Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chickenhawk Baiting

Has anyone been following the war of words between liberal and conservative writers about enlistment in the military?

On the left there's Kos, with body blows like this.

On the right, there's Jonah Goldberg, with counterpunches like this.

There may be better examples of the arguments on both sides of this issue--and I know there are other participants in this debate--but these are two recent ones I came up with.

Look, there's absolutely no doubt that we have a personnel crisis right now in our military. When two of the four branches are missing recruitment goals month after month, we're increasingly relying on highly paid mercenaries to do our fighting, and reservists in their 40's and 50's who have already served honorably for years are being recalled from jobs and families and sent directly to combat in Iraq for years at a time, it's a crisis. It is not a crisis of will, material, equipment, or logistics--it's a crisis of personnel. And to the extent that this limits or may limit our military options in Iran, North Korea or elsewhere, it has a multiplier effect on our national security.

But if you support this war and are of reasonable age and physical ability, should you drop everything, jury-rig some protective armor in your backyard, put on your cammos and head to Mosul?

First, I've long believed this nation should have some type of compulsory service. Requiring high school or college grads to spend a year in a military-support role or in reserve-type training when most would be getting paid minimum wage anyway is a good idea, and other nations with a fraction of our national security needs have no problem with this. If you support this war and think it is vital to our national security, this is one way you can serve right now; our military is a massive machine, and combat roles are a small part of it. There are jobs available for skilled personnel in every area: computer technology, equipment maintenance, logistics---and for the bloggers and pundits, in media relations as well. You don't need to be in a tent taking mortar rounds every night. You're needed right now, in this country, and your service "in the rear with the gear" could free up someone else to fill a combat role. So if fear is an issue, it shouldn't be.

Some argue it is enough that we already have a military composed of motivated, highly-skilled volunteers; no one can do the job as well as those already in uniform can do it, they say. But if your house is on fire and the kids are asleep upstairs, you go get them; you don't run to your neighbor's house and dial 911 because firemen are better trained to rescue people from burning buildings than you are. In terms of personnel needs, our military's house is on fire right now and the kids' rooms are filling with smoke.

Here's a counterpoint to consider. I think it is reasonable to argue that there are more effective ways for some people to support this war than serving in uniform. We have a massive and ever-growing budget deficit. Many people--me included--think this poses as much of a threat to our national security as anything else. We need to finance this war and our military. If we can't pay for it (and it is arguable we can't and we're not, but that's another issue) it does not matter if there is a line of volunteers from here to Mars begging to enlist. If someone has a family, pays taxes, and makes a few hundred thousand bucks a year, is he doing the nation any good by dropping everything and going to work on an Army base for $10 an hour? Or should he do his part as a civilian so we can actually pay for those tanks and jets? Indeed, our enemies realize the taxpayer is just as important as the soldier; Bin Laden has said that is why he believes civilians are legitimate targets.

Where do I come down on this? I think there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. But ultimately I think the burden of proof is on those who are vocal supporters of this war and this President. If I counted myself among them, I'd certainly think long and hard about joining. During World War II, men and women rushed to enlist regardless of money, career, family, or draft. People are needed right now, and if you think Iraq is an important part of the war on terror and thus vital to our national security, anything else is just conversation. Period.

And when I see privileged, highly educated---and generally Caucasian---writers debate this from behind the safety of a keyboard, I start thinking about shameful episodes in our national history like this. Above all else, it is imperative that we don't go down that path or anywhere near it again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. As a vet, I agree with you.

5/11/2005 8:05 AM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

Off-topic, I know, but have you seen the National Review column blaming the liberal media for the lack of support for the President's Social Security scam?

5/11/2005 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good, well you've addressed the situation for those who support the war...
Sort of.

Do you really think those calls for enlistment are going to come forth from our pulpits, media, and politicians...a great river of patriotism flowing downward from the president? Do you really think those calls are going to be heeded? More license plates and bake sales for body armor, to supplement a defense budget of 400 billion and an extra 82 billion this year for Iraq?

