resemble the decision to put Karl Rove in charge of the recovery of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. Remember that? Utterly feckless, but revealing: it showed us that the Bushies ignore all other kinds of real-world outcomes in favor of political goals.

cleek:

I don't accept the 9/11 excuse, especially not from the military:

I guess I am still angry with the people in the US military. I really did expect them to be braver than me, less motivated by fear -- but instead they seem to have been just as dedicated to testosterone-fuelled displays of stupidity as a bunch of pasty pundits, and with even less excuse.

And yeah, I know, civilian control of the military and all that. But I also don't believe for a minute that there wouldn't have been a way for the flag officers to Signal Their Disapproval, or to warn sternly and effectively about how bad an idea this was -- there are a lot of ways to say "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." There were *plenty* of retired (or maybe "retired") officers eager to go on TV and be experts, and I think if the officer corps had actually been opposed to the Iraq War they would have been there, shaking their heads regretfully.

joel:

But the Bush administration could do that easily because the military had left a vacuum where Phase IV was supposed to go.

aha, here it is. A lot of what I'm saying comes indirectly from Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, A Failure in Generalship.

If I recall correctly, the civilian leadership - Rumsfeld, Bush, et al - were given realistic estimates of what it would take to secure Iraq, post-combat.

Shinseki, specifically, and others, made what turned out to be accurate and responsible estimates of what would be needed.

They didn't like what they heard, so they got rid of the folks who wouldn't tell them pretty things, and found others who would.

I don't see Iraq as an example of a larger trend in post-Vietnam military planning and foreign policy. IMO it's an example of military and foreign policy as cooked up by the dumbest f***ing guys on the planet.

Rumsfeld shouldn't have been able to get away with war plans that didn't include Phase IV,

No no no, this is actually part of Donald E. Rumsfeld's super genius. Rumsfeld knew that post-war Iraq was an unknowable known unknown and plans were useless. The "Seat of My Pants" (SOMP™) approach saved U.S. taxpayers millions of planning dollars with little or no cost to Iraqis (IOW, win-win).

This gave the military and civilian leaders the flexibility needed to adapt to conditions on the ground, whether it was "who the fnck knows?" or "hire the moronic Brownshirt fncks at Heritage!" or "nuke the site from orbit." In a true tribute to the Bush Administration, they chose the first two.

For this, Rumsfeld's tombstone will read: None More Prescient (best said in Gollum's voice).

As a noted Confusion Sage once opined, gravely, but with a smirk barely visible through the gore dripping from his lips as he looked up from the human remains he was eating:

"You look back in anger with the should haves and the could haves and the shouldn't haves that you have, not the ones you don't have."

I doubt very much that keeping the Sunni Army in barracks with their arms with full pay and benefits (maybe we should try it here to cut unemployment and hold off sectarian violence; but no, that wouldn't be fiscally sound and would lead to malingering dependency) and a flat tax would have pacified the Sunni elements for long, given the Malicki/Shiite resort to vengeance and crony crapitalism since the invasion.

We aren't wanted in Iraq, no matter the policy or the vigorous buffing with smirking, and yet so preciously earnest good intentions with which we raised a high sheen over our base motives in invading the country, not to mention the previous 50 years of goofball American bullsh*t in the region.

There is only one shouldn't have:

We shouldn't have.

Jon Stewart (satire: the last remaining American bulwark against "the Horror") last night, in a segment on Iraq, had a rapid fire litany of clips of Republicans DEMANDING we send American troops and bombs EVERYWHERE -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, many places in Africa, Ukraine, blah, blah -- followed by the many ways they will simultaneously prevent the American people from paying for it via taxes.

It struck me that these same conservatives (yes, yes, Democrats as well for those who are comforted that stupidity is a unanimous American character trait) who succored the architects of this travesty seem to be afraid of keeping American troops in this country in their barracks at full pay and benefits too, perhaps fearing the consequences here should they be released into this powder keg of an armed, underemployed population the Republican Party has so ardently and insistently lit the fuse under.

I don't accept the 9/11 excuse, especially not from the military

you seem to be assuming that the people at the top of the military were somehow immune to, or above experiencing, the panicked, nationalistic, Suck On This mentality that gripped many leaders in other domains - political, press, judicial, etc..

cleek:

Well *yeah*, I assume that people whose job it is to face and dish out physical violence and destruction will be less likely to freak out at physical violence and destruction. Just as I expect firemen to be cooler and more collected than I when the house catches fire, or a nurse to be better at dealing with blood and vomiting.

When it comes to Phase IV, the major burden must be on the civilians, not the military. The military can act to prevent the captured nation from rising up again. But the civilians have the burden of establishing a new government which can function and provide basic services to the population.

This is not really so straight-cut. It doesn't really matter whether your administrators where khakis or suits. The most important thing is that they are competent. They can be military officers, but they need to be mostly reservists, with an appropriate civilian background. On the other hand, civilians are no better than career infantry officers if they lack the skills and educational background.

The rebuilding of German institutions after the Second World War was undertaken by a nominally military occupation authorities. They were lead by generals, but run by pretty competent civilians and semi-civilian reserve officers.

The war in Vietnam was run to large extent by the CIA and the State Department, whose employees were pretty incompetent and often incorporated the worst aspects of military mindset in their thinking.

The problem with that, in my anecdotal experience, is that our volunteer military self-selects the bulk of its personnel from those who are most sympathetic to the mindsets in question. They didn't stand up and resist what they were hearing because it's what they were predisposed to hear, and frankly wanted to hear. And again anecdotally, the culture within the military also takes those pre-existing proclivities and nurtures and amplifies them.

I'd not say they were motivated by fear, though. Rather, they could see the sense of helplessness of those stricken by fear and rise above because they, at least, could do something. We were "at war", so of course the military would feel useful and validated w/o asking too many questions when they were told that finally, after a decade of limited or no operations, it was time for them to get back to doing what they signed up for. This is not the sort of situation where you should expect bureaucrats to speak truth to power; it's where you should expect them to shape their views to avoid rocking the gravy train. It's not what you should want, but it's what you should expect.

We're moving back away from COIN towards Force-on-Force for training exercises, BTW, so if your supposition that the style of training rather than the civilian leadership was decisive in causing the lack of post-war planning, we should be set up to fail once more in another 10 years barring intermediate conflicts.

(That last is @Dr. S's last.)

Lurker:

Could you please expand on this?:

often incorporated the worst aspects of military mindset in their thinking.

I also wonder if the whole "postwar planning" aspect of military thought in general got co-opted by the CIA in the 70s-90s.

(I mean all of my 2:33 was @Dr. S's 1:55.)

I assume that people whose job it is to face and dish out physical violence and destruction will be less likely to freak out at physical violence and destruction

that's an assumption i wouldn't make. a cheap shot like 9/11 probably pissed off a lot of military people just on principle.

but, even assuming level-headed generals, i think you have to assume that a good number of them were persuaded by the same neo-con arguments that persuaded so many other otherwise-smart people: that the US military could be an effective tool for 'draining the swamp' of militant Islam and the dictators that supported it.

we're looking at this in hindsight. in 2003, there wasn't a decade of solid evidence to show that you couldn't lop the tyrannical head off of a big ME country and bolt a democracy onto the bleeding stump.

