Bring Back the Draft?

#1
Some good points in the article discussed in this post:

Bring Back the Draft
By MICHAEL R. GORDON

WASHINGTON — Lt. Col. Paul Yingling became a pivotal figure in the Iraq debate when he wrote an article three years ago that faulted the performance of American generals. It was a hard-hitting commentary that broadcast out loud the sort of misgivings that many of the Army’s younger officers had been keeping to themselves.

Now, Colonel Yingling is back with a provocative article on the American way of waging war. With his characteristic bluntness, he has called for the reinstitution of the draft and the reassertion of Congress’s role in deciding when the United States should use force.

In a national security debate often filled with fuzz words, equivocation and not-for-attribution quotes, Colonel Yingling has boldly taken on an issue that has been simmering for years, one that most politicians and policy makers in Washington are happy to avoid.

“In many ways, the prosecution of the war in Iraq is a cautionary tale against bypassing the war powers of Congress,” Colonel Yingling wrote in his article on “The Founders’ Wisdom,” which is being published by Armed Forces Journal, a nongovernmental publication that covers military issues.

If members of Congress had to impose conscription and fully mobilize the National Guard, they might have been more skeptical of the case for war. Had members of Congress been required to cut popular domestic programs to pay for the war, they might have insisted on prosecuting the war more intelligently and vigorously. Instead, Iraq edged toward chaos over the course of four years, costing the lives of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of billions of dollars in borrowed money. Members of Congress held hearings and asked questions, but took no action to change the course of events in Iraq.

As the United States commits additional forces to Afghanistan, Americans would be well served to return to our Constitutional system of war powers. The burdens of fighting in Afghanistan cannot and will not be shouldered solely by those in uniform today.

I first met Colonel Yingling a few years back. As the deputy commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, Colonel Yingling had attended an emotional ceremony for his soldiers who had been awarded the Purple Heart. The troops had given their all. Some arrived in wheelchairs or had terrible wounds. But had the generals developed a strategy that was worthy of their sacrifice? Colonel Yingling was troubled by that question. There was talk going around at senior levels that the military had done everything it could, and that it was the Iraqis or civilians who had dropped the ball. To some, that seemed too convenient, and not entirely honest.

Colonel Yingling’s previous article — “A Failure in Generalship,” completed in late 2006 during the dark days of sectarian cleansing before the surge and published in May 2007 — was a seismic event in military circles. Colonel Yingling received hundreds of e-mail messages from soldiers endorsing his comments. The reaction from on high was mostly a deafening silence, though one member of the brass, Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, the senior officer at Fort Hood at the time, assembled the captains at the base chapel to hear his rebuttal.

After Gen. David H. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy began to turn things around in Iraq, Colonel Yingling sought to return for his third tour. An officer on General Petraeus’s staff helped him secure a spot on the military task force that was dealing with detention issues. After he finished that tour of duty in July 2009 Colonel Yingling took up a post as a professor of security studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, a research center operated by the American and Germany governments.

But Iraq was still very much on his mind. Colonel Yingling was talking at the Marshall center with a group of Bulgarians, who asked how the United States made decisions on war and peace.

“They started asking about American war powers and the constitutional system,” Colonel Yingling said in a telephone interview. “I started to explain normatively what it was supposed to be and what it actually was — how different what we do is from what was envisioned in the Constitution.”

He put down his thoughts in the article, which was reviewed by the dean at the Marshall center before its publication in Armed Forces Journal.

Colonel Yingling’s essential argument is that the all-volunteer military has placed an enormous burden for the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan upon the shoulders of a tiny sliver of the American population. In so doing, it has effectively exempted the most privileged members of American society from military service, constrained the size of the armed forces, forced the military to pay large bonuses to fill the gaps in its ranks and encouraged Congress to acquiesce in decisions on war and peace without the sort of thorough review that would be carried out for a military operation that affected a broader swath of the population.

“Soldiers, Marines and their families are bearing the whole burden of the war, and 99 percent of the public is disengaged from the war,” Colonel Yingling told me. “The two control mechanisms to control executive ambition — asking the people to supply the blood and treasure for war — are missing.

“I have never heard any political leader ask people to volunteer and fight,” he said. “That is fantastic to me. How can it be that we choose to fight a war but don’t ask people to fight it?

