Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Do You Feel a Draft in Here?

posted by Jazz at 10/18/2004 09:26:00 AM


I recently wrote an opinion about the cease and desist order that Ed Gillespie sent to Rock the Vote regarding their ongoing debate over whether or not we might see the draft come back during a second Bush Cheney term. Following that, I found an entry on Dean's World titled "Tin Foil Hat Politics" which started a lengthy discussion in which I participated. (Lots' of good comments there on both sides... give it a look.)

I started out being of the opinion that there simply was no chance that there would be a new draft, but that the RNC's efforts to squash any public debate of the matter was wrong. As so often happens in open discussions, though, I find my opinion beginning to change, but not in the way you might expect.

First I heard from a number of conservatives who insisted that the matter did not merit open debate, so presumably they had no problem with Gillespie's reaction. Bryan C. flatly stated that "there is nothing to debate" and compared the question to debating whether or not Cheney was a vampire. That was just one example of people flatly denying that it was reasonable to have a discussion of the issue. Dean offered up some excellent alternatives to a draft as ways to adjust our forces.

In another set of responses, we discussed what factors might make it more likely that a draft would be considered. While I still maintained that a draft would be political poison and unlikely to get any votes, some voters might feel differently because of the overstretched state of our military. I immediately caught flack for that from some conservative readers who claimed that our military was not stretched thin, and that in fact we had too many soldiers. I also asked what would happen with our current troop levels if a new area of conflict were to flash up.

Chris Lansdown kind of shocked me by expressing a belief that the only reason we were short of soldiers was because congress wasn't letting the military recruit enough. "Here's an idea: congress can allow the military to have more people (the number of members of the armed forces is regulated by congress), and then the military can recruit them."

John Irving had some other observations. First, he seems to feel that technology can solve all of our military problems. "The U.S. currently has the most powerful military in the world. We have the best training and technology, and apply more of it then the next three largest forces. We are currently capable of fighting a war with practically the entire world."

Then, even more to my surprise, he opined that we were in no danger of any sort of flashpoint in another area of the world. "Right now 'another flare-up' is not an issue. We have enough force capable in any one carrier group to put down any aggressive action by a rogue nation, and our big plays at the moment are well in hand." Contrary to popular belief, I don't subscribe to the full blown "doom and gloom" that some people are preaching, but that one knocked me for a loop. He also went on to amazingly ask why we would want more troops in Afghanistan.

Dean weighed in with a link to an article about how our current troop levels were fine. I countered with a recent NYT article stating that things were far from rosey in the military staffing department. Dean made a lot of other good points about why he felt that a draft wouldn't be needed in that comment entry.

Then, Kevin D. weighed in with a simple, flat denial with nothing to support it, which I find depressing in any debate. "Jazz, a draft won't happen because it isn't needed. Period. Stating there's evidence for both sides of the argument is blatantly false."

This gets to the part I mentioned about changing my mind, but hardly the way that the conservatives in that thread would have anticipated. Such arguments, effectively stating that there should be zero discussion of this because "it's just false" put me in a mind from of methinks they doth protest too much. When alarms like that go off for me, it starts me thinking.

I wish I had saved an article off the AP from August where one intelligence expert opined that 2004 and 2005 would be considered an ideal period by both terrorists and unruly (or "rogue") nations to engage in military activities. Why? Because the big guard dog (the United States) was far too busy fighting a war on two fronts to open up a third one. Thinking, as John Irving seemed to, that we can fight other wars simply with cruise missiles and bombers is, in my opinion, fatuous. That sort of technology is really wonderful, and in the rare cases where you can identify one single target or group of people, they can be used for that purpose while avoiding most risk to human lives on our side. But while those same technologies are also great in a war, softening up the enemy, taking out dangerous weapons installations, etc., the do not win a war. Wars are won by boots on the ground. How anyone could still think that after Afghanistan and Iraq is a mystery to me. And we're running out of boots fast.

Flash points? North Korea, regardless of the "six party talks" doesn't seem very sincere or interested in any honest negotiations. They already have nukes. Iran is very likely close to having some themselves and are as mad as a wet hen at Israel. Oh, and in case nobody noticed, Taiwan and mainland China are starting across the straights at each other with bared teeth. The U.S. has long tried to straddle the fence on that score, claiming to endorse the "One China" policy while encouraging human rights and individuality for Taiwan. The world is full of areas that are just waiting to flash up in our faces.

Now, what is the first response you hear from party spokesmen when you bring up the subject of a draft? Typically, it's "What? We just had a vote in congress on it! Only two people voted for it and they were Democrats! There will NOT BE a draft!"

Fair enough. Now, look at your calendar. If it is anything like mine, you'll see that we are less than three weeks from a major election where the President, one third of the Senators, and all of the members of the House have their jobs on the line. Nobody could vote for a draft now.

Looking ahead, however, if there were to be another major flash point where Bush put us into another land war, we simply wouldn't have the troops to cover it. What to do then? Well, a president or a congressman in early 2005, with either two, four, or six years before they had to face election again, might be a bit more inclined to sign on for a draft. They'd apologize, of course, and say it was only being done out of the gravest urgency and desperate need. But I could see them doing it.

Yes, I've changed my mind on this. Under the right set of highly undesirable circumstances, I could see the draft coming back. However, if things remain fairly static in their current condition, then no - I still don't see a draft returning. With that said, I'm more convinced than ever that a debate on the subject is appropriate and Gillespie's actions were shameful. Stifling free speech is no way to handle a subject that may be uncomfortable for your candidate.