Thomas Ricks has an interesting online article about the Pentagon’s likely recommendations for how to move forward in Iraq.

Our 3 basic options, as the generals see it, are: go big, go long, or go home. Going big means sending an additional 20-30,000 troops. Going long means reducing our overall force size while sending more advisors to help train Iraqi troops and police, and staying for another 5-10 years. Going home means just what it sounds like.

They dismiss the 3rd option because it would lead to total civil war in Iraq. As you may have heard over the weekend, Gen. Abizaid favors the 2nd — going long. What the Pentagon favors is a hybrid of #1 and #2: send an additional 20-30,000 troops for a short time, while transitioning to a smaller, longer term force composed of more advisors.

Frankly, I don’t see how that would work. The problem, as best I can tell, with the Iraqi forces isn’t that they lack the ability to fight; it’s that they lack the will to fight. That is, the lack the will to fight for Iraq. They’ll fight to defend their own region or sect or ethnic group, but if they’re sent to fight for some other region or sect or ethnic group, they literally walk away. They quit and go home. (And take the guns we paid for with them.) I fail to see how sending more American military advisors is going to fix that. All we’re doing is arming and training people for the sectarian militias.

As Ricks notes, the Pentagon came up with the 20-30k number in their “go big” option because they realized they simply didn’t have the several hundred thousand more troops needed to actually conduct a counter-insurgency war. Even to get that smaller number, they’re going to have to extend tours and call up more reservists and National Guard.

Which is why, in my opinion, we should institute a draft. I mean, how is this not a draft situation?

  • We’re at war.
  • It’s a two-front war — Iraq and Afghanistan — that in 4 months will have lasted as long as America’s involvement in World War II.
  • We can’t afford to lose in either place.
  • For several months, we’ve been losing in both places.
  • We flat don’t have enough troops to change that.

It seems to me the rubber has met the road. Either we give up, or we make this a truly American war. So far, this has been a war the military has fought, but America hasn’t. America isn’t at war; the military is. America’s non-military families have not had to contribute a single thing to the war effort. We aren’t even picking up the tab (unless you count putting it on the national credit card for later generations to pay off). I worry about the future of a democracy when a majority of the populace slips into thinking “going to war” means “sending to war.” It makes us careless and sloppy about how and when we decide to declare war. If the history of this adventure in Iraq is any guide, we’re already much too cavalier. It’s time to make this thing real, and fight it for real.

World War II is the last substantial war America won. If we want to take anything resembling victory from this one, maybe we should learn something from what we did in WWII: go hugely big, get the whole nation involved, make our point, then go home. We need to draft and train that several hundred thousand soldiers the Pentagon knows it needs to really fight a counter-insurgency, and go fight it.

8 Responses to “Draft”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    You make sense, which scares me.

    Not scary that you make sense of course, but what you make sense about…

    If going home is not an option (with apologies for the mess) – which I’m assuming isn’t an option – then your argument is the only one that makes sense to me.

  2. DeJon Redd Says:

    I’ve come down with something. So I wish had more time and energy to talk through this idea. Given our current military situation, the idea is interesting.

    And I read somewhere that NY Rep Charles Rangel agrees with you.

    Would we draft both men and women?

    I would speculate the American public would not accept conscription gladly.

    As pseudo-public relations bubba, I wonder how the government would go about selling this doozey.

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Let me clarify something from me: I’d be against it.

    Because I’ve been against this war from the start.

    But given war objectives, your idea makes the most strategic sense.

    The political mess, however, is just horrendous. As DeJon points out, selling the idea would be most difficult, but not accomplishing anything isn’t an easy sell either.

    The option I prefer (which is simply laughable I know): Go to the United Nations, apologize for breaking international law etcetera, admit we’ve created a mess, and sit down at the table with the whole world to talk about possible solutions. And then NEVER do stuff like this again…

    Since neither political party wants to admit it screwed up, it really isn’t worth the effort typing my idea.

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’ve been against this war from the start, as well, but it seems to me that that’s strategically beside the point. Now that we are at war, I think it’s important that we demonstrate real strength and a national will to fight (if not win, which I still think is not really possible).

