Monday, November 20, 2006

The Face of Courage

Tell me again why we were supposed to fear Democratic Committee leaders? Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY and Korean War Veteran, says that next year, he will propose a bill calling for a draft to national service. He says that such a thing would deter politicians from engaging in wars of choice, and I think he is right on target with that. He also discusses the possibility that military service would not be the only beneficiary, but also things like airport security.

With politicians like the President and GA District 1 Representative Jack Kingston sounding the 'War on Terror' = 'Our Society's Survival & Our Generations's Great Challenge' frame, isn't it about time we take them to task on their terminology? If this is our great challenge, isn't it time, as John Stewart said, to "WWII this thing?" Isn't it time to put the burden on the whole society and not just the military and their families?

That means a draft, putting hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands if not millions more boots on the ground, backed by the arsenal of democracy that is the American industrial machine. That means Ford stops making SUV's that don't sell and starts making tanks, that means the Gulf Coast will become an industrial hub building troop transports and landing craft, that means oil rationing. It means going all in when you say "all in."

And if America isn't ready for that sort of thing, what does that say about this war?

14 comments:

patsbrother said...

Clarification: when trying to maintain or create peace, you don't so much need tanks, at least not as traditionally understood. Tanks are mobile artillery: an offensive weapon hellbent on forward motion. If we've already occupied a territory, we need armored vehicles to protect troops and transport them about quickly, not tanks.

But to be on topic: whoa Rangel.

Anonymous said...

I don't really support a draft but I've often wondered if it wouldn't be beneficial to have a system like they do in Switzerland and Isreal where everyone serves in the military. Perhaps we could use a military reserve system like we have today but everyone either serves in that or full-time active duty if they choose.

It would certainly help bring people together as a nation.

Buzzzbee said...

I agree. These guys talk about this thing like its WWII, even going so far as to compare these terrorist groups to nazis, so it's time to put their money where their mouth is. Let's do it. We certainly needed every able bodied man to defeat the real nazis. Let's start fighting this thing like a real war, for a change.

The real sad thing is, for all his talk about doing what's right instead of what's popular, Bush will let this thing continue to crumble and let the deathtoll continue to rise to avoid doing something as unpopular as instituting a draft. It became clear long ago that we either put in more troops or fail. Both were unpopular, so at the expense of both our fighting men and the Iraqi people's future, he's kept the same number of troops there, both too many and too few.

Dante said...

I agree wholeheartedly that we should take Republicans to task for not being thorough enough to win the war. We should end this war the same way we ended World War II. Sure we had a draft around that time and some people went over to fight but the war as a whole didn't end until we dropped the big one. And we have those suckers just sitting around waiting to be launched! We can have a sheet of glass where Iraq, Iran, and North Korea used to be in about half an hour from the decision to launch.

Not in favor of that plan? Then I think you're full of poo when you claim that you favor a draft to win the conflict. I think you really want a draft to unpopularize the conflict and bolster support of a withdrawl. The number of people in our armed forces has nothing to do with victory. Victory only comes at the humanity we're willing to sacrifice for it. We could win this war in half an hour without a troop in sight but we're not going to that. If you want to withdraw then that's fine and I completely understand but don't prentend you think you're helping things by mandating service in the armed forces.

Patrick Armstrong said...

First of all, there are several right wing pundits who have already hinted at, suggested or straight up recommended we use nuclear weapons in the War on Terror with the frequency usually reserved for cruise missiles.

Second of all, use of nuclear weapons is simply a matter of priorities. If your priority is to pacify the insurgency and civil war in Iraq while holding up the fragile government and preserving what infrastructure and civilian life you can, you initiate the draft and put at least two million pairs of boots on the ground, backed up with the mass production capacity of America's industrial base to both supply the troops, the civilians and rebuild industry and destroyed infrastructure a la Europe and Japan in 1946.

If your priority is the destruction of all life and infrastructure in the Middle East, regardless of environmental, cultural or civilian life, you open the door for nuclear weapons.

Right now, there are many drawbacks to the employment of nuclear weapons that weaken our strategic position in ways a draft would not (a draft would, IMHO, actually strengthen the American strategic and national position, and is only untenable politically speaking).

We shouldn't use nuclear weapons for one very simple reason: our troops, our contractors and our allies would be in the way. A draft and an industrial response would reinforce our troops, our contractors and our allies. Nuclear weapons would kill them.