Doctor Science,

I refer to projects like the Phoenix program, which was essentially a military operation. While it was probably a tactical abd operational success, it was very likely a strategic defeat. It undermined heavily the US credibility as the force for free world.

The same goes for CIA attempts to get highland tribes to fight the communists. These contributed to destabilizing the region, further fueling the popular support for North Vietnam, while they might have made a lot of sense operationally.

Both cases demonstrate the need to solve social problems through superior firepower instead of trying to fix the problems that gave rise to the mindsets supporting the VC. Instead of firepower, the efforts should have been directed towards building supportable alternatives. E.g. a "euro-communist" socialism, i.e. communism disavowing the Soviet Union and China but promising social reform, would have been a strong tool against North Vietnam.

Zeitgeist, coincidence, or the military-industrial complex?

I'll go for the last one. The growth of the MIC (mil. indust. complex)to the enormity it is today may have transformed it from an institution with a focused military mission to an institution primarily concerned with a winning politics. And you don't generally (sic) have a winning politics by undertaking thankless tasks.

we're looking at this in hindsight.

That's true, however there were folks at the time who looked at the plans for invading Iraq and called bullshit.

What is true, and uniquely true, about Iraq is that the folks doing the planning had had Iraq in their sights for years.

They were going to re-make the Middle East, starting with Iraq. 9/11 was an occasion of convenience for that purpose, but the intent to do so pre-existed 9/11 by many years.

There were not going to let anyone, regardless of what that person's level of knowledge, experience, or expertise was, tell them that it wasn't a good idea.

They were not to be bound by reality. They were going to make reality, and everybody else would just have to catch up.

My personal take on that period was that the folks making the decisions were insane. Big brains, but in the immortal words of Tommy Franks, the stupidest f***ing people on the planet. Just utterly detached from reality, and sufficiently arrogant and full of their own bullshit that they could not be brought back down to earth.

Plus, there was real money in it for some of them.

So, maybe not so different from Vietnam in that regard. But that's a deeper issue than just military war-planning and doctrine.

We're moving back away from COIN towards Force-on-Force for training exercises, BTW

Domestically, this is actually a good thing. Military force-on-force combat is something that a military person can easily compartmentalize. The actions you train for are for war and combat on the battlefield. Everyone knows they are not for use elsewhere.

On the other hand, urban COIN tactics are brutal, aggressive but in many cases, nonlethal. They are applied towards insurgents that cannot be distinguished from civilians by appearance.

Because the police forces recruit a lot of ex-military persons, it is actually a good thing if the military persons in question have been trained to fight a mechanized enemy. That way, their military skill set is so clearly unusable for police work that they must learn some new behavioral models. On the other hand, you can work the beat in an urban ghetto very much like a patrol in Fallujah. It is just bad policing and terrible for the civil rights and safety, but won't get you fired.

That's true, however there were folks at the time who looked at the plans for invading Iraq and called bullshit.

and i was definitely one of them.

my point was that military people aren't immune from the same impulses that sent a lot of people down the wrong path.

and, some of them are just plain nuts: General Boykin, for one extreme example.

Just utterly detached from reality, and sufficiently arrogant and full of their own bullshit that they could not be brought back down to earth.

yup

Lurker, some police forces in the US are equipping themselves with tanks already (cf. the infamous Steven Seagal incident in Arizona).

and i was definitely one of them.

Just wondering, cleek, whether you were in the military at the time?

Also, just wondering, Nombrilism Vide: I know you were in the military. Would you mind telling us what motivated you to join?

I'm not trying to be snarky in any way - just wondering.

I do not have the experience of being in the military, although I know lots of military people from my parents' generation, including my own father. It seems to me that, at least before the '80's, the military was a very eclectic mix of people. I think it's true that the all-volunteer army tended to attract more people who leaned Republican (and, post-Vietnam, that meant they were more enthusiastic about war). However, I feel that it's mistaken to blame the military for anything about Iraq.

As russell pointed out, there was a mission among the PNAC people to "transform" the Middle East, and they immediately used 9/11 to accomplish their longstanding goal of invading Iraq. Some of this was motivated by pro-Israel sentiment. The pure greed aspect was patently obvious from the beginning, especially as Republican donors' children were put in charge of private economic development. As russell (yep, thank you russell) said "They didn't like what they heard, so they got rid of the folks who wouldn't tell them pretty things, and found others who would." This was true in the military and the CIA. Since the U.S. prides itself on civilian control of the military, it's important to put the blame right where it belongs - on the civilian leaders who command the military.

I see mainly three motives for joining the military
1) prestige (and potentially power)
2) sense of duty
3) aquisition of skills for free

The last one is used as a lure by armed forces not just in the US but there is a darker aspect to it. (At least) Since the unpopularity of the Iraq war drained the usual recruitment pool, the US military lets more and more people in that in the past would have been sieved out* at the start because they were ticking time bombs, in particular guys who want military training in order to apply it at home, e.g. violent gang members and fringe guys that are prepapring for the next civil war (or The Great Race War, the post-rapture dystopia etc.). Not to forget the mercenaries in spe.

*Countries that switch from draft armies to volunteers have the same problem btw. E.g. Spain had to significantly lower the minimum IQ for recruits in order to keep the numbers to schedule.

Addendum: the reasons
4) sense of adventure and
5) seeing the world at no cost
play imo a far lower role today than in the past.

There are so many things wrong with this post, it is hard to know where to begin. The military did not decide to invade Iraq. That decision was by congress and the president. The invasion was successful, the regime defeated militarily and set aside, with half the number of troops Shenseki, late of VA fame, said was needed. The belief--wrong, wrong, wrong--was that the country could be remodeled into a unified, civilized nation. That the military couldn't remodel Iraq--as if anyone could--is no slam on those who served. Their role, and the larger goal wasn't 'Mission Accomplished', it was 'Mission Impossible'.

As for those who predicted failure, their predictions were all over the map. US casualties were much lighter than many opponents predicted, just as many of those same opponents were proved wrong in liberating Kuwait. In fact, the opponents of that endeavor were wrong across the board.

One way to lose a war is to quit fighting it. I am unaware of any historical example of an army prevailing by walking away from a war and never returning. The decision to walk away in Iraq was a good one, but if the Obama administration didn't foresee the current situation or something like it as a result, then shame on them. For people like me, who agree we should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we have to accept that the vacuum we leave is going to be filled and probably not by Girl Scouts.

Either those who fill the vacuum will be content to stay within their own borders or they will house, train and export more terrorists. If it's the latter, Obama's downsizing of the military will be seen as a major mistake. I think it is a major mistake, not just because of the ongoing upheaval in the Mid-East, but because China continues, for no valid defensive reason, to both expand significantly its offensive capability and to bait its neighbors.

Doc S' position, across the board, is hindsight and often factually incorrect. Neither Eisenhower nor anyone else had any idea how WWII would end other than, once the Normandy invasion was successful, that the Allies would eventually prevail in some form or fashion. No one knew, for example, how far west the Soviets would advance or how far east the Allies would go. Eisenhower didn't direct the post war reconstruction. It was Generals Marshall and MacArthur who managed the peace and they had sole possession of nukes, overwhelming military superiority AND and two thoroughly defeated populations to work with.