“In Afghanistan, we went through an agonizing decision to commit 30,000 troops, which will take months to get in place. We are a nation of 300 million people. The reason that the burdens of war are so heavy is that they are borne by so few people.”

Many arguments can be made against a return to conscription. Most experts believe the all-volunteer military is better trained and more professional that the Vietnam-era force of volunteers and draftees. If a draft were to be introduced, only a relatively small portion of the population would likely be needed to fill out the ranks, which could foment resentment.

As a practical political matter, the vast majority of politicians, Democrat as well as Republican, prefer things as they are now, as does the Pentagon. The professional military is highly competent and can be used as a tool of foreign policy without sparking the sort of momentous political debate or demonstrations that might follow if thousands were drafted and sent to war against their will. In a capital that cannot reach accord on health care, the possibility of reintroducing the draft seems fantastically remote, barring a major high-intensity conflagration.

But having spent nearly seven years moving from the Iraq battlefields to the Washington policy arena and back, I have enormous sympathy for Colonel Yingling’s argument that most of American society is isolated from the sacrifices that a few Americans make, albeit volunteers. Congressional scrutiny of the Bush administration’s planning before the invasion and challenges of occupation was shallow, and the reflexive opposition of many representatives to the surge indicated that they failed to understand the dynamics on the battlefield.

Would American officials — in the executive and legislative branches — be more rigorous in the decisions on using force if major military operations required a formal declaration of war? Colonel Yingling makes a strong case in his article that they would. “Eschewing a Congressional declaration of war calls into question both the wisdom of the war and the public’s commitment to winning it,” he writes in his new article. It is a debate well worth having and it is revealing that it was a military officer who has sought to stimulate it.
http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/a-critic-returns/
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
Oh yes, I can really see a proposal to bring back conscription being a huge vote winner. This Yingling bod seems to be confusing two problems - the utter failure of the US to plan for the aftermath of the Iraq war but actually to do a number of things that were the exact opposite of what was required, in short to make a total b@lls of the whole thing, largely through ingrained American ignorance of any country but their own, bolstered by the usual smug arrogance that they don't need to find out, AND the sharing of the military burden, which ignores the fact that those with means, like Clinton for instance, find ways of dodging the draft and leave it to others to do their dangerous duty for them. I certainly wouldn't want to have to lean on unwilling conscripts instead of dedicated and trained regulars. TG when we had National Service the RN had only a tiny number of NS bodies but I knew a number that didn't pul their weight (but others that got really stuck in). The waste of their time was saddening too, I later had a colleague who had spent two years guarding Dover Castle against the French (I suppose).
 
#3
seaweed said:
Oh yes, I can really see a proposal to bring back conscription being a huge vote winner. This Yingling bod seems to be confusing two problems - the utter failure of the US to plan for the aftermath of the Iraq war but actually to do a number of things that were the exact opposite of what was required, in short to make a total b@lls of the whole thing, largely through ingrained American ignorance of any country but their own, bolstered by the usual smug arrogance that they don't need to find out, AND the sharing of the military burden, which ignores the fact that those with means, like Clinton for instance, find ways of dodging the draft and leave it to others to do their dangerous duty for them. I certainly wouldn't want to have to lean on unwilling conscripts instead of dedicated and trained regulars. TG when we had National Service the RN had only a tiny number of NS bodies but I knew a number that didn't pul their weight (but others that got really stuck in). The waste of their time was saddening too, I later had a colleague who had spent two years guarding Dover Castle against the French (I suppose).
Without commenting on your IMHO overbroad Septic slagging, I will say that these are knotty issues politically and socially. I fought in a war involving conscripts and while I saw instances like that you describe, I also saw a lot of heroism. The upside more broadly is it ensures the people are fully engaged and connected to those military adventures of our political masters such that it is more likely that the people will have more control over such decisions. Conscription also has the value of involving more citizens in their government. The old system had its flaws in terms of Clintonesque dodging but even so it did have a lot to commend it from a citizenship standpoint more than the military benefits.

I worry that our all volunteer approach runs the risk of creating a warrior class that is virtually mercenary in its societal role and that is not healthy for a republic. IMHO there is something very wrong when the typical civilian scene is totally devoid of any hint that we are in 2 wars.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
To the extent that the Afghan war is an away match, that's bound to happen. Incidentally I think the reason conscription worked here in WW2 was that the entire nation was up to its eyeballs in the war, not just the armed forces.
 
