I haven’t watched the video of this incident. I don’t really want to.? The descriptions of it are enough for me.

Our all volunteer army, as Jeff notes, is a very real problem, particularly when we do not have a draft during wartime.? No draft means that no one with the means or intention to avoid military service ever serves in the military. ? That means our volunteer army is made up of people who want to be in situations like the one which resulted in the death of innocent journalists, women, and children, or people who have to be because of their socio-economic status.

Our military force is thus not a cross section of America.? It is a distilled, highly concentrated group of Americans who are insulated from the very American instinct to shy away from war, but surrounded by an equally American instinct toward war.? That means there are no mitigating influences in the military culture, which by nature would create a more representative force.

There is no Yale freshman forced against his will to be in that helicopter next to the kid from an Alabama trailer park.? Both would do the job just as well, but together they might do the job with a bit more professionalism than what is displayed in this 2007 incident – not because a Yalie who is forced to be there would be any better at it, but that Yalie just may not enjoy it, his Alabama buddy might respect his partner’s reluctance, and together that might reduce the very ugly reaction of dumbasses doing victory dances on dead bodies.

What’s more, today’s military very deliberately distills a higher proof of this moonshine.? We recruit these kids with video games, these kids grow up playing those video games, thus reinforcing a detached sanitary approach to killing.? We have a universally accepted notion that whatever our military does, they are heroes.? We parade them around like talismans of all that is America, in a media environment with a twitchy reflex deployed 24/7 to defend their every mistake.

War is an awful business, not to be enjoyed.? Yes, do your job.? Rip those fuckers heads off.? But do so because you have to – not because you enjoy it.? Try getting a World War II veteran to sound as callous as these guys about his body count at The Bulge.?? You won’t get very far.

I submit that’s because American society was more fully represented in our military in World War II, because everyone had to serve, and the culture of our killing machine was far more representative of our country’s approach to war itself.? It’s why Iraq has lasted longer than WWII.? It’s why it took us less than 4 years to take out Hirohito, Mussolini, and Hitler, but Osama Bin Laden is still out there almost 9 years after 9/11.? When all of America goes to war, we do so as a final resort, with our full conscience represented in our forces, thus it is quick, it is brutal, and then it is OVER.

A draft would help accomplish all of this. Rather quickly.

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  • Two words. My Lai. More later.

  • By that logic, we should be drafting cops too. And politicians.

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  • Joseph,

    There might be some merit to drafting politicians, at least out of a pool of qualified professionals. 🙂

    Anyway, I'm not really a huge fan of a 100% volunteer military. I struggle with the idea of forcing people to fight, balancing that with the force size needs of the service at the time, etc etc. Generally, I think I come down on the side of an Israeli or Swiss model – mandatory short-term military service with the option to stay on as a professional or go into a large inactive reserve force at the end of your term (with an overall “opt-out to civil service” option for conscientious objectors). I think the value of a drafted army is not so much in their attitude (it can be a negative or a positive, depending on the situation) but with how it effects the political will of the populace in a democracy. I do believe that a drafted army will result in The People being more cautious at approving leaping into war. It's easy to approve when the Army is all-volunteer (even if they struggle to make recruiting numbers).

    Also, I think we need to be careful not to label all people who elect to serve in an all-volunteer military as sociopaths. There are a lot of reasons to serve besides “being able to legally kill brown people”. The three times I've been on the edge of serving have been due to, in order, family tradition, public service, and employment opportunity (it doesn't hurt that I'd get to play with some awesome multi-million dollar machines). There are undoubtedly some sociopaths who elect to join the military, but I would hazard a guess that even in an all-volunteer service most folks aren't doing it for the opportunity to kill people. I know that's not what you are saying or implying, Tim, but I still feel compelled to state that.

  • I don't dislike the idea, but here's the big problem:

    Right now we've got 1.5 million active members of the armed services and another 1.5 million reservists eating up nearly 700 billion dollars a year.

    Every year about 4.2 million kids reach the age they would be eligible for military service.

    Even if we just had everyone do a year of mandatory military service (which is pretty unlikely considering all of the training necessary, etc.) we'd have to expand our military ranks – and the associated spending – by at least 4 to 5 times the current size.

    And when all of these people get out, are they all eligible for free medical care at the VA? If so – I think we just got our single-payer health care system.

  • You could make a case for better screening of military recruits. But if you start eliminating every 17 year old kid who saw a cool army commercial and wants to play with guns, then you aren't going to have any military at all.

  • mvirenicus

    i joined the army fresh out of high high school for two of the reasons you mentioned — family tradition and a belief in public service. employment opportunity didn't apply because my path was laid out before me and it appeared rosy. my family tried to dissuade me from joining. i was bullheaded. if only i had listened to them.

    once IN the military, i discovered that tim's description of most of the recruits is highly applicable and, aside from a select few friends and associates who came from a background similar to mine, i felt alienated from the whole shebang.

  • mvirenicus

    to be perfectly honest, this is the first post you've written in a while that made me raise my fist and shout, “yes!” way to go, tim.

  • mvirenicus

    i like the concept. i'm a socialist. i firmly believe that young people should be guided throughout their formative education toward the occupations best suited to them. based on factors such as aptitude and personality, in essence society would be drafting people to work in fields most satisfying to themselves and the needs of the beehive.

  • I would argue that having seen the video your post title is entirely inaccurate. Collateral assumes there were actual combatants being engaged and some innocents were mistakenly killed as a result of engaging the enemy. Not only did I not see any enemy combatants or weapons, I did not see a threat of any kind that would warrant the engagement. Nothing collateral at all about how these people were killed.

    Have more in response to this but decided to do it in a post since it got so damned long! 😉

  • tudorman

    You're all fucking kidding, right? I mean all you asshats that advocate for a draft or “mandatory service”. Because, like, the state OWNS YOU, eh? So instead of having the states dirty work done by a bunch of kids who signed up for it, hey, let's point a guy at all the kids and make them go point a gun at everybody the fuck else. And when the idiots at the Department of State, or the DOD, screw up and get their asses in a sling, and these kids end up committing atrocities no human should even contemplate, we'll just chalk it up to “following orders”.

    What the hell happened to the anti-war people? As a former neocon, I'd like to know. I did some deep thinking that led me to cast of my warmongering ways, and now I've found I'm standing alone in the fucking wilderness.

  • mvirenicus

    if it were up to me we'd have a military budget of 25 cents. i think that's anti-war.

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