Wilson was gobsmacked to discover that there was no Phase IV plan, because he knew that without Phase IV no war can be said to be "won".

This is a particularly uninformed observation. History is replete with wars being won without a Phase IV in place. If the US had simply defeated Iraq's military, ousted Saddam and come home, that would have been a military victory.

Also, armies are designed to fight wars, not remake conquered territory. Particularly relatively small armies like ours in 2003 and even more particularly ours of today.

Just because some douche writes a book that makes a point that resonates with a particular mindset doesn't make the author, his/her points or the pre-existing mind set correct. It is just one opinion among many. And, in the case, one formed safely after the fact.


McKT, just to start with: Shinseki did not claim the high troop numbers were needed to defeat Saddam. He said they would be necessary for the following occupation.

McTx: The invasion was successful, the regime defeated militarily and set aside, with half the number of troops Shenseki, late of VA fame, said was needed.

McKinney, I'm sure we could each take the time to google up Shinseki's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 25 Feb 2003 and discover whether then-Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was talking about the number required FOR A POST-WAR OCCUPATION, rather than what YOU SEEM to say he was talking about.

Not even the doviest of anti-war doves ever doubted that The World's Most Expensive Military could kick Saddam's ass in short order.

--TP

BTW, McKinney: how are you counting "casualties"?

--TP

History is replete with wars being won without a Phase IV in place.

Depends on the objectives, doesn't it?

I mean, if the aim is to kill a lot of people, steal their stuff, and burn their cities then sure. But if it's to [fill in Bush Administration stated objective of choice] then it does seem to me you need a Phase IV.

The invasion was successful, the regime defeated militarily and set aside, with half the number of troops Shenseki, late of VA fame, said was needed.

As both Hartmut and Tony P have noted, Shinseki's famous estimate was for the number of troops required to establish some kind of order, post-combat.

That the military couldn't remodel Iraq--as if anyone could--is no slam on those who served.

I agree with this, completely.

Hartmut,
There were lots of reason for the switch to an all volunteer military rather than a draft-based one. Some of them good ones. But as so often with well-intentioned changes, there were unintended consequences.

The principle unintended consequence was to contribute to the fragmentation of society. No matter how segregated (self- or otherwise) neighborhoods were. No matter how different people's economic circumstances or career goals. The draft-based military was one place where people got to know those from different circumstances. And know them as peers, not just as hirelings and bosses.

With the all volunteer military, we lost that. It may not have been what purists would call true empathy. But it helped foster some kind of sense that those outside one's immediate circle are real people. Listening to our politicians these days, it's pretty clear that a lot of them don't have that.

Also, just wondering, Nombrilism Vide: I know you were in the military. Would you mind telling us what motivated you to join?

That's a question I have a lot of qualms answering. I come from a strongly anti-military family - my grandfathers served in WWII, of course, but aside from one uncle from the end of the Vietnam era, I'm the only one who's served in the next two generations (the third subsequent generation is not yet in their teens). On top of that, both sides of my family belonged to a peace church who historically produced conscientious objectors. And I'm left-leaning. Hard left. Like, anarcho-syndicalist. I was literally out in the streets protesting before and after the invasion of Iraq. So this wasn't something obvious for me.

At the same time, I have a strong sense of duty. I spent most of my adult life as a professional student (sometimes doing gov't-funded research), but in the breaks and moments when I was considering ending my studies, I found or sought government work oft as not. I felt a certain obligation to the country for what it's given me, and this included a general sense of civic responsibility. Yes, I could make a better living on the private side, but someone needs to do gov't work, and better someone knowledgeable and motivated than someone just there to collect a check. And while I had a pile of issues with the American military, even acknowledging the constraints imposed by the rigid military heirarchy I was a lot more comfortable with the idea of an Army with more people like me in it than one solely composed of other random citizens.

I balanced those two conflicting sets of motivations with a studied combination of rationalization and cognitive dissonance. Serving in the Army let me eliminate the majority of my student loans, as well. This touches on what is in my experience one of the biggest factors in US military recruitment that was absent from Harmut's list, BTW: money. The military offers a very respectable pay-and-benefits package for people with little or no skill, education, and/or work experience, and that's even before you consider the educational incentives. (I'd also add to his list family tradition; a lot of members serve because their family members did or do.) When I went in, I was severely burnt out academically, and had a pile of student loans. The Army made all that disappear (and it was the Army, not the Navy (which my family would have preferred) because Army loan repayment programs were at the time more generally accessible). That was another reason, BTW: cliche as it sounds, I wanted structure and discipline, and despite my anti-military background I soldierized very well indeed.

(I also wanted to travel, and possibly pick up a third language. Alas, aside from the tour in Afghanistan, I didn't travel significantly, and military service if anything diminished my language skills.)

So in sum, for me it was a sense of obligation pushing me to gov't service, and mostly selfish motivations that pushed me to military service rather than civil service where my skills could have been better utilized - and where someone in their early thirties would have been much less likely to break themselves off. (For the record, Soldiering is a young person's profession - starting that late in life is unsurprisingly a bad idea unless you've led an extremely active life, and even then it's not going to be wonderful.)

Hartmut, as to your analysis of why people join the military, I was hoping that people who actually did so would respond.

I know two young adults who joined the military because 1) the job situation for them wasn't promising, 2) they thought doing so was honorable, 3) they thought it would give them some kind of experience and skills. But mainly 1).

I know a couple of young people who seriously considered joining out of a sense of duty - actually, an egalitarian impulse: they had other options, but they thought it was wrong to leave military service to those who had fewer options. The particular people I know who expressed this interest and heartfelt guilt didn't end up in the military.

But that was recent, and anecdotal. I imagine that there are a lot of people who have the impulse to join because they believe it's the right thing to do, and that the burden of service shouldn't be borne only by those who most need the job. Since I believe that the country should have a military, I am grateful that there are those people.

I was wondering whether cleek served, and why Nombrilisme Vide served, because I think their motivations and experience would be enlightening.

Nombrilisme Vide, I didn't see your comment when I wrote my 8:19. Thank you so much for your comment. It's my impression that many people, especially those with a strong conscience during a war, struggle very hard with the decision about what to do. Again, I haven't served, but my instinct is to respect those who make the choice to do so.

It was Generals Marshall and MacArthur who managed the peace and they had sole possession of nukes, overwhelming military superiority AND and two thoroughly defeated populations to work with.

Absolutely. However, it strikes me there are several trains of thought here. Historically, defeat meant conquest and subjugation (Rome, Persia, the Khanate)--empire building as it were. The rise of the nation state in Europe changed this a bit, as wars were fought over religion, dynastic consideration, and with the French Revolution-ideology. For a while there, the goals were smaller bore geo-political in nature. The loser was not occupied, they had to give up a bit of land, etc., after what we would now consider a brief skirmish, esp. during the 18th-19th centuries.

Our wars, too, have tended to be fought for conquest. Generally, we fashioned a winning post war strategy: Genocide in the case of the Native Americans, settlement with the spoils of the Mex-Am war, slaughter I the case of the Phillipines. These were largely successful endeavors.

WW1 and 2 were more akin to the standard European conflicts of the 17th-19th centuries.

Where we come a cropper is winning hearts and minds, and "remaking" a society. One can hardly blame the military for not diving whole heartedly into such a task.