#5
seaweed said:
To the extent that the Afghan war is an away match, that's bound to happen. Incidentally I think the reason conscription worked here in WW2 was that the entire nation was up to its eyeballs in the war, not just the armed forces.
Wars are too easy for politicians to wage when the people that go do their bidding are too isolated from the broader society. I still think the citizenry of a democratic nation should be more intimately involved on a broader scale than as it is now where the wars are "real" primarily only to the families and friends of those serving.
 
#6
I read a piece penned by Colonel David Hackworth way back in 2002 if I remember correctly, along the same lines as Yingling`s. I think Hack called for the return of the citizen soldier but in a form more like national service.
 
#7
Is Yingling still serving?

P-T
 
#8
postman_twit said:
Is Yingling still serving?

P-T
When I saw him in April 2009 at a conference he was CO of 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery.
 
#9
Not just no, but FCUK NO!

We dont have the Facilities anymore to suddenly take in 200K draftees, much less the issues with dependents, training resources(ranges, weapons, ammo, instructors, cadre, etc). For what after all that?

2 year hitch with about 1/3 just to trainup(even longer for certain specialities).

And not to mention, the left goes berserk, the college kiddies run for Canada, the political suicide for any politician who votes this in.
 
#11
I would love to see the chavs in uniform but look how the last draft worked for the septics in Vietnam did not work to well. Would it be a can of worms now? and can UK plc fund it and would the chavs in uniform be any good. My boy is only 14 and he wants to join up he is super fit and clued up right up the ying yang sad git reads all my old weapon pams etc even get's me to update them from the lads at work he wants to make a life in the forces would chaves in uniform I do not think so and would they have the moral courage to actually do the job. During the last war which the septics were late for (as usual) the British youth flocked to the cause and flag as UK plc was in danger my question is can the youth of today see the danger from Terry T no of course not we don’t have him waiting to storm our beaches there fore they have no interest in defending the country.
 
#12
I agree with the Colonel, and applaud him for having the integrity, intestinal fortitude, and moral courage to recognize and bring forth issues that others will not.

I was vehemently opposed to conscription, however, without the support of citizen volunteers, and elected and military leadership, a professional military force will not be able to maintain the numbers, or the quality, of the troops it needs to efficiently and effectively maintain the force. When civilians living in the lap of luxury have no need to enlist to fight in a foreign land, they don't.

The failure to recruit troops at an appropriate level results in lowering recruitment standards, and using cash bonuses as enticements, and this in turn weakens the conventional force. I would go so far as to say that conscription would actually bring a higher standard of recruit to the services since the pool of candidates would be much larger, and standards could be maintained at a higher level.

Conscription is a viable option indeed, however, I am of the opinion that our congress would completely fvck up the potential to raise or maintain standards, and would use it to instead fill the ranks with the same idiots that need "waivers" and big fat bonuses to enlist that we get today. No difference really, except we save the funds used for bonuses.

I especially agree with the Colonel concerning the use of force as it relates to the war powers act, and feel we have completely fvcked this one up yet again. If the people will not support it, and congress will not declare a war, than all we are doing is half assing, wasting lives, and wasting cash, as we did in Viet Nam. It is not worth it.

Failure to identify realistic and quantifiable objectives, and the failure to provide the resources to accomplish those objectives in a timely manner, leads to an inexcusable waste of manpower and resources. We failed to learn this from Viet Nam.
 
#15
jumpinjarhead said:
seaweed said:
To the extent that the Afghan war is an away match, that's bound to happen. Incidentally I think the reason conscription worked here in WW2 was that the entire nation was up to its eyeballs in the war, not just the armed forces.
Wars are too easy for politicians to wage when the people that go do their bidding are too isolated from the broader society. I still think the citizenry of a democratic nation should be more intimately involved on a broader scale than as it is now where the wars are "real" primarily only to the families and friends of those serving.
Very good point of view

While I don't agree with politics and the objectives of waging war on foreign real estate for what can be described as neferious commercial interests (oil, strategic territory etc) I think alot of "Right thinking" members of the site would like to see national service as a social tool in the UK to imbue the youth of the day with certain positive values and a commonality. And perhaps as a political detterent to sending our youth to war unneccesarily
 
#16
Yingling is no more than a desperate seeker of notoriety. He was singularly unimpressive when talking to a group I was in last year. His only redeeming feature is that he is named after a fine Pennsylvanian beer, albeit with a different spelling.
 
