Sunday, October 24, 2004

A Draft in our Future?

Go read some columns on David Hackworth's web page. Hackworth - "the most decorated" military man in US History - is an outspoken critic with bipartisan credibility. (He was scathing about details of the Balkans intervention, while grudgingly admitting that it went pretty well, overall, under difficult conditions.) (See:

Hackworth quotes DoD Sec. Rumsfeld saying that draftees who fought in Vietnam were of "no value to the US military." At least as egregious an insult to Vietnam-era vets as any criticism John Kerry leveled in the 1970s, and far less accurate.

Unlike many liberals opposing the Iraq War, I believe that events like Abu Ghraib are exceptions to a generally high level of professionalism among our soldiers. What Abu Ghraib proved is that two things are absolutely necessary. Imperatives that fell apart in Vietnam and that are being deliberately undermined by Rumsfeld today.

* Policy at the top that insists on behavior that reflects well upon America and proves our high moral standing.

* Relentless supervision to ensure that bad apples do not spoil the barrel.

While Rumsfeld is dismantling both of these, I believe that senior officers desperately want them.

No, the US Officer Corps must be seen for what it is... our greatest and final bulwark against rationalizers and would-be tyrants. Following traditions of maturity and excellence laid down by the great George Marshall, the Officer Corps is the third best-educated clade in American society, after college professors and medical doctors! Their dedication to Constitutional government and citizen sovereignty is fierce and under-appreciated by most civilians. A majority would die protecting us from tyranny, either imposed from without or creeping Big Brotherdom from within.

Which helps explain the appointment of new CIA Director Goss, a right-wing political operative who had the gall to tell a passive, GOP-led Senate that he would be neutral and bipartisan upon taking over our Intelligence Community... and who then proceeded to fill dozens of top CIA slots with dedicated neoconservative shills. Several of whom have been heard in the halls gloating that "a hundred heads will roll" at CIA after the election.

The blatant politicization of the CIA began with the scandalous way that intelligence was misused to stir a frenzy over "weapons of mass destruction", exactly replicating the kind of lying pretext we saw in the Tonkin Gulf Incident. It now continues according to plan. First a complete housecleaning at the top, plus an "emergency" reorganization of the intelligence community that subjugates the Pentagon and removes any diversity of opinion. Next, purges of those who will not toe the political line. Then everyone who is sick of the lying. Then more.

Read Hackworth. He is a famous American curmudgeon and a bit of a drama queen. But he is also a bona fide American hero and has proved to be RIGHT, far more often than anybody can count.

And he can recognize a repetition of Vietnam stupidities better than anybody.


Headcase said...

I'm surprised that got Hackworth's website on your blog. But it's a nice surprise because I've been a loyal reader of his website for several years now.

Most of what he writes about I agreed but not all of them. As a Army Reservist who will be serving my 18th year in Nov, I can attest to a lot of what is going wrong. And going right.

Your comment about the officer corps in general is true, but as someone who has seen the trees, rather than the forest, I can see where the rot and leadership failures exist. There's a lot of pressure to meet numbers, setting unrealistic goals, etc that can cause shortcuts and compromises that should never have happened. Abu Gharib was just the worst example of this.

Rumsfeld should have resigned or been fired a long time ago. Bush's overdeveloped sense of loyalty to Rumsfeld has moved beyond a personal relationship to actually hurting our country by sticking to a failed strategy.

Rumsfeld is the face of the "shock and awe" strategy which has been a partial success. The shock and awe strategy is the latest descendant of the Nazi's blitzkrieg. We all know who ultimately won in WW2.

There are some surface commonalities between shock and awe and blitzkrieg. Both moved fast, destroyed and captured large armies, and initially were greeted as liberators.

Except for historians and vets, people forget that when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, a lot of suppressed minorities and nationalities welcomed them as liberators. After surviving and enduring Stalin's reign of terror who wouldn't.

The Nazis eventually alienated these natural allies with their arrogance, contempt and atrocities. I'm afraid that our actions in Iraq might be repeating some of the mistakes made by the Germans.