Also, armies are designed to fight wars, not remake conquered territory. Particularly relatively small armies like ours in 2003 and even more particularly ours of today.

Our armed forces in 2003 were pretty close to the same size they are now, and they were in no way, shape, or form "relatively small". We have the second largest military on the planet, and the best financed one. And if you're referring to the amount of troops we sent into Iraq as your "relatively small army", that was purely by choice, and the ones we sent in to conquer by and large weren't the ones we intended to use to occupy anyway.

I don't have anything to say against those who served honorably in Iraq, but the planning was a predictable disaster, and that's not just smug hindsight talking. We disbanded the Iraqi Army. We secured no government buildings except the Ministries of Oil and of the Interior. We allowed military assets to be plundered and distributed. Etc. We're not talking about high-level planning that was carried out by civilian overseers after major military operations were concluded. The military forces carrying out the invasion seeded the ground for the next decade of conflict by precisely how they carried out said invasion. Most of the blame for the ensuing chaos sits squarely on the shoulders of American civilian leaders, but there's still a reasonable amount left over to share among the military war planners.

Most of the blame for the ensuing chaos sits squarely on the shoulders of American civilian leaders, but there's still a reasonable amount left over to share among the military war planners.

But it's my impression that the military war planners were the second tier, the first tier having been disbanded or ignored because they were against the invasion. This blog has had this discussion before, and I don't feel like doing the googling yet again, but there were distinct (if muted, because active duty military folks don't scream loudly) voices coming from top military that were saying, NO, don't do this invasion of Iraq!

Obviously, the mission was carried out, on the cheap, as Rumsfeld desired. The military saluted. I refuse to blame them.

Hey, Dubya and his lackies set out erase the "Vietnam Syndrome", resulting from the reaction to the worst US strategic mistake ever.

And he did! It was a total success! The Vietnam War is no longer the WORST US strategic mistake ever!

Silver linings people, silver linings.

I generally agree, sapient. Iraq was a proof-of-concept for Rumsfeld's New Model Army, and those who objected too loudly softly and suddenly vanished away. And given what I just said about my own mindset going into the military, I can't criticize their choice to salute. The oath is to follow lawful orders, even if you think they're wrongheaded.

The oath is to follow lawful orders, even if you think they're wrongheaded.

And that's the way it should be. Because we, the people, are responsible for the policy. We elected (or endured the selection of) the Bush presidency. I don't have any doubt that "we" (not me personally, because I was not in favor, but I am a part of the collective electorate) made the Iraq war happen. It's not up to the military to disobey the orders of the people. It would be frightening if they did.

sapient, given where I come from I see not that much of a difference between honour and duty ;-)
Admittedly I forgot the military as employer of last resort.
Choosing the military because it pays well (relatively) seems rather unuaual to me at least from a historical perspective. Or it seems to be more of an indication of a bad civilian job market. Over here the only financial incentive is 'they pay for my higher eductaion' (and our problems with student debts is orders of magnitude below the US). One has to reach quite a high rank before the pay can compete with even medium positions in the civilian workplace.

One of the vortues of the draft I'd like to particularly extol is the equality. In the Finnish system, there is only one way into the military: the draft. You may end up as a private or as a general, but everyone starts out the same: a recruit private, in the company of other recruit privates. If you wish to get a military career, you must do well in the basic and be selected for NCO training. For officer career, the next step is to be selected for reserve officer training. You can only get into the military academy if you are demobilized from your conscription as an officer, and to become a career NCO, you must first be a reserve NCO. But you never forget that recruit squad you once belonged to.

The good thing here is that people try to get into leadership training just for the sake of it. My own platoon in the reserve officer school included a quite diverse bunch of people, none of whom would have considered serving in a volunteer military. After graduating as "officer cadets, serving five months as platoon leaders and being promoted to 2nd lieutenants, they went on to become artists, engineers, scientists, lawyers and businessmen. Some just became drunks.

Only one of us became a career officer. He had been studying theology previously. Without the draft, he would be a priest now, instead of captain. However, the rest of us have a service obligation until we get 60. If the military wants to use our skills acquired later in life, they just need to send an activation order. (For no more than 100 days in the normal peace time without reservist's permission.)

The point here is that with a draft, you can get a very diverse people both for rank and file and officer positions with a relatively small monetary cost. If you engage in occupying foreign countries, that resource would be quite handy to have. The best way to get "warrior-scholars" is to draft the scholars and make them leaders of men (after having them prove themselves in earlier service as rank and file), not the other way round.

The moral culpability of soldiers is a very complex problem that cannot be resolved by simply pointing to concepts such as "democratic process", "civilian control" or "duty", see e.g. the debate here:

http://www.bostonreview.net/forum/jeff-mcmahan-moral-responsibility-volunteer-soldiers

See also this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objector#International_law

Nuremberg Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

One of the handful of men responsible for spending a trillion or so dollars overthrowing a despot and leaving a trail of chaos and death in his wake is now proposing we go back to supporting despots:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/dick-cheney-just-buried-the-bush-doctrine/373621/

I guess Iraq was just a learning experience.
Rather profitable for him; rather costly for millions of others.

Just wondering, cleek, whether you were in the military at the time?

never have been.

Hartmut, As I think about it, I think you missed on other reason why people sign up for the military: Idealism (for lack of a better term). Not quite the same as straight patriotism, let alone the "duty" that you suggest.

Youth has more idealism than most adults remember, even though we were all young once. I am minded of the response that I gave, lo these many years ago, when the Colonel asked me why I wanted to sign up for ROTC. "This country has been good to me, and I want to give something back."

You could reasonably ask how much good an 18-year-old can have seen, or how much he might know about the subject. But from his perspective, it could actually be an honest and reasonable answer.

"That the military couldn't remodel Iraq--as if anyone could--is no slam on those who served.

I agree with this, completely."

I don't completely agree, because it lumps together "those who served" into one category and there's no more reason to do that than there is to lump all civilians together. Some of those in Iraq participated in torture and they made it harder to remodel Iraq, assuming of course that there was any genuine interest in remodeling Iraq in the first place.

I agree that the bulk of the responsibility for the Iraq disaster falls on civilians, but some goes to some parts of the military.

As for the duties of soldiers, that as novakant says is a complicated issue. If one thought the invasion of Iraq was in itself a war crime, then maybe one's moral obligation would be not to participate. I wouldn't blame anyone who went along with it, however, as to refuse might have meant a stiff prison sentence or alternatively, they might have been fooled along with many other Americans or they might also think that disobeying would set a bad precedent (which is what sapient is saying). But there would be fewer Iraq Wars if people refused to sign up to fight for unjust wars, and if more people refused to participate. It's a tough call, in my opinion, and we know what happens when people go along--roughly 500,000 people die (citing a study published in PLOS last year ). Needless to say, people who plan and order unjust wars need not fear any serious consequences.

I guess Iraq was just a learning experience.

Nigel, I have to ask. Having read the Atlantic article you link to, what evidence is there that learning has taken place?

I have seen that a lot of other people learned from the experience -- which is why support for returning is so low among the general populace. But Cheney? No sign that he learned anything, as far as I can see.

Before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (The Archduke, not the band) 100 years ago, the standing, shovel-ready armies of the European Nations/Empires were waiting inexorably for a spark, a pretext, to exercise their powers.

