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November 21, 2006

Why Iraq?

-- by Dave Johnson

Richard Cohen writes why it was such a good thing to invade Iraq,

Saddam Hussein was a beast who had twice invaded his neighbors, had killed his own people with abandon and posed a threat -- and not just a theoretical one -- to Israel.
What does ANY of that have to do with America's national security? It's fine for him to think it's a good thing to go over and kill several hundred thousand Iraqis because Saddam was a bad person, but what about the people in AMERICA's military? Why should THEY be put at risk of death or injury for that reason? Is that what THEY signed up for?

This is one reason we need a draft -- because it returns the PUBLIC to the discussion.

Posted by Dave Johnson at November 21, 2006 9:59 AM

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Comments

Oh brother! First Fairness Doctrine and now the draft. You've got quite a sense of nostalgia!

Why do guys like Charlie Rangel like the draft? It makes no sense to me. The idea that supplying the military with unlimited cannon fodder would reduce war casualties, or result in better policymaking is pretty laughable.

I understand the argument that politicians and their families are not going to fight, so they are supposedly callous and uncaring about those who do go. History doesn't bear this out. We've had a much smaller tolerance for casualties in the post-draft era.

Posted by: jaymuntz [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 11:45 AM

It's got nothing to do with cannon fodder or politicians' families being in the forces; it's got to do with the public being aware of what's going on. I lived through the 60's, and nearly every family with kids was aware of the war - they had to be, with sons and/or sons-in-law perhaps in the line of fire, without having chosen to be there. Once fatalities passed 1,000 (November, 1965), the war moved to the front burner and stayed there.

Washington (the man) and the other Founders (except maybe that proto-totalitarian Hamilton) were dead set against a professional standing army (of more than token size) beholden to no one but the executive power - yet that's what we've got now. There's nothing like the prospect of a draft to concentrate the mind of the electorate on what war is being waged and why.

Posted by: fatbear [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 1:44 PM

Though I agree that young Americans should take part in some sort of public service, I'd prefer to see them help the less fortunate in our society than take up arms. Democracy should not be won at the cost of human life and there has already been too much suffering.

Conscription did not prevent this President, nor the many members of his cabinet, from dodging the bullets that took the lives of a number of my friends in Viet Nam. Our invasion of Cambodia did not prevent the Pol Pot regime massacres, which, as I recall, actually escalated after our bungled attempts to prevent them.

What we should have remembered about the Vietnam conflict is that it was escalated by a President who was determined to protect his Southeast Asian oil wells for as long as this country was willing to let thier sons and daughters die for them.

If our founding fathers had forseen the day when our nation's economic needs would not be served by the resources within its borders, or that outside interests would someday attack us in pursuit of them, do I think they would have been more keen on building and maintaining a standing army? Reluctantly, I'd say they would, and with the aid of conscription.

Posted by: Johnzane [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 2:21 PM

SE Asian oil wells? Where? Indonesia (which has lots of oil) is a long way from Vietnam, which trails both Indonesia and Malaysia in oil production, and which had only hopes of oil back in the 60's.

How about the Dulles containment doctrine? As in the falling dominoes?

The Founders knew all too much about international economic warfare - remember the Barberry pirates and the Constitution (the ship, not the document)? And the shores of Tripoli?

They would still not have been in favor of a professional standing army; a citizen militia, yes, but much of the Declaration of Independence deals with the executive's misuse of a standing professional mercenary army. They would have favored conscription over professional mercenaries any day, as long as the conscripts were well trained and supplied.

Please understand I am not using mercenary in a pejorative sense; but our army professionals have become a class unto themselves, cut off from the rest of society (and our vicissitudes). Please read The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, which details the more than 750 overseas bases we now have and the separate society in which our soldiers live.

Posted by: fatbear [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 3:15 PM

To fatbear: Your second point (about the Founders and their position on standing armies) is well taken. It would be wonderful if the military only geared up when there was a war on, and didn't exist the rest of the time. Unfortunately, I think the world has gotten way to small for that, and it just wouldn't work today.

To your first point, I don't believe that the draft makes a difference in how engaged the public is. Vietnam was certainly a tragedy. However 38,000 people had to die there before we left. Isn't it more likely that the casualty rate (i.e. the number killed per month) in Vietnam was much higher, and that's the reason there was a strong anti-war movement that existed then? This war has been costly, but it's been no Vietnam!

Do we really need to reinstate the draft for the purposes making "the public being aware of what's going on?" I don't believe it would achieve that goal, nor do I think that that is a legitimate goal for policymakers to address. The fact that the military relies solely on volunteers makes conflict less likely, because people won't volunteer unless they know that they are valued and will be used for productive purposes. That's the good that was achieved when the draft was abolished.

I'm mostly afraid that this war will reduce our readiness for future conflicts, because people won't volunteer after witnessing the debacle in Iraq. Our enemies in the future may take advantage of that.

Posted by: jaymuntz [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 7:27 PM

I mistyped - there were 58,000 dead in Vietnam. Fortuunatly for me, that only makes my point stronger.

Posted by: jaymuntz [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 7:30 PM

fatbear,it's about waking the public up just as Dave say's.If your kids have to go there maybe you'll pay a little more attention.As an aside...not that anyone is paying attention....the people that are going there,again and again and again are getting a trifle fatigued,and or finally,not coming home anymore.I don't much care if it's a politicians kid,your kid or mine.People pay attention when anything hit's close to home.That is the point in calling for a draft.It's time this war hit's home.In war there are sacrifices.I have always understood that to mean a whole country's sacrifices.Maybe those would be financial.Might be you can't buy tires for your car.Might be gas is rationed.Might be your kid is off to war.Might even,with the right president that his kid is off to war.Sacrifice brings people together.It's a pain in the butt but it works.A common cause.No common cause is no cause.
Jaymunz,this war has already reduced our readiness.How can we keep useing up the same people over and over and over again?Do you think young people do not take that into consideraration when they decide to join the military? Duh? If you think people don't already get the debacle you are incorrect.If you think we all just lay low and someone else can fight this good fight and then I don't have to.Fine.You go right ahead and think that.But that idea is failing on a daily basis.Are we in a war or not?

Posted by: knras [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 7:59 PM

knras - you didn't read my posts completely or else I can't write anymore - your 1st para is exactly my statement: the draft means that the entire populace is involved, not just those who choose to join.

As for our readiness, there is no doubt this war has done major damage to our armed forces, not only the professional mercenaries but also the National Guard and the various services' Reserve units. Not to mention the enormous depletion of equipment, most of which was not designed to withstand 4 years of continual use in desert combat conditions.

One other point that Rangel is trying to make: a mercenary army draws a disproportionate share of its conscripts from the poorer and less educated portions of society, many of whom see the services as the only way out.

As for the Founders, how about Washington's farewell address (1796), which includes: Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of Government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.

More recently, Ike (1961) and his warning on the military-industrial complex - and this from a military hero.

As I said a few posts ago, read Chalmers Johnson and remember that we now have a greater international military presence than England did at the height of the empire - the sun doesn't even have a chance to set on our bases. Is that what we want?

Posted by: fatbear [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2006 10:20 AM

I owe fatbears an apology.I was reading too quicky and put two posts together and addressed the wrong poster.I'm sorry.My fault.It gets to be too long a day sometimes.Honestly one shouldn't try to speed read through these things.
Most especially when one isn't really a speed reader.
After reading again.I see what I did and understand his exasperation.

Posted by: knras [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2006 8:30 PM

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