May 18, 2004

Our Small, Quiet Draft

Michael Froomkin is puzzled that campuses--filled with people who would be drafted were there to be an activation of the military draft--are so quiet:

Discourse.net: The Curious Case of the Surprisingly Quiet Campuses: Rumors, some documented by Nick Confessore, abound that the US government has advanced plans to reinstate the draft shortly after the November election. It’s always good when our government does serious contingency planning — had they done more of it (and listened to those who did it) before the invasion of Iraq we might not be in this mess. And contingency plans don’t always mean an actual policy. But these rumors suggest something beyond the ordinary ‘maybe’ scenarios. Plus, they fit in with the Army’s obvious serious shortage of troops. As a colleague of mine pointed out the other day — amidst a discussion of how to ensure that his draft-age son gets into the sort of unit that doesn’t take casualties — the really weird thing is how little we’ve been hearing about this on campuses...

Nick Confessore provides the clues to the answer:

TAPPED: May 2004 Archives: ...recruiters are telling inactive reservists that they're going to be called up one way or another eventually, so they might as well sign up now and get into non-Iraq-deploying units while they still can. There's also a "warning order" -- i.e., a heads-up -- from the Army's personnel command that talks about the involuntary transfer of inactive reservists to the active reserves, and thus into units that are on deck for the next few Iraq rotations. My understanding of how reserve call-ups work is imperfect, but if memory serves, the inactive reservists -- known as the Individual Ready Reserve -- are people who have already fulfilled their term of enlistment but can be called up as individuals if the military needs their particular skills or specialty badly enough. In other words, after a couple of years of dipping into the main reserves -- essentially chewing through them to sustain post-9/11 deployments, the Afghanistan occupation, and then the Iraq invasion -- we're now dipping into the inactive reserves.... There is no question we do not have enough manpower (among other things) in the active-duty military to sustain our current "operations tempo," as the military wonks call it. And there are many good arguments to be made for reinstating the draft...

There is something to be said for reinstituting the draft--if it starts with 50-58 year old men who had deferments during the 1960s. (They can drive HUMVs.)

But the more important thing is that we have already reinstituted the draft--in a peculiar way. Reservists--who thought that they were standing ready to reinforce the regular army in a serious war while the general draft and total war mobilization got underway--have discovered that that's not their role. Their role is to be drafted at a ferocious rate precisely so that the government can fight its war in Iraq "on the cheap," without disturbing the lives of college students who might demonstrate and attract TV cameras.

Posted by DeLong at May 18, 2004 09:01 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

This issue needs to be trumpeted throughout the land. Broadcasting to younger voters about the likelihood of conscription would be a boon to Democratic candidates. This lone issue might tip the scales for many young men, and fear will motivate higher turnouts among the young in general. Yielding a much more lopsided Dem-Rep ratio as well.

Posted by: oyster on May 18, 2004 10:13 PM

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I want someone - Kerry, a reporter, whatever - to demand that Bush promise there will be no draft. If Bush did make that promise, it might help him in the election, but if he hedged or ignored the request, it could hurt him immensely.

It's just wishful thinking, of course. Realistically this would only get media play if Kerry did it, and it would be too big a risk for him since Bush might make the promise.

Posted by: mg on May 18, 2004 10:31 PM

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I noticed something interesting at my former campus CSUDH. (Graduated with a BA in Economics in December)

ROTC has a nice new office and it has the full PR push out front. All kinds of cool signs, new paint, bigger office.

Very interesting....

Posted by: section321 on May 18, 2004 10:48 PM

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>>>>Reservists--who thought that they were standing ready to reinforce the regular army in a serious war while the general draft and total war mobilization got underway--have discovered that that's not their role.

so the draft is increasingly a class-biased one?

(ps. i wish you would permit html in your comments)

Posted by: drapeto on May 19, 2004 12:59 AM

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'If Bush did make that promise, it might help him in the election but if he hedged or ignored the request, it could hurt him immensely.'
what part about Bush is a liar are you having trouble understanding?

Posted by: bryan on May 19, 2004 02:38 AM

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Actually, it's not the 'demonstrate and attract TV cameras' which would worry the administration. It's the fact that people would realize that Bush's policies actually **cost them** something.

The GOP understands the lure of 'money for nothing'. Supply-side tax cuts promise that (actually, they promise more - more money and more government services). Bush's tax rebates disguised as tax cuts did this - most people merely got their tax return early, but didn't know this. They thought that they were getting something.

That's why the right hates Krugman, because he actually does the math.

Posted by: Barry on May 19, 2004 05:22 AM

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President Kerry may get the honor of reinstituting the draft depending on how deep a hole we're in by this November. Admitting defeat and getting out before we realize ruin is looking better every day. And, I seriously wonder if the Iraqis wouldn't end up in a better situation without us.

If Kerry were to institute a draft, which may be the right thing to do, I fear that would lead to President Delay in 2008 using it to put 18-year-olds in front of Muslim cannons in an attempt to "free" the holy land.

On the upside we may get to revive a lot of great music. In fact I think I'll hook up my turntable and put on some Fogerty right now.

Posted by: dennisS on May 19, 2004 06:08 AM

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It's not college student demonstrations they're worried about, it's the thought of drafting the children of the wealthy and middle class.

The Bush administration's entire message to the upper middle class and upper class is, "We can give you everything you used to get and more from the government, and you won't have to pay for it." As a result, they can't support a draft. Suddenly their decent showings among white male managers and suburban soccer moms would drop through the floor at the thought of little Johnny being forced off to war.