When it arrived in the form of a gunshot, the militaries, with the full-throated glee of their respective populations that had fed for decades on the noble, romantic notions of war and bloodshed, wasted no time.

Diplomacy was shunted aside.

I think something along these lines happened to us after 9/11. While, to my mind, the invasion of Afghanistan was inevitable to ferret out al Qaeda and their Taliban allies to prosecute the murders of the 9/11 victims, (although the action should have been sharply limited in time and objective, given the history of military endeavors in that setting), there was something about the Bush Administration, as he chose his Cabinet after the 2000 election, that made the invasion of Iraq, with or without 9/11, inevitable.

He put a military General, too cautious for the job at Defense (he was of the Shenseki school of combat) at the State Department to place the "commies" there (yes, that's what they were called by all of the usual suspects across the conservative blogosphere) on notice that diplomacy would now be little more than a handmaiden to military action and intervention.

Then Neocon darling Rumsfeld at Department of Defense to get the machinery of war shovel ready for .... well, now we know what for, but the question is were they the sorts of conservatives (the real kind, now in short supply) who believed a large military should be kept at the ready but hope to God they don't have to use it, or were they, like the European Generals 100 years ago (with the help of their civilian counterparts), the kind of conservatives who couldn't effing wait to use military force and were, with the help of a sizable percentage of the population, including Democrats and liberals, positively gleeful when a pretext vis a vis Iraq fell into their laps, though they adjusted the placement of their laps according to catch whatever pretext, true or not, seemed likely to "resonate" with an eager population honking for vengeance.

I remember when Bush and several of his Cabinet appointments, including Rumsfeld, Powell, and one or two others met the press in late 2000/early 2001 outside the Waco Ranch (not that one, the one we forgot to bomb).

They stalked like gunfighters down a slope to the cameras, Bush smirking his ratsmirk all the way, and you could sense these individuals couldn't wait to kick ass as soon as ass presented itself.

One has to reach quite a high rank before the pay can compete with even medium positions in the civilian workplace.

Not so much in the US military, as long as you consider benefits alongside base pay. After a year in, the greenest of green recruits might only get only a paycheck of ~20k, but counting food and lodging the compensation package is worth the equivalent of $30k or so, plus free health care/dental and a month paid vacation they'd almost never see on the civilian side in an unskilled entry-level position. If they're married, they get the food and lodging pay directly (and at a higher rate), so they're getting an average of around $40k on their paystub. On top of that, there's the assorted ed incentives when you get out, and quite often the opportunity to have college classes reimbursed while serving. So yeah, the financial incentive is very, very real in the US military.

-----

As to culpability for service members, what Donald and novakant said. It's not simple, or straightforward, but we can only have morally dubious wars if the people in uniform are willing to execute them. I have very mixed feelings about having served because of this; while I know there would have been no dearth of other recruits who could have filled my boots, and I'm quite confident that I'd be happier with my conduct when faced with a clearly illegal, immoral, or unethical order than one of them, I still supported the system, and did so skillfully - and that of course ignores potential second-order effects of superficially legal/moral/ethical orders. Also, in the same vein as feeling guilty about currently neglecting a vegetarian diet (this was originally a casualty of enlistment, though I did pick it back up for a couple years before losing it again when I deployed), if everyone did like I did (or did not do)...

-----

I'd also add that Lurker's description of the egalitarian basis for the Finnish chain of command sounds wonderful compared to the quasi-classist mess the US military uses.

One of the virtues of the draft I'd like to particularly extol is the equality.

Draftee here. I hated the draft.

I think it was good for America:

0. Government is somewhat more realistic about war and its outcomes when combat forces include sons and nephews of the elite.

1. Military got high-skills people it would otherwise not have gotten. The jaundiced cynicism of the college-educated draftee is a check on fanaticism in the forces.

2. Common military service tends to break down class and race (and now gender) divisions and stereotypes.

3. Cements a civic fundamental that today's Americans seem to want to forget: that because all privileges come at cost of responsibilities, citizenship carries obligation.

wj, finely parsing words here I see quite a difference between 'duty' and 'sense of duty'. The latter is, at least in my opinion, quite close to idealism and independent of there actually being any kind of 'duty'. The closeness of 'honour' and 'duty' in a philosophy originating from a place I could reach in less than two hours by urban railway is of course a special and not universal case.

Joel Hanes,

When were you in the service?

My (totally civilian) recollection of the Vietnam draft was that it was, one way or another, wildly skewed toward lower-income, disproportionately minority, conscripts. Certainly "elites" managed to find their way, at worst, into reserve and National Guard units with little chance of seeing combat.

Maybe the advent of the lottery changed that.

The lottery made everyone equally in need of an exemption. Guess who most of those went to? My first year getting a lottery number was the first year they didn't actually draft. Shortly after that I enlisted, to be honest I wanted to get my three years in before they started another war. Spent my time honorably if not exceptionally. I did know a few officers that regretted just missing Vietnam, and a lot of privates and Specialists who didn't.

The lottery may have been skewed a little towards "lower-income, disproportionately minority, conscripts." But nowhere near as skewed at the all volunteer Army is.

The seriously rich may have been able to slip into the National Guard. But as I recall, those who were merely middle class generally were not.

And, of course, almost everyone in charge had been in the Nam, along with almost all the older kids I knew. The first few years of the volunteer army were schizophrenic. Lots of really overqualified recruits joining for the massive incentives, being trained and commanded by battle hardened career soldiers. It really created some bizarre interactions.

The middle class, fairly well educated tended toward joining the Navy or Air Force before they were drafted if their lottery number was low.


Prior to the draft lottery, local Selective Service boards chose who was to be drafted from the roster of registered and eligible 19-year-old males. They did not disclose the reasons for their selections.

Yes, the boards tended to skip over the fortunate sons of the elite. Also, "deferments" were available to full-time college students and for some other reasons -- if one could maintain 'deferred' status for the full six years of eligibility for active duty status, one had successfully skated (see Cheney, Dick). These policies were widely denounced as discriminatory, because they were discriminatory, by intent.

Even so, it was not in those days unheard-of for a Congressman or Senator to have a son or nephew on active duty, and many less-promising sons of prominent businessmen served alongside the sons of laborers.

The Navy and Air Force offered better prospects, but wanted (IIRC) six years of service instead of the two-year hitch of the Army draftee.


The once-per-year US draft lottery began in Dec 1969, and eliminated the selection boards and whatever discriminatory practices existed in the draft board system.

Student deferments were eliminated in early 1971, and for two years, the US draft system was the most egalitarian it has ever been.

The lottery for the born-in-1952 cohort was held August 5, 1971; I got number 83. No student deferment was available.
I was drafted in late 1972; in that year, in my state, they took up to about number 125.

In my cohort were large numbers of men with one or two years of college, who would have been on student deferment prior to 1971. That, and the WWII and Korean War drafts (which were so large that the draft boards took some of the sons of the elite) were the basis of my claims about the draft.

In 1973, they drafted a very few of those with lottery numbers less than 5, and then the draft ended (except for the requirement to register).

My Field Artillery unit in Germany had many very intelligent and capable draftees serving as HQ clerks, in Survey, in Fire Direction Control, and as medics. My understanding is that after the end of the draft, the Army had to lower its test-results standards for many such Military Occupational Specialties, because the volunteers included fewer bright guys.