#17
Yingling is no more than a desperate seeker of notoriety. He was singularly unimpressive when talking to a group I was in last year. His only redeeming feature is that he is named after a fine Pennsylvanian beer, albeit with a different spelling.

He may very well be a "desperate seeker of notoriety", however, this does not mean his published works and opinions are wrong.


He has touched on taboo subjects that many of his rank and above WILL NOT ADDRESS due to a lack of moral courage and fear of detrimental effects to their career. For this he has my respect, and has displayed the characteristics of a LEADER.

Had we more leaders such as this man, our forces and country would be better off.
 
#18
JJ, I thought this debate would have gone to the grave in the US years ago, but like Sinatra it keeps making come backs!

Wars have always been easy for politicians, they only have to face the electorate, not a daisy cutter. And, knowing pollies as I do, I doubt that even if the draft were reinstated that they would think twice about going to war....they would still go as they will never have to pay the full price! Think about it, they may get booted out of the Senate or HoR, but seriously, is that such a high price to pay when you can go straight to the corporate sector, as they all do, or better still become an 'expert' on CNN or Foxy News :) ! Jeez even old R.M Nixon still managed to get lots of money from interviews, a Presidental Library (which BTW I found most interesting when I visited, as he had trinkets from just about every nut ball leader on the planet on display), and all that after bursting the borders in SE Asia, promotion of Operation Condor in South America, threatening the nuclear option in the Mid East...and of course, the icing on the cake, getting the boot from the White House!

The article is interesting, but completely misses the point! This is in many ways surprising, as no doubt Colonel Yingling has pressed the flesh with many senior US politicians. He of all people should know, understand and appreciate the 'mind set' of these people, yet he ignores it! I wonder why? I hate to be the conspirator here, but he's not a member of AIPAC is he? :lol: But I digress, wars are based on 'interests', and that like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Today's good guy is tomorrows villan, they have a resource which we need, etc and so forth. Politicians never plan for the outcomes of war, just look at Iraq! Q. Where was the plan? A. There wasn't any!...same with Afghanistan.

Post war Iraq consisted of a number of profitable contracts...nothing more, nothing less. Where are Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney these days? Well they are all doing nicely thank you very much, its not exactly skid row out there!

Look, untill this political/ideological/neanderathal mind set is changed we will continue down the same old path of destruction. Bringing back conscription will not solve this! It will however lead to increased employment opportunities in the Funeral service sector.

I rest my case.
 
#19
I gather that the vast majority of US draftees in SVN were let down dreadfully by the Stateside training system; men arriving at Infantry units without ever having been shown how to fire or zero an M16, how to set up a Claymore..Australian conscripts were at least well trained.

As for the original question; it will never happen...

unless it's called something like 'Stop-loss'...
 
#20
auscam said:
I gather that the vast majority of US draftees in SVN were let down dreadfully by the Stateside training system; men arriving at Infantry units without ever having been shown how to fire or zero an M16, how to set up a Claymore..Australian conscripts were at least well trained.

As for the original question; it will never happen...

unless it's called something like 'Stop-loss'...
Not only that but when it got to the Project 100,000 ("McNamara's Plan") of theretofore unqualified low-IQ men ("Forrest Gump"?), many were virtually untrainable.

Even so, I still think it is unhealthy for any "democratic" (the US is not a democracy but a Constitutional republic) nation for it to rely solely on "professional" military (whether comprised of that nation's own or hired out to others like the Romans with the Germanic and other tribes). I realize this is problematic in terms of the time available for training etc. and adds to the challenges of leaders to motivate troops etc. but these things can be surmounted. This also presupposes that any such system would be truly blind to power and privilege such that all persons serve subject only to bona fide medical conditions.

Given the rather discouraging trajectory the US is now on in terms of "civic mindedness," "selflessness," "political cowardice" etc. I realize this idea is pretty much a "non starter" but at least I can say "I told you so" when the barbarians are coming over the walls. :(
 

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