    I agree that a draft is politically unlikely, Charlie Rangel notwithstanding (and maybe John McCain and Chuck Hagel, too). But that’s because, as in the Vietnam War, we’ve thus far had no political leadership in this war. None. Neither the president nor anyone else has been willing to really level with the nation about what we were getting/have gotten ourselves into, and therefore nobody has been willing to say, “This isn’t a war like the first Gulf War. It’s a war like World War II. It’s going to take national organization and sacrifice to win. Many of you will have to go and fight. Many will die. The economy will take a hit. There may be shortages of some things. We’re going to war, and every one of you is going to be affected, probably for the worse, until it’s over. Now, here are the policies we’ll be enacting: draft, etc.”

    Oddly enough, despite the lack of leadership thus far, I think it still could be done. It would take non-partisan leadership — a unified front to explain it to the people, especially to the millions who consider the war “Bush’s Blunder.” It was a blunder, and Bush did make it. But while we should hold him personally politically accountable for it, we as a nation still have to win it. An equal but opposite blunder doesn’t fix his blunder, it compounds it.

    A bunch of Democrats would have to buck the anti-war base and make that case. And the president would have to admit this whole thing was a mistake and sign off on some ideas from the other side of the fence to show his willingness to work together with others to fix the mess.

    If that happened, I think the rhetorical resources exist for convincing the country to support a draft. It’s the WWII analogy. That’s a war people still feel extremely patriotic, proud, and supportive about. Rhetorically pair this war with that one, and the people will come along.

    So, politically, I think the tough part wouldn’t be making the case to the people; it would be getting the president and the Democratic leadership to do what they need to do.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Another interesting article by Ricks. This one discusses problems with the “go long” option, i.e., training the Iraqis.


    [A former Army trainer in Iraq] recommended an entirely different orientation in Iraq, both for trainers and for regular U.S. units. “Don’t train on finding the enemy,” he said. “Train on finding your friends, and they will help you find your enemy. . . . Once you find your friends, finding the enemy is easy.”

  6. DeJon Redd Says:

    I caught this on a USA Today left at gate B13 at DFW today…

    [Side note: Is it wrong to relish the thrill of of finding a free newspaper?]

    Draft viewed as impractical, unnecessary

  7. Royce Ogle Says:

    The only person in the Congress who has mentioned a draft is Rep. Charlie Rangel whose reason for bringing it up again (It was already soundly rejected by his legislative fellows earlier)is the same as before. He says a disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups are serving in combat. The facts are that blacks are under represented in the conflict compared to the general population of the U.S. Rangel, like many other liberals never let trivial things like facts get in the way of their agenda. Even Charlie Rangel doesn’t believe in a draft. His interest is race and politics, not war. He is only making political hay for his Harlem and Washington Heights voters.

    If I were on the battle field, I would rather have one willing brave person who wants to be there by my side than 5 or 6 who are there against their will. The draft of course takes some of the most brave young people but it also takes deadbeats and cowards.

  8. juvenal_urbino Says:

    The only person in the Congress who has mentioned a draft is Rep. Charlie Rangel

    Actually, both John McCain and Chuck Hagel, well known spokesmen for Harlem, have also said it should be considered. And Lindsey Graham declined to rule it out, when asked.

    The facts are that blacks are under represented in the conflict compared to the general population of the U.S.

    I’m curious where your numbers come from. A quick Google search turned up this. However, it addresses the percentage in the military as a whole, not specifically those in combat zones.

    Quoth the linked article:

    “Despite the declines, the percentage of blacks in the military continues to exceed the percentage in the U.S. population. Nineteen percent of the military’s active-duty enlisted force is black, compared to 13 percent of the country’s population.”

    The draft of course takes some of the most brave young people but it also takes deadbeats and cowards.

    As does the all-volunteer method. After all, that deadbeat Charlie Rangel volunteered. (Oh, wait though, he was decorated for heroism in Korea. My mistake.)

    [Side note: Is it wrong to relish the thrill of of finding a free newspaper?]

    I’d say that depends on what paper it is, DeJon. 🙂

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