As someone who was both drafted during the Vietnam War and then (later) taught courses on the War, I looked into the question more deeply than many. Most of the best answers I got came from Baskir & Strauss Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation, although it doesn't really cover the very late stages.

By looking empirically at a wide range of variables/strategies -- medical deferments, conscientious objection (which had to be approved by your local draft board - you couldn't just say "I object" and not show up), enlisting in alternative (less-lethal) institutions like the National Guard and the Reserve (which became more lethal a few wars later), etc. -- B&S documented the unsurprising conclusion that at almost every single stage, those who were better educated and wealthier stood a better chance of not going on to the next stage: actual service in the active military.

There was one exception to this general rule. If you were so marginalized from US society that you never even registered for the draft - and in those days all young men were required to have draft cards for things like job interviews - that helped your odds of staying out of the War, even if it screwed up your life in other ways.

One can see this pattern in the lives of GWBush, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle and many others of my generation. You could see it with a slight variation in my life - I had the education, if not the wealth, to have stayed out entirely if I had played the game better. I didn't, and wound up in the US Army, 1968-9, the absolute height of the war in terms of US troops. My goof.

But a corollary to B&S is that even within the Army there were still stratagems to be played - everyone played them - and a combination of better education and better bureaucratic nous meant that I spent my whole period of enlistment not only safe on the East Coast, but getting occasional promotions -- all the way up to Specialist 4 (equivalent to Corporal) and having enough free time to get involved in amateur theater, in which I met my wife, and we got married in Ft. Myer Chapel (near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) because it was free.

It was a strange time. I was by no means alone as a college graduate in Basic Training, but soon came to realize that we as a class (for want of a better term) tended to stick together against the stupidity of the system, which made it easier to bear. Not all succeeded in staying out of combat, or even out of Vietnam, but it was recognized as something that any intelligent "soldier" would try to do, unless they were impelled by some sense of duty or honor or need to prove their manliness to eschew such evasive tactics.

When I taught courses, later, on the War, I always used to begin by saying "There were men who fought in Vietnam who may be regarded as heroes. There were those who opposed the war on principle, sometimes at great personal risk, who may be regarded as heroes. I did neither of these. I was not a hero. Whatever I say in this course about the Vietnam War, I cannot say it from any position of moral superiority."

Make of this what you will.

Was the draft a good thing? I resented it at the time - it took two years out of my life at a stage when this seemed important. But I didn't actually suffer, and got a wife out of it, and learned a fair amount about life (including a bit about those less fortunate than myself), so I really shouldn't complain.

I do believe, however, that the possibility (*) of being drafted did much to focus the minds of young men - and their families and others who cared about them - on War (both in general and in specific: its morality, its execution), which I think was salutary for society as a whole.

(*) Even if you wound up not seeing action, this was not a foregone conclusion, like (literally) buying your way out of the draft in the Civil War. You had to consider alternative strategies and how they might affect your life, which was made more complicated by rules that changed over time. Should you get married? Take a teaching job? Go to seminary (my brother's option)? Try to establish yourself as a conscientious objector, with the opprobrium that brought in some quarters? Declare yourself gay (whether or not you were)? Discover a medical condition serious enough to keep you out but not so bad it would screw up your future? Flee to Canada? Go to jail? Join one of the alternative services (National Guard, Reserve) or even the Navy or Air Force (much less likely to be lethal in the VN War), at whatever risk and cost that might entail? No one could take the outcome for granted, which is why I personally am loath to judge whatever choices any individual may have made.

(As opposed to judging their later deeds and words, as in the case of the worst of the "chickenhawks" who got us into Iraq, etc. I don't blame them for what they did in the Vietnam Era - I was no better - but I do blame them for learning nothing from it.)

I have a feeling I've gone on too long. "War stories" - even/especially from someone who never went to war - tend to bore civilians. Sorry.

Thanks dr. ngo , not too long. The on nt that the draft made people think about the war I'd important. I saw that in my son and his friends when rumors of a possible draft went around a few years back. It really struck me from their reaction, how much it had effected my thinking and life planning.

The draft is monstrous for its impact on the individuals that are or might be subject to it, the all volunteer army is monstrous for its impact on general society's view of war. Perhaps we could have neither.

Ugh: What about compulsory military service (rather than "selective service," which can always be gamed) for all, on the model of Switzerland or Singapore? Combines a modicum of military preparedness - supplemented, of course, by professional "lifers" - with a maximum of citizen participation, and thus a vested interest in avoiding unnecessary wars.

Whether you could get a student (or any other) deferrment depended in part on where your parents lived. But not in the way that you might expect. In my draft district, for example, the rate of college attendance was exceptionally high. Which meant that, even in 1965, you got a maximum of one (1) year of student deferrment -- I got called for my physical in October of my Sophomore year in college.

P.S. did you know that, while we haven't ahd a draft in decades, the Selective Service System is still active? Complete with registration for young men at 18 and local draft boards. Which I know, being a member of my local board -- and while there is a little lattitude in the regulations, there isn't nearly as much as some folks here seem to believe.

dr ngo - that would be better, but might get a bit unwieldy given the US's size.

I was born in 1956. When I turned 18, we still had to register, but nobody was being called up. I got a draft card, with status 1-H, and never heard anything more about it.

I can think of about a thousand reasons why the draft kind of sucks, but I can think of one reason that is not among them, and also one very big reason why it might actually be a very, very good thing.

The reasons it might suck do not include any kind of personal liberty or oppressive hand of government business. At the time the Constitution was written, the assumption was that more or less every able-bodied adult male was an active participant in some level of defensive military.

If the assumption wasn't clear, it was made clear by the Militia Acts of 1792.

So, intentions-of-the-founders-wise, FWIW, there's a solid basis for near-universal participation in the military, with exemptions for conscience or religious scruple.

The reason it would IMO be a very very good thing is that we would no longer be asking less than 1% of the population to bear the brunt of our excellent adventures abroad. IMVHO, this would make military adventurism much less popular, in a way that would get people's @sses up and out of their chairs.

It would also get us out of the habit of thinking of the military as some kind of weird combination of "our heroes" and a bunch of disposable losers, which is sort of how we see them now IMO.

It would also make much less likely the non-imaginary threat of people who are actually hostile to the government of the US finding a home in the military, where they get excellent training in weapons and tactics. I say less likely because IMO that kind of mindset probably just does not exist in large numbers in the general population.

And last but not least, it would get us out of the habit of hiring bands of violent greedy MF'ers to carry out what ought to be public, governmental responsibilities like guarding embassies and diplomatic staff, running military logistical operations, and the like.

I find it hard to read a story like this one and not want to see somebody up against a wall in front of a firing squad. Let alone when it's folks who've been on the receiving end of ten figures worth of public money.

I recognize the various downsides, but I'm not at all against some kind of universal service requirement. I think it would be, in many ways, a good thing for the country.

I seem to recall that the main reason that we got rid of the draft was simply the massive unpopularity of the Vietnam War by then. It wasn't really about the merits of the draft, or of military service. It was about not wanting to have family members forced to serve, or get injured or killed, in Vietnam (or anything similar that might come along).

And, as usual, the unintended consequences didn't even get a look in.