That's not a 'splitting hairs' type of distinction. That's not politics, that's realism.

Third: our nuclear arsenal is our absolute ace in the hole when it comes to bringing irrational and unstable leaders to sudden rational and stable behavior. All states realize that, the moment they launch NBC's on the United States, they are signing their own death warrant within the 30 minute timeframe you so aptly described.

You can 'modest proposal' this line of reasoning as much as you want, it is not our side of the aisle that is being ideologically inconsistent here.

Dante said...

"We shouldn't use nuclear weapons for one very simple reason: our troops, our contractors and our allies would be in the way."

That's you big reason not to? That can be remedied pretty quickly.

"it is not our side of the aisle that is being ideologically inconsistent here."

Just because one side is not being ideologically inconsistent does not mean the other side is. Both sides of this issue are being quite ideologically inconsistent. On the one hand you want to view our current conflict in the perspective of World War II but at the same time you want to conveniently sidestep the ultimate goals of World War II. When at any point did the Allies want to "pacify the insurgency and civil war among the axis powers while holding up the fragile government and preserving what infrastructure and civilian life you can?" If that were the case, the Allies never would've gone on carpet bombing raids in areas with high civilian concertrations.

The War on Terror isn't World War II, isn't Vietnam, and isn't even the original Gulf War. The closest parallel I can come up with in short time is the Spanish Civil War but even that comparison would fall apart under scrutiny. Our military leaders don't believe we need a draft and so far the only Congressman who is vocal about needing a draft is being pretty clear that such a draft is only intended to be a deterrent to the conflict in Iraq. If hiding behind draft legislation to try to convince the country to get out of Iraq is considered courage, then I'll gladly be a coward.

Our current military is getting a thorough workout but it's far from being stretched too thin. We're meeting enlistment quotas. New enlistment is down but reenlistment is about as high as it's ever been. The military uses more of our industrial capacity than any other entity on earth. We have what we need. We just need to work on how we're using it. Forcing a few million kids who could care less about fighting for our country into harm's way isn't going to solve anything.

Dante said...

And as a final comment, I'm surprised liberals are falling for the "more is better" mentality here. Seems like they'd be the last ones to go for that.

patsbrother said...

Dante, your grasp on WWII is nothing short of astounding. I am so thankful you were able to clean things up for me! I was totally unaware our object during WWII was the termination of all life within Germany and Japan. Who knew what an absolute and complete failure to meet our goals the American involvement in WWII was!

Dante said...

If you can point out where I said our objective during WWII was to erradicate all life in Germany and Japan, I would be much obliged. I merely said we didn't particularly care for preserving infrastructure or civilian life. Neither was even a secondary consideration.

patsbrother said...

Dante, you said "[w]e should end this war the same way we ended World War II," which was by "dropp[ing] the big one." You went on to say that "[w]e can have a sheet of glass where Iraq, Iran, and North Korea used to be in about half an hour from the decision to launch."

Apparently to clarify your position, you discounted Patrick's position as "[o]n the one hand [Patrick] want[s] to view our current conflict in the perspective of World War II but at the same time [he] want[s] to conveniently sidestep the ultimate goals of World War II." Which goals are evidenced in part by the Allied "carpet bombing raids in areas with high civilian concertrations."

Unless I am mistaken, the focus of your diatribe was on the goals of WWII and the current conflict, not on the methods of conducting that conflict which Patrick argued we adopt. At no point do you explain why those methods Patrick articulated would be inapposite today. In fairness, you did make a long and conclusory statement why all is well in a conflict most agree is going poorly and needs new direction (a/k/a, different methods).

By moving the conversation from one of methods to one of goals, you made a point to draw parallels between the two conflicts. You included a call to reducing three nations to sheets of glass. Through the unification of the two conflicts' goals, you implied the goal of glass was shared by the Allies in WWII.

Further, I take great umbrage at your final statement, that the preservation of civilian life was not even a secondary concern of American troops in WWII. It most certainly was. Simply because other concerns eclipsed that one at Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagisaki does not mean American troops ran about without a care for innocent lives.

Anonymous said...

In WWII not only did Americans have great concern for civilians but also for buildings! At Monte Casino (Rapido River) in Italy, many American troops were killed and wounded because the U.S. refused to bomb in order to try and preserve the old monastery of Monte Casino. The casino sat on top of a mountain and from it, Germans shot at Americans with impunity.