Let me make this clear, I am NOT comparing our actions in Iraq with those of Nazi Germany. What I am trying to say is that both countries both resorted to roughly the same military tactics to achieve their goals. Initially, both were successful but eventually failed, as in the case of Nazi Germany. I hope that our country will learn from our mistakes and win and get out of Iraq. Unlike Hitler's Germany, we still have allies and a int'l community on our side, willingly or grudingly, that will help us with the mess in Iraq.

To me, a sign that Bush is serious about cleaning up the mess in Iraq would be firing Rumsfeld and some others who got us into this war and bungled the postwar planning. Lincoln must have set the record for firing generals who failed to carry out the goal of winning the Civil War. He also fired his Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, early into the Civil War when he showed he wasn't up to snuff for the office.

Unfortunately for the American people, and a puzzlement to me, is the appearant failure to fire incompetent and failing military leaders and their civilian superiors. This is a worrisome trend which started in Vietnam and continues to plague us today. The last time a general was fired during wartime was Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. If I'm wrong with my historical facts, please correct me.

This inability of present day Presidents to fire people will hurt our cause by keeping in place failed strategies and people who can't implement them or lead soldiers in combat.

It seems to me that Rumsfeld and company fell in love with the theory of shock and awe. It would behoove to be reminded of what Jefferson Davis once said about the Confederate States of America: it died of a theory.

BTW, your fellow colleague, Jerry Pournelle, doesn't support the Iraq war either.

I won't vote for John Kerry but I won't vote for Bush either. I don't trust Kerry's judgement. The example that I use is when he said of the coalition in Iraq was comprised of the bribed, the coerced, the corrupt, etc. I don't understand how he can slandered and libeled those countries whose soldiers lives are at risk over there.

Since they're foreigners, our media haven't covered them. But they are taking casualties, just like us.

As far as Bush is concerned, he was the wrong Republican to win the White House. John McCain should have won the nomination except that Bush & Rove waged a dirty campaign, nothing new for them, which included some racist sounding comments regarding one of McCain's adopted children.

As a libertarian leaning person, it amuses me that the GOP's nominating process is almost like a coronation. This was evident in 1996 when Dole was nominated because the party establishment thought he was the most senior and he deserved it. It became more blatant when W ran in 2000. The establishment panicked when they though McCain might actually win nomination. That's when all the usual suspects came out of the woodworks and worked to defeat McCain.

I would have feel more safer and competent if McCain was the president which is why I'm voting for John McCain as a writein candidate and as a sign of my discontent with both parties.

This duopoly (GOP & Dems) may be a danger to our civilization.

I read your political salvo. I don't agree with all of your views but I did enjoy the reasonings.

Please keep up your good work!

David Brin said...

Excellent remarks by a thoughtful patriot. Thanks.

And no, I don't expect to agree about everything! See my nonfiction book The Transparent Society in which I praise the art of argument.

For example, it took BOTH ARCO and the Sierra Club for us to get an Alaska pipeline that works almost flawlessly and minimized damage while delivering its promises. That's called politics and pragmatic Americans used to be good at it.

That's the point. This present election is not about right and left or standard political positions. It is about a takeover of our civilization by a monstrous coalition of groups that do NOT want us to argue and engage in normal politics. See:

Please consider holding your nose and choking down the bile and voting for John Kerry. After all, he has one saving grace you'll agree with -- he likes John McCain and will probably give McCain big duties! In any event, here's the crux. Kerry disagrees with you WITHIN the grand american consensus, not outside of it.

An alternative is to help the libertarian party. I believe in that, too. See:
So don't take me for a reflex-liberal!

But this is a year to help drive out monsters... then bring us real american conservatives next time. And the rest of your life you'll be able to brag that you are not a "reflex" anything. Because once you even voted democrat in order to save civilization. (It will be powerful to use in arguments, proving your openminded balance! ;-)

Thrive and endure.

OldFan said...