I seem to recall that the main reason that we got rid of the draft was simply the massive unpopularity of the Vietnam War by then.

Nixon campaigned in '68 promising to end the draft and go to an all volunteer force. This was a political move to undermine the anti-war effort. See Wikki for further details.

Vis a vis the draft, Ayn Rand, yet again:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Anderson_%28economist%29

Galt's Gulch, otherwise, being a name for sanctuary in Canada, one guesses.

Also:

http://dailysignal.com/2012/07/31/milton-friedman-father-of-the-all-volunteer-military/

Free to choose, natch, being mostly limited to those who can afford to choose to be free.

Also, both of these individuals I expect were four-square in favor of contracting out the mercenary aspects of the military to the so-called private sector, where government investigators can be threatened with assassination with impunity from government regulation.

Nothing like a murderous mercenary who chose freely to be a murderous mercenary.

dr ngo,

(As opposed to judging their later deeds and words, as in the case of the worst of the "chickenhawks" who got us into Iraq, etc. I don't blame them for what they did in the Vietnam Era - I was no better - but I do blame them for learning nothing from it.)

Exactly right, I think.

I blame no one for dodging at age 20. But the failure to realize, at age 50, that what one did at age 20 might just be a touch problematical, is inexcusable.

If the US had simply defeated Iraq's military, ousted Saddam and come home, that would have been a military victory.

So why didn't they ?

We would have got to where we are today a decade sooner, without much of the expense... or Abu Ghraib... or this sort of thing:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/us/before-shooting-in-iraq-warning-on-blackwater.html?

If you're not going to plan for occupation, then don't occupy.

dr ngo, byomtov, I would make an exception for those chickenhawks that did dodge the draft while at the same time agitating for the war (as infamously Romney did) and maybe even against draft dodgers. No leniency there!

There's an old joke, dating from the 19th century, that an American army officer would risk his life for his country but never his job. I spent four years working on military bases, and it rings true.

"The Innovator's Dilemma" is hugely relevant to counterinsurgency. A lot of Army lifers I met think of war in terms of huge infrastructure and incredible logistical challenges. The idea that fighting in your own neighborhood with a rifle, some improvised landmines, some neighbors, and no logistical infrastructure at all could be effective would simply not sink in.

There are three basic problems with having Universal Military Service (ie, a draft) in the US today.

First, we don't need every 19-year old to fill out the ranks - there were roughly 3,900,000 births in 1994, compared to 1,430,000 active and 850,000 reservists in the US military today.

Second, training a recruit is expensive, and the military would rather keep an experienced warrior than begin forming a new one. Your neighborhood recruiting sargent is graded on how many of the people he signs up reenlist _after_ their first and second tours are up.

Third, drafts 'work', basically, under two circumstances:

On the one hand, where every young'un leaves, after high school, for a year or two of 'advanced Boy Scouts' and returns, officially, a Grown-Up (Europe in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, the USA in the '50's).

On the other hand, in a war for national survival, calling on young men's lives, old men's money, rationing, and Stewart Avery being carried outside.

But having 1 in 5 or so of young men picked at random to risk their neck while their classmates be 'Jodys' is not politically sustainable.

The alternative would be a mandatory general service that could be either in the armed forces or in an equivalent civil service (no clerical duties there, it has to be something 'bodily').
Of course this would be politically even less tenable (Indentured Servitude!!! Jobkiller!!! Waste of Tax Dollars!!! Commiefascism!!!) and get gamed even more than the selective draft of yore.

Let it be clear that I'm not proposing anything that is even remotely politically viable, only trying to make clear in my own mind what factors - other than the total absence of war - might be involved in the optimal (= least undesirable) structure and system for the USA. I'm also not saying that Military Service Is Good For You (Makes You A Man), etc., which is macho BS. I'm just trying to envisage a system in which (1) in consideration of any proposed war, everyone has "skin in the game," so no one can assume we can fight with no risk whatsoever to themselves or those they love; and (2) tends in the direction of bringing together in common experience men of different (class) backgrounds.

There are obvious problems that have been mentioned, and I don't want to minimize them. Plus one unmentioned so far: GENDER! It seems unlikely that any kind of universal service could avoid entirely the question of why women should not be included, which is so explosive a concept I shudder even to mention it here.

So this is more of a "thought experiment" on my part, with a tiny element of touching base with reality. E.g., WRT jafd's alternative #1, even in the 1950s the USA did not have universal service, at least as I recall it. But Singapore does, and a few other (small?) countries: Switzerland, perhaps? So it is do-able in some sense.


There are indeed problems of scale and of training - what do we do with all those young bods? - but the alternative, sticking with an all-volunteer army that the rest of the country tends to regard as either mercenaries or (patriotic) suckers - in either case, dispensable/disposable - is not, IMHO, working for us very well. NOT (primarily) the fault of the military itself, but that of US society as a whole.

YMMV.

dr ngo: one way to make sure that "everyone has skin in the game" for a war, is to make sure that any war goes nuclear.

Probably not the solution any of us would want, however.

Better to just put some politicians on the front lines.

Apologies.

CEO of Montgomery Ward in 1944 was Sewell Avery (not Stewart)

Should've Googled _before_ hitting 'Send'

what factors - other than the total absence of war - might be involved in the optimal (= least undesirable) structure and system for the USA.

I've often wondered if the minimum age for combat duty shouldn't be something like 25, or 23.

So, folks who are still physically capable, but also further into adulthood, and presumably more mature. Better soldiers.

And, since many of them will at that point have begun their adult lives, more conscious of, and thoughtful about, the real-life costs of engaging in warfare.

Regarding the limited number of troops we require, it's worth noting that, for much or most of the Iraq war, there were about as many contractors on the ground there as military. As of 2008, about 150K of each.

but the alternative, sticking with an all-volunteer army that the rest of the country tends to regard as either mercenaries or (patriotic) suckers -

Mind reading at its finest!! Only, however, if 'the rest of the country' is defined as the progressive left.

Regarding the limited number of troops we require,

Limited to what and why?

Serious thinking about national defense involves taking into consideration at least three variables:

1. China, which is building a more modern, more offensively oriented military everyday and you would have to be blind not to have noticed that the PRC is perfectly willing to push the envelope with its neighbors.

2. North Korea, which isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.

3. The Middle East, in which Iran, in the foreseeable future, will be the dominant military power able to invade or intimidate its neighbors.

Not our business? All 300,000,000 of us can work for each other, no need to import or export and our economy will be just fine. So, sure, we don't have real national security interests beyond our border.

What we don't need is a large standing army. We do need a modern, capable navy and air force and a standing ability to react quickly on the ground.

A draft is a good idea, but not for any of the reasons stated, with one small exception. Rather, we should draft 500,000 nineteen year old males a year and take the top physically and mentally capable 300,000 and give them an intense, one year training program that makes them combat/service ready. Senior enlisted and commissioned regular army would serve as cadre. After the one year of service, the draftees would be in the reserves for five additional years. At the end of five years, we would have 1.5mm troops available if something truly awful happened.

Only one deferment: college students could opt out only by committing to serve four years as a commissioned officer or enlisted troop once completing his education.

The one limited exception is that, by drafting across the board, a decent slice of society would have skin in the game and would, hopefully, act a as brake on more foolish, impulsive adventures.

