Thursday, November 22, 2007

I came to talk about the draft

Do you feel a draft?
Today I was sitting around, watching football on TV, while I was listening to the traditional noontime playing of Alice's Restaurant, by Arlo Guthrie. For those of you who have never heard it, I'm not going to explain it, other than to say it has a circuitous connection to the draft. It originally came out in 1967, so it certainly needs to be understood in that context.

During the Vietnam War (never actually called a war) resistance to the draft was a major anti-war strategy, sort of a way to stop the machinery of the war. I really enjoyed listening to David Harris talk about the draft when I was in college, and I remember him talk honestly about the problems of not having a draft. He said once (I can't prove this, this is from my memory) that without a draft, people would care less about the policies of our government, since their own children were not at risk.

5 years ago
On September 11, 2001, thousands of innocent people were killed in terrorist attacks, which were planned by cancerous elements in Afghanistan, a country under the control of religious fundamentalists. Notice, I didn't say Muslim fundamentalists. When the causes of the 9/11 attacks were identified, I was totally in support of a military response to what I felt were the human/cultural equivalent of tumors, tumors that could spread. This is an interesting point in time. I've always thought of myself as pretty much a commie-pinko-leftist kind of guy, but here I found some of my anti-war friends opposing the US entry into Afghanistan on some sort of absolute pacifist grounds.

Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iraq (sung to the tune of "Barbara Ann")
But I'm not comfortable being in the position of agreeing with anything George W. Bush says. While I now feel comfortable with the idea of having a military, and that the service these men and women provide to our country should be honored, I think having insanity call the tune at the top of our government is no way to operate. When we entered the Iraq war so blithely, and without any plan for peace, it all fell apart.

Return of the draft
So, in the last few years, there have been calls from some minority congressmen for a return to the draft. Today's 'volunteer' Army consists of an inordinate proportion of low-income young people, who have few other options. At this point there is no real support for this idea, but it brings back that old idea of how a draft might affect our foreign policy. If we had a universal service system, with no deferments for the privileged, you can bet your booties that before we send Brett and Ashley Prepster off to war, we'll make sure it's worth doing.

Modern ending
Just like the ending of the Sopranos, I don't have a nice well-wrapped solution here. Do I want my children to be put in harm's way? Not particularly. What if it's something truly noble? Please, no hypotheticals! I guess I'd just like to know how you feel about the draft.


Mark Geiger said...

In 1971, I drew a high lottery number but there was no way I was going. F the Draft then and the same now. It was a corrupt and graft ridden system then and would surely be the same now. Funny how the Cheneys, Quayles, and Ws of the world always managed to escape active duty. Funny how getting in the Guard back then kept you out of Nam when now, being in the Guard is a surefire ticket to multiple tours of duty in Iraq. So long as we stop trying to act as the world's cop and cease attempting to impose our own view of how life should be lived on others, a volunteer military should work. Bring em home and talk of restarting the corrupt and graft ridden draft will stop post haste.

Jeff Johnson said...

Noam Chomsky has argued since the Iraq War began (actually since the previous Bush's Iraq War) that the U.S. is using what he calls "economic mercenaries" (i.e., underclass folks who have few other options) to fight our wars. Some examples of Chomsky expressing these opinions were on Democracy Now:

--Jeff Johnson

Ric said...

Geoff, you’ve raised several points that border a central concern of mine: “...government of the people, by the people, for the people” is perishing, or has perished already, at least in the USA. Reason? We citizens no longer involve ourselves in governing, as we’re too busy with making money, whether as oil-dependent politicians, or as low-paid foot soldiers, or (your job title here....). We’ve let it go to those who are motivated – by ego, economics, or ideology – to govern us.

Returning to the draft AND other universal service (AKA “citizenship”) options might well engage more of us in the governing (including policy-making) process. Making it “cool” to be informed and engaged in the public debate might help. But until enough of us believe that both knowing what's going on and participating are really important, we’ll continue toward government of the governors, by the governors, and for the governors.

Tyree said...

Having no military experience myself leaves a major blind spot to my commentary. But several Viet vet friends of mine say keep the military voluntary because the draft forces the service to accept people who do not want to serve. They say when (not if your) life is on the line, you don't want some person in your squad who is thinking about fragging the LT. or some other distraction from your mission at hand. That is one reason among many why the Vietnam war was so dysfunctional.
Just my .02.


UnifiedTheory said...

I understand the theory behind
wanting the draft to ensure
responsible decision making by
our leaders. However, in the
end I don't think it would have
any influence on whether they
chose to go to war or not.

I have the feeling (take note I
said, 'I have a feeling' for I am
about to delve into the realm of
conspiracy and not fact.) our
leaders see a greater, larger, and
grander plan than what they say.
They feed us the short term goal
to engage us in a war that they
know will take and indefinite
amount of time to fulfill. They
have accepted the fact that many
will die. Indeed, they have
accepted the fact that we may not
see the end of this for

What they envision is a
restructuring of the entire region,
way of life, and belief. This is
something that won't be
accomplished until well past their
lifetime and probably won't cease
until the children of today are
gone too. These people have
resigned us to the long term
battle. They have the stomach to
make the decision, but the public
has to have the stomach to keep
watching their kids die.

They don't trust the people to
see and accept the long term plan
they have drawn up amongst
themselves. They wouldn't care if
there was a draft. They made their
decision knowing this is a fight
their grandchildren will carry on
in one way or another anyways.