Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Serve for Citizenship--a Response

My new friend,Cutler, placed a first-rate comment in response to my last posting, “Service for Citizenship,” and rather than respond via another comment, I felt my reaction deserved it’s own new posting, mostly because it’s so danged longed. I DO go on!

Cutler: “There is an irony with Heinlein and Starship Troopers. He's a well-known libertarian writer, yet he borrowed many of the basic concepts of his society from Plato's authoritarian and communistic Republic. Specifically, a leadership Guardian class that rules a materialistic consumer and producer class. Where Plato went with this, a paternalistic and totalitarian state ruled by the betters, shows the potential pitfalls of creating a specific brotherhood of rulers apart from the rest of society.
Phil: First of all Cutler, thanks for your exceptional commentary; you gave me a LOT to think about. You’re right; a lot of what Robert Heinlein (RH) wrote was Libertarian, especially his newer stuff. Can you “grok” it man? It just shows you that no one can be put into any one philosophical box, especially Mr. Heinlein. I’m the same way; for instance, I like this one Heinlein concept, but I don’t sign on to ALL of his life theories. I pick and choose what makes sense to me, and I think RH did the same thing; just as you do I’ll bet.

I don’t buy that “earning” one’s citizenship necessarily, means that our admittedly materialistic society will become totalitarian, and be presided over by a brother and sisterhood (siblinghood?) of rulers. Switzerland is not totalitarian, yet they have a system of compulsory military service. They have no draft, but EVERYONE serves—at least the men do. But, as I said, I hate the idea of FORCING people into service, so I don’t like the Swiss way either. Heinlein agrees with me—he said in an interview (and I paraphrase), that a society that must be “forced” to defend itself is one that doesn’t even deserve to exist. He’s right. Every true citizen SHOULD feel that they have a stake in their nation, and I believe that there is no GREATER proof of that stake than when a citizen is “willing” to fight and risk life & limb for it. To let someone else do it for you—THAT makes you no better than a “kept” sheep!

Cutler: “Still, the problems we have are real. I agreed with Rangel's basic premise…”

Phil: Mr. Cutler, Rangel’s basic premise is that, by and large, most of the troops suffering and dying in this war are the very poor (mostly ethnic he claims), who have few life options. During a TV interview I heard him say that, in effect, these troops have NO CHOICE, except to serve in the armed forces—he actually called it a de facto draft. (Excuse me!) Even in Vietnam that assertion was a myth. As far as ethnicity and financial class, the casualty numbers match up with society. Most of the dead and wounded are white, and lower middle class to middle class. You’re correct; he’s a demagogue, and a divisive one at that.

Cutler: "Still, what do you think the goal of this program should be?
A. Is the goal of this is to put into charge a leadership class that has proven it can put the whole above themselves?”
Phil: I’m not willing to get wrapped around your Platonic axel, Mr. Cutler; and I don’t think Heinlein was actually looking for the formation of a leadership class either. MY premise, if not his, is that NO ONE should reach the level of FULL citizen, until they become qualified to do so. Remember, the primary goal is NOT to be able to hold government office, but to be able to vote. FULL citizenship would mean FULL PARTICIPATION. Granted, the leaders would come from this qualified pool of “veterans,” but not all would be leaders, or would opt for continued service in government positions or to hold office.

Cutler: “B. Is the main purpose the more limited goal of a broader range and larger amount of recruits? Or, C. A combination of these two and others?”
Phil: The main purpose would NOT be to have more recruits lined up waiting to serve, and neither would it be to get a broader base of citizens into uniform; however, all those are positive aspects. If all the rich folks sons were happy to stay “sheep,” and so never have a say in their destinies, then they would have the freedom to do so. The same thing would apply to any citizen from any class. Ultimately, it would still be a free society, where people can choose to serve or not, but if they choose NOT, then they sacrifice FULL citizenship. Progressives hate this concept, because most don’t UNDERSTAND the concept of service, and self-sacrifice. They are great at talking the talk, but they suck at walking the walk.

Cutler: "Addressing B, I wonder if, even taking into account the obvious advantages of a more motivated volunteer force, perhaps it is ultimately a dream to believe you can attract enough people from such a pampered societies as ours to put themselves under fire. Perhaps, I am overly cynical, but I remember that even World War II required draftees for the vast majority of the army, inefficiencies that it caused be damned.”

Phil: The history of the draft in the US is a story to itself. Lincoln resorted to it out of necessity, and the South pretty much threw ALL able-bodied (and not so able) men into uniform. We used it in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. MY point is we NEEDED to use it, because we DIDN’T have a system requiring service for FULL citizenship. But also consider this—some enlistees join up for no other reason other than the desire to serve. (Note: take a look at my retirement speech). I’m sure I wasn’t the ONLY “true believer,” as many of us are want to call ourselves.

