Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer, will present findings on Capitol Hill Tuesday that argue that the majority of suicide terrorism around the world since 1980 has had a common cause: military occupation....
"We have lots of evidence now that when you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns, ... and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign," Pape said in an interview last week on his findings.
Yet many conservatives bend over backwards to show that inherent characteristics of race or religion or region make certain people more naturally prone to violence. Haven't they seen Red Dawn, fer chrissakes?
So...when I wrote that post the other day on reinstating the draft, my argument that national and universal service (with a civil service option, preferably) would cause Americans to pause before sending troops to war was only a portion of my unease with an all-volunteer army. There's also something...disquieting...about having a professional military detached from civilian life. It's not that I think they'd turn on us, as Larry K brought up - at least not as long as conditions are stable in our body politic - but...well...it's just too easy to use the army for missions that aren't necessarily in our nation's best interest.
Let me explain by pulling up this quote by John Bolton on why he joined the National Guard during Vietnam - a war he ostensibly supported: "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy."
Bolton obviously misses the point. If you're not willing to lay down your life in a war you "support," you don't actually "support" the war.
You know the rest of the story: John Bolton, along with a number of other top administration officials (Bush and Cheney, to name two others) with a similar military background, planned and organized the invasion of Iraq based on manufactured intelligence reports to satisfy intellectual theories about American power abroad - much in the same way a clutch of basement-dwelling, coke-and-pizza-swilling D&D-obsessed pubescent geeks would.
And they could get away with it because we have a professional military to do the mission.
The draft didn't keep us from trying to occupy Vietnam and Korea, it only limited our options once we were there. In the time we were in those two places, we ended up killing a hell of a lot more innocent people than we've killed in Afghanistan, and suffering many more casualties, despite being there less time, because the military we had then (no offense to any one who served then) was not the quality that can be achieved with a professional, volunteer army.
Yeah, well, I imagine casualties would be higher in Iraq if we were fighting the Chinese army, but his point about the draft not stopping Korea or Vietnam is absolutely true.
Still, there's a disconnect here: our leaders intervene militarily to maintain an American empire its people don't want to sacrifice for, but still assume as their birthright. There are two options: give up the empire and face the wrath of Americans, or pay someone else to fight for them and shield them as best you can from the unpleasantness that follows. The dichotomy was made evident in Korea and Vietnam, and the unrest that followed those wars drove our government to choose the latter option.
A draft might force the burden of American empire directly onto the shoulders of whose burden it is - the American people's - and might cause us to reconsider. Of course, too many folks have a lot of money invested in American empire...
Last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke at Duke University and had made some intriguing comments:
"It is also true that whatever their fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the wars remain an abstraction, a distant and unpleasant series of news items that do not affect them personally.
"... For a growing number of Americans, service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do."
Indeed, Mr. Gates said, fewer and fewer Americans know someone with military experience in their family or their social circle, and that is particularly true in certain areas of the country, such as the Northeast, where family military traditions and college ROTC programs are more scarce.
The change has been startling -- and unique in American history. Unlike the draftees of the Civil War or even the Greatest Generation of World War II, these soldiers do not become farmers or businessmen or schoolteachers when their tour is over. They reenlist. They are proud, lean and hard. If they have families, their wives and children are battered but tough. The soldiers of this generation are arguably the best fighters in the world.
Gone are the days of the citizen soldier. Today's wars are fought by a small group of dedicated, well-trained men and women who do multiple rotations in our war zones, but who "disdain what they perceive as the loose values, sloppy discipline and quick-buck self-centeredness of civilian life." According to Wood, these men and women find it hard to form civilian relationships between deployment, and end up making their lasting, personal bonds with those they serve with.
As Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute relates, Gates called this group "the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle." And there's no doubting that. Gates finishes his point:
And, indeed, it is hard to imagine, he notes, that the country would have been able to undertake the "complex, protracted missions" it has in Iraq and Afghanistan "without the dedication of seasoned professionals who chose to serve-and keep on serving ... Going back to compulsory service, in addition to being politically impossible, is highly impracticable given the kinds of technical skills, experience, and attributes needed to be successful on the battlefield in the 21st century."
In fact, Gates' and Schmitt's only worry about the separation between the military and the rest of the country is that it's not drawing from a varied enough civilian population. Gates' speech was aimed at ginning up excitement for the service among Duke students, and Schmitt thinks the Secretary of Defense needs to "use his good reputation to increase public pressure on the faculties and administrations of the nation's elite schools to let ROTC back on campus." The disconnect, to Schmitt, is between reg'lar folks and the pointy-heads.