As to those who don't support the war, maybe it's time to get out into the streets. Somehow I think, when this time does come and it will, it will not just be pacificist democrats getting arrested.


5/11/2005 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rumsfeld wants a mean, lean, flexible, robotized, mechanized, fighting machine to get in and out; they are to be accompanied by robot troops fitted w/a M249 or M240, they don't need clothing, food, training, motivation, or pension; they can take pictures, disarm bombs, shoot w/better accuracy than any human. We're still closing bases confirmer a smaller public military. Rumsfeld says it is good kids play video games, because it gives them the hand-eye coordination and experience with the controls they'll be using in the future. He wants to privatize the military and change the DOF. He also said you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want. I think not meeting the goals is a non-issue being publicized to create angst which in itself is a recruiting tool. I've seen a dozen programs about military folks coming home (some we would all agree in not so good shape[ lists #11888] and some not too happy with the VA), and not one of them on the programs showed any wishes things were different. If those that actually serve don't have a problem, how can we? I did see the movie Gunner Palace: Some war stories will never make the nightly news,, and have read a couple of non-media blogs, but I just don't know who or what to believe anymore. I know what my commonsense says, but these don't seem to be commonsense days. People knew the strain and the lack of resources before the election and it didn't seem to bother them. I'm think'n this is a non-issue, or at least one this administration has their own plan --- after all they want to bring back new nuclear bomb making in the US. That's a problem with a government that has so much power (all 3 branches) and operates in less than a transparent manner. Hang onto your Revelations we're in for a bumpy ride.

5/11/2005 11:35 AM  
Blogger David the Gyromancer said...

As is becoming quite usual with this site, here we have an intelligent, very pointed, and very substantive critique, this time of the hypocrisy of many of the supporters of the Administration's war effort in Iraq. If Americans tending to liberal views and those tending to conservative views would insist on honesty, sacrifice, and integrity, as CR does, the spite and viciousness of American politics would fade away in a trice. (OK, a meaningless Polyanna-remark, but nonetheless, it is refreshing to read an avowed conservative castigating the hypocrites... on both sides fo the spectrum).

5/11/2005 12:14 PM  
Blogger DrDave said...

Kos, as a Gulf War era veteran of the Army, has earned the right to his opinion.

Jonah Goldberg, as a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, maybe not so much...

5/11/2005 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I agree.

My cousin who is 72 had her youngest son (in his 40's) called up. Her husband served in Korea and her oldest son is a Vietnam vet disabled from agent orange. This is madness.

If my grandson ends up drafted I will be one pissed off grandma. Those that were so pro-war should put their money where their mouth is and either serve themselves or send their kids and grandkids. They should also be fully supporting the VA program so that we can take care of the damanged young men that are coming home.

5/11/2005 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree with compulsory anything. If someone made me do something I'd resent it and resist it. I'd rather volunteer freely. And forcing young people to serve when they don't even understand how precious life is is just immoral. That's why I support the voluntary enlistment of people over 25 not under.

5/11/2005 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

World War II was a different situation because at that time our national policy was not to have a large standing military in peactime. Eisenhower warned against this and cited George Washington's similar beliefs to back him up. I realize that created the problem of being initially unprepared for the WWII. But it seems to me that a different set of problems has been created by our post-World War II policy.

I would be in favor of mandatory military service as you describe as long as the sons of privilege were not slid out of harm's way, as happened during Vietnam. Ideally this would give the decisionmakers more pause as they would have to consider their own childrens' fates, not just the lower class rabble. Also if everyone had to serve for real at some point then we wouldn't have the situation we have today where almost all of Bush's inner circle has no combat experience.

5/11/2005 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still amazed that we live in a country where a man like Max Cleland can lose his Senate seat to a man like Saxby Chambliss.

5/11/2005 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And let's not forget the two famous 20-something females...(no, not Paris and Nicole) who announced to a national TV audience that " our Dad, we're finished with college and looking for something to do."