Cutler: “Now, of course, this was also due to the scale of the effort, and we do not seem on the verge of a major transnational conflict. But in decades, that is not guaranteed, and in the present a non-nuclear war with relatively small North Korea would force us to reinstall the draft, inefficiencies be damned. The military is large enough for our current half-efforts [Iraq/Afghanistan are not big wars, even with our large goals], though barely, but not for a bigger and more manpower intensive conflict.”
Phil: War on a larger scale is always a bridge to be crossed when we get to it. But it would have to be a VERY catastrophic bridge before the draft would need to be reinstated. I say we STILL would NOT have to resort to it.

As you say, currently, The Terror War is a very low intensity conflict, and mostly we are fighting it unilaterally. While OUR troops number in the hundreds of thousands, our pusillanimous allies provide troops only in the low hundreds. But, were a wider conflict to pop up, all bets would be off and we would move the hundreds of thousands of troops and equipment not currently involved in SWA into the newer, more dangerous situation. And if need be, we could use our SWA troops as well.

In reference to our current, as you say, “half efforts,” I think you mischaracterize them. We are using ONLY the force we NEED to succeed, just as we expect our police ONLY to use just enough force to keep the peace. In Iraq, we use just enough resources to train the Iraqi police and army, while at the same time to hold off, if not defeat, the insurgents/terrorists.

And if you think we would need the draft to quell an invasion from North Korea, you are WAY off the mark. THAT mission would be over AND WON long before any draftees could be mustered, trained, armed and shipped. The North Koreans are WAY overrated; and together with the very competent, well-armed South Koreans, we would defeat the North Koreans faster than you think. The problem is they will go nuclear in a dying spasm of defeat, but even that would NOT change the outcome. Granted, it would be messy, but winnable within our current framework.

The only way you would be right about having to bring back the draft, would be if China acted up and even then, ONLY if we lose our presently HUGE advantage in technology. Then again, every time we buy Chinese products from Sears and Walmart, we help them to catch up to us. But even against the Chinese, I believe the draft would only be an extreme, temporary measure.

Cutler: “My point is, that there is a line upon which the volunteer military, for all its benefits, is a liability. If the Army is struggling to attract manpower, even though it is relatively small considering the extent of its responsibilities, perhaps we are reaching that line?”
Phil: You wander off topic a bit here my friend; again, you are looking at the current system, which does NOT require service for Full Citizenship. In effect, you make my point. Also, as I ask rhetorically in “Serve for Citizenship,” and which you so eloquently agreed with, if we were not winning the Terror War so easily, would people continue to take the need to serve so casually? Most folks don’t enlist now because they don’t feel a pressing threat, BUT when the “towers” came down, recruiters had a fairly easy time getting young men and women to serve, at least for a time. As you said, Cut:

Cutler: “I believe this is real key. People do not realize the urgency, if indeed there is one.”
Phil: It seems that very few democrats, except for “intelligent” ones like Sen. Lieberman, and even fewer far-left liberals, think there IS any REAL threat. It seems that liberals want to sweep 9/11 under the rug, calling it an anomaly. If they had their way, there would be NO American military at all—and then, as far as they are concerned—PROBLEM SOLVED!

Cutler: “Professional armies are not the norm in human history.”
Phil: Could you qualify that statement? The United States is FOLLOWING the historical norm, when you look at it from the standpoint of what other superpowers from the past did. Persia, Rome, the Ottomans, the British Empire, and many others—all those conquering entities kept huge professional armies of some type or other. And since learning the lessons leading up to our involvement to WWII, so have we. Actually, we have been at war since WWII, on some level or another, which explains why we did NOT demilitarize like we have after past wars.

And finally, we are at a vastly lower manpower and weapon system level, in terms of numbers, since the 80s. Don’t forget, in the 80’s we were as big and as powerful as we EVER were. I’ll dare say we could have easily defeated our monstrous WWII forces with a fraction of our Cold War forces. And the reason I bring that up is because our armed forces in the 1980s were COMPLETELY MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS! We did it then, we can do it again. So, no, the draft is NOT an issue. The issue continues to be:

Why does the rich feel like it’s just fine to let someone else’s kids defend their way of life; and would Heinlein’s concept of “Service for Citizenship” be a solution?

You KNOW how I feel about it.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Just saw this long response.

I'll try and give you some answers/thought as soon as I can.