Finally, after many weeks the Americans were forced to bomb it. One of my past landlords, Tex McDonals, had his leg blown off there. My sister's father-in-law was captured there by the Germans. The cost of trying to preserve the monastery was very high.

Patrick Armstrong said...

As far as WWII's strategic carpet bombing of civilian, industrial and military targets; the eventual nuclear bombing of Japan; and the draft and industrial reorganization of the American society came about because WWII was a total war for the US of A.

I'd have to say (and I've said so before) that when society chooses to go to war, society must be willing to accept certain losses and value sacrifices in order to win. Applying WWII methods to the War on Terror, most specifically the war in Iraq, we would have opened the campaign by darkening the skies of Baghdad with neverending B-52 raids that pummelled parts of the city into dust. We would ring the city with tanks, attempting to 'trap' any heavy weaponry that was there, and lay siege while putting our artillery to work wrecking their heavy weaponry. After such a 'softening up' troops would be sent in for house to house fighting to kill all armed individuals who did not surrender immediately.

War is hell, and from all accounts, WWII was brutal. Sometimes sacrifices were made (the blunder of Monte Cassino being one of them), the French stereotype of 'surrender' is based on the exact moment the French Army abandoned Paris, declared and 'Open City' and moved the fight elsewhere for the sake of protecting that city's architechture and cultural signifigance.

In other places (the London blitz, the seige of Leningrad/St Petersberg, Kiev, Minsk, the aerial subjegation of Berlin, Tokyo etc) were more examples of the rules: the civilian populations of enemy nations were part of the war machines of enemy nations. Carpet bombing, here we come.

I happen to agree with the concept of total war, being that it is the only kind of war ever to bring about lasting peace. The North didn't defeat the South, the North obliterated the South. We didn't win against the Third Reich and Empire of the Sun, we laid waste to pinnacle civilizaitons. We didn't win against Iraq in 1991, the whole world showed up in a bold stand of collective security and neutralized the 4th largest army in the world, from the elite to the unleavened conscripts - trained in tactics and defended by an air defense system we advised them on - in 100 hours.

I don't think Dante was advocating 'glassing over' the Middle East (though enough right wing pundits have on TV, radio and internet to perhaps confuse even law school students...), though I still respond to the most important strategic flaw in the use of nuclear weapons: he who fires first loses the most by doing so.

Aside from that, here goes again: I didn't start the 'war on terror is as important as WWII' nonsense - right wingers did in order to get their candidates elected. But I can argue in that vein that if right wingers truly believe GWOT is the big dog, and that we will shortly be invading Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan (at least) all by ourselves, and that our freedoms make us targets for destruction at every suburban stop light, then why are they not fighting this conflict, at a high governmental office level, as if they truly intend to win it?

(This is especially true because, strategically speaking you either go to war -total war- or leave the matter to criminal justice systems, which have been widely criticized by the right wing as well....)

I can also argue my steadfast claim that I believe National Service should be reintroduced to America, whether we are at war currently or not, and that I think our society has indeed suffered because we do not have such a program in place. I also have made note, several times, that those areas of our society most in need of reinforcements: military, security, criminal justice, education, infrastructure, bureaucracy, environmental would all benefit most from a National Service plan. That is something I hold true regardless of politics.

liberalandproud said...

Boys,
Can we please argue the draft proposal on its own merits without descending into a rehashing of the Battle of the Bulge? I swear, you guys have spent way too many hours agonizing over Axis and Allies (or Risk, whatever). Not that we can't learn from history and all . . .

Dante said...

Yeah, I don't really support the sheet of glass policy. I was merely taking a more extreme position that is logically equivalent based on Mr. Rangel's line of reasoning to expose its absurdity. And I did jump from methods to goals but only because the goal doesn't warrant the method here as far as I am concerned. In my eyes there is nothing inherently wrong with a mandatory draft but there is something wrong with a mandatory draft in response to a siutation our military leaders are confident can be resolved with our current resources.

Judging from his last post, it seems Pat prefers mandatory national service for reason not related to Rangel's reasoning. I find merit in Pat's other reasoning though I don't necessarily agree. And I still consider this legislation to be far from courageous. This is a move made out of fear. Rangel wants to frighten the US populace into withdrawing from Iraq.