I also have a few years in uniform [about 27 off & on] and I also really like Hack's books and columns, but Rumsfeld is pretty much right about the value of draftees in modern war and old Hack is sometimes all wet.

In WWII, we used the draft as a control mechanism, i.e there were tons of volunteers on Dec 8, but the training system could not possibly process them into soldiers all at once [even then many soldiers trained with wooden rifles and horse-drawn 75's!] The draft simply sorted out the mapower into digestible increments over time. Many of these troops were put into units that had just been formed, or into National Guard divisions that has been mobilized, and spent 1-2 years training as units for combat.

The Philipine Divivsion fought hard at the onset of the war, but it was not until late 1942 that we invaded North Africa with about 3 divisions and saw major ground action again. Most of the units [over 70%] in the Army did not see battle until June of 1944 - and they saw less than 10 months of it. To nobody's surprise the least-trained divisons [e.g. the luckless 106th Infantry that was destroyed in the Ardennes] did the worst.

Keep that firmly in mind: an average of no less than 12 months of unit training and less than 1-year of mixed-intensity combat [in/out of contact] was the norm in WWII. Even the doughty Marines did not send their men on repeated beach assaults: they rested for months, rotating their divisions between battles.

Them comes Viet Nam. The hapless infantry draftee goes though 16 weeks [required by law] of Basic and AIT, then is shipped to a bloody war. In the best divisions [e.g. 1st Air Cav] he is lucky enough to get 2-4 weeks extra individual training, then he goes 'up-country'. He is put into a unit where 50% of the men will rotate out during his 12-month tour and he is virtually certain to change his entire chain of command twice. He is in contact almost every day - no safe 'rear areas' for him. Unit cohesion is non-existent and just about the time the 'FNG' turns into a seasoned troooper, he is a '2-digit midget', then 'really short', and then gone. This was a recipe for disaster - which is exactly what we got. Rumsfeld has made an accurate assesment of the personnel situation and it should not be dismissed as some kind of idel slur. The effectiveness of a policy is not a function of the sacrifices made by individuals: most of the draftees tried hard to do what was asked of them, but they could not possibly have succeeded.

We now know that it takes 2 years to make a decent tread-head or gun-bunny, it takes even longer to make a really dangerous line grunt, and it takes at least 6 years to make an Special Forces sergeant. No 2-year draftee IS OF ANY REAL USE in the situation we are now in.

Besides, I served with the last dregs of the unwilling who were dragged into uniform. They deeply resented everything about the Army [understandably] and actively worked to disrupt it [no forgiveness there].

If we cannot get enough men to join the Mobile Infantry, then the Bugs DESERVE to eat us!

tat111 said...

I won't vote for John Kerry but I won't vote for Bush either. I don't trust Kerry's judgement. The example that I use is when he said of the coalition in Iraq was comprised of the bribed, the coerced, the corrupt, etc. I don't understand how he can slandered and libeled those countries whose soldiers lives are at risk over there.

As an Australian I am proud of our long tradition of following the US and the UK into most major wars over the last 120 years. Friendship carries responsibility which I am sure has figured largely in our past and present Prime Ministers minds when making the decision to follow the US into war. This does not stop many of us from resenting the fact that we have been involved in two unjustified wars (Iraq and Vietnam) but friendship carries a price-perhaps this unspoken coercion is what Senator Kerry was alluding to.

I find it impossible to judge what sort of President Kerry would make, but I am sure I am speaking for many Australians when suggesting that George Bush has not made a great impression. As for John Kerry’s anti war protests, at least the man was prepared to speak with honesty and conviction. I will always be thankful that Gough Whitlam (our Prime Minister 1972-1975) pulled the troops out of Vietnam immediately after winning office.

Anonymous said...

"The example that I use is when he said of the coalition in Iraq was comprised of the bribed, the coerced, the corrupt, etc. I don't understand how he can slandered and libeled those countries whose soldiers lives are at risk over there."

I interpret this as referring to the leaders of these countries, not their soldiers.