But where Gates and Schmitt find solace in the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan would have been possible only with an all-volunteer force, I think it's an excellent argument for reinstating the draft - or, heck! how about compulsory military or civil service for all 18-year-olds? After all, it was Nixon who implemented the all-volunteer army in reaction to domestic antiwar sentiment surrounding Vietnam. Could you imagine rushing in like fools into Iraq if every 18-year-old in the country were on the front lines?
President Obama, the Pentagon and leading lawmakers reached agreement Monday on legislative language and a time frame for repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, clearing the way for Congress to take up the measure as soon as this week.
Just goes to show that it is possible to pressure the Obama administration from the left.
It's not a directive by the Pentagon to not uphold DADT, but it's pretty close. Check out the actual changes to the policy. The big differences are essentially that a service person has to be caught in flagrante, or have solicited sex, instead of just having suspected homosexual tendencies. That is, hand-holding or kissing won't cut it. Additionally, only officers of higher rank can initiate charges, and the spectrum of accusers has narrowed.
It's not perfect. But the change of policy does two things: first, it protects all but the most flagrant violators of DADT; second, it paves the way for complete repeal of the policy by Congress.
The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate recently released "Climate Patriots: A Military Perspective on Energy, Climate Change and American National Security." This five-minute feature video showcasing the inextricable links between climate change, our energy posture and our nation's security.
"Climate Patriots" addresses how America's dependence on foreign oil puts our armed forces in harm's way and how the effects of climate change could lead to more humanitarian missions and political instability. It features a number of military experts, including former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner (R-VA). This video reinforces the recent Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review that declared "Climate change... may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world."
To learn more about the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate go to www.pewclimatesecurity.com/ Pew National Security is distributing the "Climate Patriots" video throughout the nation, if your organization, school or program would like a DVD copy of this video please contact Matt Leow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-370-3183 to obtain your copy.
So there's been a lot of hand wringing about a health care reform bill that will cost approximately $800-900 billion over ten years. To put that into perspective, let's look at defense spending in the U.S. this year:
The Senate on Thursday sent the massive 2010 Pentagon policy bill to the president's desk for signing. The Senate approved the bill authorizing $680 billion in defense spending by a vote of 68-29.
All told, every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on these programs and agencies next year. By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China's per capita spending is less than $100.
Keeping in mind that Social Security and Medicare are funded by earmarked payroll taxes that are used to underwrite the general budget of the U.S., it is worth remembering that Defense is by far the biggest portion of the federal budget.
Some of that is reasonable. Unlike Chris Preble, I'm not an avowed opponent of U.S. military domination. I think the U.S. is a relatively enlightened hegemon and I think unipolar worlds offer some useful stability.
But the Defense budget in the U.S. is wildly out of control in ways that do nothing to advance American interests. That means that we're spending a lot of money we don't have to.
Fighting to focus the defense budget on...defense instead of on it being a massive jobs program for private military contractors is one of the most underrated social justice issues of our time. Tackled properly, it could be a real game changer in positive ways for the nation.
Personally, I don't mind that a few rules are rigged in favor of a holder of the nation's highest award for valor.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that McCain didn't win the Congressional Medal of Honor, this comment dodges the story.
McCain doesn't get sweetheart deals from credit card companies because he's a war hero. He gets 'em because he's rich. And it's not like McCain earned his wealth by dint of hard work - unless you consider spending time with a sugar mamma you don't respect a form of work.
Here are the top stories this week related to our soldiers here and abroad, taken from the Our Troops Newsladder.
Mike Mullen, the top ranking officer in the U.S. Military got an earful of tough questions when he visited with troops at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, ranging from inquiries about the gaping pay disparity between private contractors in Iraq and soliders stationed there to questions about Marines being issued older rifles than field officers.
The report from Veterans For America about the glaring lack of mental health resources available to the Army's most-deployed division, the 10th Mountain Division stationed in Fort Drum, continued to gather steam this week. Sen. Hillary Clinton responded to the crisis, saying "It is simply unacceptable that 10th Mountain Division soldiers who have recently returned from Iraq have to wait for up to two months for mental health care appointments. Not only has the Department of Defense failed to provide Fort Drum and other military installations with adequate mental health care resources, but there is also a persistent stigma within the military that discourages our servicemembers from seeking and receiving the mental health care that many of them need."