A message to Jenna and Barbara Bush ( who stated the above at the Republican convention):

Right this way, girls.......we have uniforms and weapons and Iraq is thataway!

5/11/2005 5:35 PM  
Blogger westaustin said...

When we talk about missing recruiting goals ... and the need for hiring high priced contractors/mercenaries to fill in security/MP roles that troops would normally fill ... maybe there's method in the seeming madness of nobody in the Administration calling for their patriotic supporters to do anything more to support the troops than buying another ribbon magnet for the car and sending in another check to the RNC?

Bush pushed from the start for a privatized Airport Security force, even if he backed down. The key to the boondoggle Medicare expansion was how much money it channels explicitly to HMOs and big pharma. New toll-road provisions being pioneered in Texas but already incorporated into the interstate highway funding bills will give private businesses Government emminent-domain power to take land and create permanent corporate revenue streams.

Perhaps the real goal here is to evolve to a "Privatized" military ... where preferred political cronies can receive huge pass-through fees ... and meanwhile the body counts are hidden from the American media, since body bags of US Soldiers is probably the biggest threat to continuous war ... and body bags of DOD contractors come home anonymously.

5/11/2005 8:00 PM  
Blogger moodshifter said...

Great post. I turn 37 in July. I am an attorney. My oldest son will turn 15 years in July also. I see a draft approaching rapidly and a war with no end in sight.
I am a Liberal Democrat and do not support this war but I will gladly go, now, if I can prevent my son from going. I suspect many of my friends feel the same. This war will not end without a draft and a massive infusion of more boots on the ground. The alternative will be an end reminiscent of Vietnam.

5/11/2005 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Kos does deliver a "body blow" for the liberals, I'd hardly consider Joshua Goldberg's a "counterpunch" - more like a "counterpinch." Anyone who fails to recognize the profound example of "Do as I say, not as I do," exhibited by the Fighting Keyboardists and the Fighting Talkingheads, must be either intellectually or ethically challenged.

One thing about the anti-war perspective is that it is consistent. I don't want to kill or be killed, and I don't ask others to do so, either - especially upon such specious grounds as "my family couldn't afford the lost income." Any war I support, is a war in which I am willing to die and expose my family to suffering. Otherwise, I don't support it. Simple.

The pro-war, Fighting Keyboardist perspective incoherent, because it is self-contradictory and self-serving.

5/11/2005 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mjs, Goldberg's comment is a counterpunch that doesn't land. Whiff.

Our realist host has a cunning way with words.

5/12/2005 2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost this war of choice was not worth fighting. There is and should never be, in my opinion, a sense of patriotism in this non-sense war. Why sacrifice young able bodies for a cause that is no cause at all. There was no WMD and
Sadam Hussein was never an Al Qaeda allie. So definitely we are wasting human lives, we are spending 400 billions to kill people whereas we could spend those billions educating those same people whom they are trying to enlist in this sense less war. I am againt this war and pray that the powers that be will soon be enlightened and end it.

5/12/2005 3:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How very timely:

"Army to order 1-day break from recruiting
Move comes amid reports of inappropriate sign-up methods"

Nicely played CR.

5/12/2005 12:31 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

It does seem to be a perfect storm we are caught in right now between the swirling debt and the sandstorm halfway around the world. It is amazing to me that, for all his faults and moral transgressions, our former President was impeached and this one sails along happy as a clam.

5/12/2005 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are jobs available .....and for the bloggers and pundits, in media relations as well. Yea. THIS war could always use some more capable propagandists,

5/16/2005 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious whether the author of this blog has served in active duty. This individual claims to be an executive in the financial services industry, late 30s, Columbia MBA - in short, the opposite end of the social spectrum from most in combat roles.

The author opines that a $100k+ plus individual is somehow above serving in the military. To then call for compulsory service strikes me as being disingenuous, to say the least.

I can't understand why anyone would volunteer for active duty or to serve in combat. Our leaders don't.

5/21/2005 2:19 PM  
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