Posted by: MDtoMN on May 19, 2004 06:39 AM

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Barry and MDtoMN have it right, and to my mind, the corollary is one of the strongest arguments *for* mandatory national service: Americans need to get past the lunatic notion that public policies are cost-free, and exist in some other universe that they needn't bother to be aware of.

For that reason, I'd rather the Dems avoid easy demagoguery about the draft bogeyman, and instead try to foster a serious discussion of national service. But anyone hoping for even a flicker of leadership from Democrats has to be discouraged by their calls to open the spigots on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Isn't it a little late in the day to continue pandering to the desire for endless cheap gasoline?!?

Posted by: sglover on May 19, 2004 07:28 AM

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Brad has part of the "quiet draft" story. The missing element is that the services are now operating under "stop loss" orders that bar people from retiring when their hitches are up and, if they'd separated recently, required some to go back in. Mark Shields and Hackworth have written about this quite a bit.

Secondly, while reservists may have *thought* their role was to support an expanded main force when the shit really started flying, *in fact* the volunteer model has been that they and the guard would make up something like 30% of what we used to call "main force" troops. In other words, about a third of our force in any big deployment short of all-out, drop-everything, draft-everybody-we're-up-against-it, Great-Patriotic-War-style mobilization, was *supposed* to be part-time soldiers.

Overall, the "volunteer" military gives the executive freedom from political pressures while it retains the disruptive powers of the draft, but localizes them in the working population. Bush's people didn't invent this, just exploit it.

Their real innovation in this department has been turning to mercenaries for so much of this force. I conclude that BushCo won't call for a draft until they figure out how their buddies can make more money from it than they do now.

Posted by: Altoid on May 19, 2004 08:05 AM

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dennisS and MDtoMN are on the ball: Kerry is the more likely to reinstate a draft. If the soft suburbanites are voting Bush, Kerry will have no qualms about screwing them and sending their sons and daughters to Iraq -- along with everybody's elses.

Liberal hawks are the ones to worry about. Read "Progressive Internationalism" from PPI.

As an aside, as a college instructor at a school full of kids from the upper and upper-middle classes, I can tell you that college students simply do not believe a draft is possible. They have a difficult time even thinking it in a literal sense.

Posted by: General Glut on May 19, 2004 08:16 AM

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Should we not draft women? What happened to equal protection? With all those students in the service we won’t need so many college professors. We can draft them too.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on May 19, 2004 08:49 AM

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>>> I want someone - Kerry, a reporter, whatever - to demand that Bush promise there will be no draft. If Bush did make that promise, it might help him in the election, but if he hedged or ignored the request, it could hurt him immensely. <<<

I'm far from sure it would hurt Bush to promise no draft and then break that promise after the election. IIRC, Reagan promised to stop the draft registration that Carter had restarted. And after he was elected, he broke that promise and left it in place.

Posted by: Captain Button on May 19, 2004 09:59 AM

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I've always been amenable to the idea of the draft. I don't want to join the military myself, because I have other plans, but I'd do it if someone FORCED me to do it. And I really do want to join the military, because then I stand a decent chance of losing all of my limbs. Without my limbs, I'd re-learn locomotion, manipulation of objects, etc, through slithering on my torso, snake-like. And, lets face it, the slithering thing is a lot more graceful than lumpen, crude locomotion with limbs which I use currently. So, I think the draft's a good idea.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 19, 2004 01:01 PM

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Someone please do some research on conservative reactions to Democratic Congressmans Charlie Rheingold's proposal in 2002 to reinstate the draft. If Brad's scoop is good there is some explaining to do.

Posted by: Michael Carroll on May 19, 2004 01:16 PM

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Take the politics away for a minute and look at the needs of the country. There is no question that we will have to reinstate the draft. We should have reinstated it already but it will happen after the election. Bush has already necessitated that.

Imagine what would happen now if something started up in Korea or Taiwan or perhaps Iran or Syria entering the Iraq war against us while we are scraping through the reserves just to fill slots in Iraq - we are SO far below our manpower needs ... we should have been drafting for 6 months now because of the committment in Iraq and the other needs around the world! This should be made clear to the public but Bush is putting politics ahead of the country so we are not having a serious discussion of this or other issues - like how to pay for this war, etc.

The only real question is what kind of draft we are going to implement.

Posted by: Dave Johnson on May 19, 2004 01:50 PM

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"Stressed Army desperate for warm bodies."

Really, doesn't that tell you everything you need to know?

It's Joseph Galloway's Knight Ridder column today:
http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/columnists/joe_galloway/8703565.htm

Posted by: Patience on May 19, 2004 02:21 PM

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Re General Glut's last comment: We have mostly first-generation students, probably lower-middle to middle-middle. Some of the more politically involved are worried about a draft, maybe because they seem convinced there wouldn't be any student deferments. A couple of them mentioned it in the last few weeks.

Personally, I think a draft wouldn't be a terrible thing, in that it might tend to restrain presidents and secretaries of defense, get draft-age kids interested in politics, and make politics about something real rather than merely shambolic.

Granted, it would be drastic medicine. But morally I don't see much difference between the kind of thing Julian Elson points to, and the system now where we make people select that fate mainly on the basis of how little money they have. Lots of my students can only afford college because of ROTC or guard money.

Posted by: Altoid on May 19, 2004 05:58 PM

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MDtoMN: "It's not college student demonstrations they're worried about, it's the thought of drafting the children of the wealthy and middle class."

Paraphrasing the president, "what's the difference"?

Posted by: cm on May 20, 2004 12:48 AM

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wow thats a surprise.......

Posted by: Beatles Tabs on July 14, 2004 06:38 PM

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wow thats a surprise.......

Posted by: Beatles Tabs on July 14, 2004 06:41 PM

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