We lack, as a country, a strategy for when and why wars should be fought. That is a discussion we need to have, on a bipartisan basis.

I agree with Dr. N that drafting women is an idea whose time has not come, but I would be open to it if things were different.

Mind reading at its finest!! Only, however, if 'the rest of the country' is defined as the progressive left.

Pot, meet kettle. C'mon, McKinney, really? At least wait 'til the next paragraph before you do whatever you're currently angrily accusing those damned leftists of doing.

At least wait 'til the next paragraph before you do whatever you're currently angrily accusing those damned leftists of doing.

There isn't a 'next paragraph' and there was nothing ambiguous about Dr. N's statement. Very few outside the progressive left view people who volunteer for military service as either mercenaries or suckers. If you think there is some obvious subtext that I have overlooked, feel free to point it out. Otherwise, address the substance of Dr. N's and my respective positions.

McK, you don't get to have it both ways. You don't get to complain about rhetorical arguments and then demand that your interlocutors ignore your rhetorical arguments. You don't get to whinge about "mindreading" when someone assigns a belief (w/o evidence that it's a widespread belief) to a broad swath of society, and then "counter" it by assigning that or another belief to a different broad swath of society. More generally, you don't get to self-rightiously decry people you disagree with as engaging in baseless emotional rhetoric and ignoring the substance of the matter while throwing identical or substantially similar rhetoric around in a tone which borders on petulant.

The reason I felt compelled to call you on this is because you do it all. The damned. Time. In particular, in virtually any extended contentious discussion with you, you will both accuse your opponent of "mindreading", and lecture them on what "the progressive left" believes. Nearly every damned time.

I'd have addressed the "substance" of your complaint instead of the style, except there was none. There was an accusation of "mindreading", and an unsupported assertion that a large block of people you disagree with (and essentially only they) hold a particular belief. And I really have trouble seeing how I can square this circle: either both you and Dr. Ngo were engaged in mindreading, as you were doing the same damned thing he was doing, or neither of you were. Make up your mind.

(If you want a comment on the rest of what you said, I don't feel particularly strongly about it and mostly agree, though I see no reason to exclude women from a hypothetical draft. It'd already be hideously unpopular, and it's the right thing to do. I do understand that YMMV on this point, though, and more broadly I agree with you that some specter of a popular draft might persuade our ruling and pundit classes to take war a bit more seriously.)

At the end of five years, we would have 1.5mm troops available if something truly awful happened.

We have, today, about 1.5 active duty military.

Before we starting drawing down the force in Iraq, we had about 300K there - half military, half private contractors of one kind or another.

Iraq was not a serious military player at the time we invaded. It took the equivalent of 20% of our active military about ten years to accomplish whatever it was we accomplished there.

Per good old Wikipedia, the Chinese actually have a relatively small military - 290K active, 1.675M reserve.

They do, however, require a year of compulsory military service for all males, and can draw on (again, per Wikipedia) not quite 5M men "fit for service", ages 19-40.

So, if you're concerned about addressing a threat, whether real or not, from the likes of the PRC, I'm not sure your best-and-brightest 1.5M is going to get it done.

McKinney 1:19PM:
1. China, which is building a more modern, more offensively oriented military everyday and you would have to be blind not to have noticed that the PRC is perfectly willing to push the envelope with its neighbors.

China is indeed building up its military. But it is ages away from anything that could match the US. (Except if someone were insane enough to get us involved in a land war with them.) Consider, just for example, their naval air capability.

Yes, they could attack their neighbors. They may even reach the point where next time they attack, for example, Viet Nam, they have a shot at clearly winning the war. But there are no more easy targets (ala Tibet) for them to strike at.

And they can probably take and hold the various islets in the South China Sea, if only because their economic (not military) position constrains those they are stealing from. But is there any critical security threat to the US if they do? All I can see is China finding and exploiting large petroleum reserves. Which would lower their demand for oil from elsewhere in the world, thus (supply and demand) reducing the cost of oil for us. Not sure this is a bad thing....

2. North Korea, which isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.

Not sure how the US needs a big military to cope with this. North Korea could do South Korea a lot of damage. They'd probably lose in the end, but South Korea would take a long time to recover. On the other hand, all they could do to Japan would be to irritate the Japanese to the point of getting themselves smashed. (A lot of Japanese might die, but the country as a whole would come thru a North Korean attack OK.) I doubt even the North Koreans would be insane enough to try to attack China. And if they attack Russia (who else can they even reach), well that isn't a problem for us now, is it?

But maybe you were referring to their efforts to develop a nuclear missile capability. How would a larger military help deal with that? Sure, R&D might come up with a missile defense system. But that's not the kind of military manpower we are discussing.

3. The Middle East, in which Iran, in the foreseeable future, will be the dominant military power able to invade or intimidate its neighbors.

And the US needs a large military for this why? Iran could, I suppose, strike the oil fields of its neighbors.** But only if they were willing to get smashed (by air) in return. Not to mention that their oil exports are critical to their economy, and at least as vulnerable as their neighbors. Granted, Iran could push/fund irregulars. But most of the Muslim fanatics currently available are at least as hysterically opposed to the Shia as to the West.

As for the rest of the Middle East, our dependence on Middle Eastern oil is dropping steadily. Already, I would suggest, it has dropped to the point that it isn't going to be worth our while to get involved militarily there. Even assuming, for the sake of discussion, that someone came up with a plausible plan for us to do so successfully.

** Note: Turkey, not Iran, is the dominant military power in the Middle East. And that isn't likely to change any time soon. Iran may be second, but they don't exactly have free rein.

Not our business? All 300,000,000 of us can work for each other, no need to import or export and our economy will be just fine.

I get the impression this was meant to be some kind of sarcastic rebuke to the "progressive left." Actually, on a net basis, imports and exports are only 6% or so of our economy, about the same percentage of the labor force that are currently unemployed.

Not that I am suggesting this give you any ideas.

So, sure, we don't have real national security interests beyond our border.

Nobody that I know of in the nether reaches of the far, far, left makes this assertion, even pacifists. So where did you get this notion? The real discussion we need to have is this: "What constitutes our essential national interests wrt the rest of the world?"

I'd be happy to discuss war preparedness later.

I deny the charge of "mind-reading," though I'm perfectly willing to plead guilty to rhetorical exaggeration - as long as others involved cop to the same plea.

My point about our troops is that if we actually cared about them we would support them with proper equipment, decent health care upon their return, and - perhaps most saliently - enough regard for their well-being not to send them into pointless and unwinnable frays.

But we - the USA, not the "progressive left" in particular - don't do this. Which leads to the (rhetorically exaggerated) conclustion that we (as above) don't really care, because we see them as mercenaries or patriotic suckers. If McKT disagrees with this, perhaps he could show us how the USA genuinely demonstrates its concern for the troops in other than grandiose public gestures, a concern that leads to taking care of their actual needs rather than the occasional parade.

TOMMY

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

ee cummings wants a say.


--

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

for,
my sister

isabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds)of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)


--

though i'm more of an Olaf man, m'self.

Love me some e.e. cummings myself - used to read him to prospective girlfriends in hopes of finding a kindred spirit (and body).

I forgot to note, above, that from McKT's perspective Rudyard Kipling is probably part of the "progressive left." ;}

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