Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Thursday, March 03, 2005

Drafty in his head.
Written by: Goemagog

Considering the author has a Ph.D., you'd think he would have known better than to write this:

Finally, the country must seriously re-evaluate how it uses its military. Do we really want to stretch our force so thin with nation-building operations that we have to consider conscription? If critical warfighting missions require the redeployment of our forces from less critical duties, so be it.

We've actually kept the Selective Service around (they would run the draft) because conscription could be needed if a war started anywhere. That a war lasting more than a few months should be waged with the army we have instead of being augmented by draftees is a pretty new one.

The threshhold during the Cold War was to estimate the duration of the war. Shorter than three months and no draftees would have finished basic training before they were no longer needed. The first Gulf War came closest to triggering a draft, but back then we had eight more army divisions, I don't know how many more marines, larger reserves, considerably more resources for training, and fewer peacekeeping missions.

Like the original article said, the United States military is an important part of almost every peacekeeping mission. Very few countries will do anything to create or maintain peace in any part of the world without us going in first. Peacekeeping missions without a strong American presence have even been known to run away, leaving local civilians at the mercy of genocidal militants.

Even aside from the ethical concerns of forcing people into involuntary servitude during peacetime simply to exercise their right to go to college (and the fact that wealthy parents could send their children to elite schools in Canada, the UK, and elsewhere to bypass the requirement), this solution has some serious military drawbacks.

The calls for universal (traditionally, defined as all able-bodied males) military service have re-emerged periodically throughout our history. The problem, though, is that the premise is flawed, especially in the modern era. Military skills are incredibly perishable. People with minimal training who return to civilian life would quickly become only marginally more valuable as soldiers than those with no training at all.

It's not peacetime. There's a war on with several theaters of operations. Our reserves also get refresher training on a monthly basis. Our reserves are not comprised entirely of former active duty soldiers, but contain a large number of people who enlisted straight into the reserves. With good leadership and training resources, they can do the same things their active duty counterparts can. Reserve units have actually been known to show more flexibility and adaptability than their active duty counterparts due to the "real world" experience in their civilian lives.

Given that the deficit Carter and Glastris are trying to correct is a lack of soldiers for peacekeeping duty, the program would need to limit the obligatory service to the Army or Marine Corps, preferably the infantry, military police, and similar specialties in demand for stabilization operations. ... If not required to stay in the active reserves, they would quickly get out of shape, lose proficiency in their basic skills, and become antiquated as new equipment and tactics replace the ones with which they trained.

Keep them in the active reserves and you get refresher training and unit cohesion. Unit cohesion is a good thing. Very good thing.

Still, what will we have gained from this? A pool of people, many of whom have a college education and productive jobs, available for duty as privates first class and lance corporals (the most one can reasonably achieve during a one year tour, by definition without a college education). Even if their skills have not degraded one iota and they are ready for full service on Day 1, all that has been achieved is to have cut off the three to four months it takes to create a private.

Which is the point. We don't have a shortage of generals, majors, or modern major generals. Troop shortages are always in the lower ranks, and that is where replacements are most often needed. By keeping them in reserve units, we establish unit cohesion and instead of getting just a bunch of privates, we get an entire unit ready to do whatever we need of it.

Moreover, the dearth the military faces is a sufficiently large pool of people to perform certain critical tasks. We don't merely need boots on the ground but rather people highly trained in urban warfare, counter-insurgency, civil affairs, Arabic, and similar skills critical to peacekeeping and stability operations. We will not get these people through a draft.

We will get those people through a draft if we draft people then train them to do those things. Pick a skill the military wants and the Pentagon runs a school somewhere to teach military personnel how to do it.

For having a Ph.D., he ain't been learned much.

The whole point of reserves is to have something held back, not so you have something left over, but so that you can fill holes in your lines. Like people stockpiling food ahead of a large storm, it's not about eating more but having enough if the storm making getting more food difficult. Reserves are the backup. Our backup is being used, the cupboards are getting bare, and the storm is still out there.

Goe, hasn't heard from Beck in a while.

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John Beck

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