No, We Don’t Need To Bring Back The Draft

Once again, a pundit has come up with the boneheaded idea of reinstating the draft.

Every now and then, we get arguments about reinstating the draft for one reason or another. Congressman Charles Rangel has introduced legislation purporting to do that almost every year since the Iraq War started, arguing that the burden of military service is being born disproportionally by minorities and the poor. At other times, pundits have argued that a draft, with a possible option for civilian service, would be a way to restore some sense of “national unity.” Others have pointed to the multiple tours of duty that soldiers have served over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the strain that has put on soldiers and families, to argue that we need to expand our manpower. None of these proposals have ever gone anywhere, of course, but on Monday, long time military correspondent Thomas Ricks became the latest to argue for reinstating the draft:

A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

Critics will argue that this is a political non-starter. It may be now. But America has already witnessed far less benign forms of conscription. A new draft that maintains the size and the quality of the current all-volunteer force, saves the government money through civilian national service and frees professional soldiers from performing menial tasks would appeal to many constituencies.

Others argue that the numbers don’t add up. With an average cohort of about four million 18-year-olds annually, they say, there is simply no place to put all these people. But the government could use this cheap labor in new ways, doing jobs that governments do in other countries but which have been deemed too expensive in this one, like providing universal free day care or delivering meals to elderly shut-ins. And if too many people applied for the 18-month military program, then a lottery system could be devised — the opposite of the 1970s-era system where being selected was hardly desirable. The rest could perform nonmilitary national service.

A final objection is the price tag; this program would cost billions of dollars. But it also would save billions, especially if implemented broadly and imaginatively. One reason our relatively small military is hugely expensive is that all of today’s volunteer soldiers are paid well; they often have spouses and children who require housing and medical care.

Unmarried conscripts don’t need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less.

In other words, let’s conscript young people and force them to work for the state because they’re cheap and they have nothing better to do. Ricks cites in favor of his proposition comments made by retired General Stanley McChrystal, who once commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said this week that the United States should bring back the draft if it ever goes to war again.

“I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn’t be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population,” McChrystal said at a late-night event June 29 at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. “I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.”

He argued that the burdens of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t been properly shared across the U.S. population, and emphasized that the U.S. military could train draftees so that there wouldn’t be a loss of effectiveness in the war effort.

“I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a professional service, but I think we’d be better if we actually went to a draft these days,” he said. “There would some loss of professionalism, but for the nation it would be a better course.”

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq placed unfair and extreme burdens on the professional military, especially reservists, and their families, McChrystal said.

“We’ve never done that in the United State before; we’ve never fought an extended war with an all- volunteer military. So what it means is you’ve got a very small population that you’re going to and you’re going to it over and over again,” he said. “Because it’s less than one percent of the population… people are very supportive but they don’t have the same connection to it.”

McChrystal’s comments are interesting because they are one of the first times I’ve seen a high-ranking military figure, albeit a retired one, speak out in favor of a draft. Normally, the response one gets from the commanders on this topic is that they don’t want a draft at all largely because the costs of training new soldiers are far higher than they were during the years the draft was in place. For example, it takes far longer to train a soldier in the use of modern weapons and weapons systems than it did in World War II. Unless one anticipates that we are going to have another years-long war, which seems unlikely given our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s quite likely that there wouldn’t even be enough time to gather draftees, train them effectively, and get them in theater before the war, or police action, or whatever you choose to call it would be over. Nations drafted soldiers in the past because they needed bodies, or to be more blunt about it, cannon fodder. That simply isn’t the way that war is fought anymore.

There are other parts of Ricks’ plan that are simply nonsensical. What, exactly, does he propose doing with those draftees who would not choose the military option? Well, as you can see above, he suggests that they could mow the lawn, drive generals around, and do paperwork. This is perhaps the most ridiculous suggestion of all. The idea that we need an army of lawn mowers is simply absurd, and the idea that these young people would learn something valuable while driving around some 3-star is kind of laughable. In fact, it’s probably the one part of his plan that makes it a non-starter. What 18 year old is going want to give up two years of his life to the state by mowing lawns and driving around the brass? They would get more practical experience working a menial job, and they wouldn’t have been forced to do it. Even more ridiculous, though, is his proposal for this who would turn down service, that they would be denied all future benefits including Medicare (and Social Security?). I doubt that Ricks intends this proposal to mean that these libertarian-minded opt-outs would also be able to avoid paying, say, Medicare taxes, so essentially what he’s arguing is that they should be punished for their refusal to serve under threat of compulsion by being taxed but not being permitted to obtain the benefits of that taxation. An army of wage slaves perhaps?

Christopher Preble points out that Ricks’ proposal would do nothing to address the problems he claims exist:

Mr. Ricks’s plan will certainly cost more money than our current all-volunteer force, especially in the near term. For example, we can expect tuition to skyrocket as soon as college administrators realize that the taxpayers are on the hook to pay for these new conscripts’ secondary education. The long-term savings that Ricks anticipates from changes to the military retirement are likely to prove equally elusive; past attempts to rein in costs for military retirees, including changes to eligibility rules, have repeatedly failed. There are sensible ideasfor fixing the problem, but the politics are still really tough.

A draft is unlikely to save us money, but it will certainly abridge young people’s freedom. It is unfair to older adults, too, who would see their taxes rise. To add insult to injury, many older adults would see their tax dollars go to pay low-wage workers who would then be competing with them for jobs. Mr. Ricks thinks it’s outrageous that a 50-year old janitor earns $106,000 a year, plus overtime; the janitor would disagree. Others who would suddenly be forced to compete with a taxpayer-funded horde of 18-year olds include day care providers, nurses, and construction workers.

Libertarians want minimal government, as Mr. Ricks claims, but his plan would dramatically expand government power, abridge individual liberty, and distort the labor market. Despite his claims that this will be beneficial to the economy, economists long ago concluded that the all-volunteer force is superior to conscription. Conscription is a superficially great deal for the government, but a net loss for the taxpayer and draftee in hidden costs, and lost freedom.

That last point is really the most important one, I think. My opposition to the very idea of the draft has always been based not in the impracticality of trying to integrate a bunch of just-out-of-high-school draftees into a modern, advanced military, but in the fact that the very act constitutes a gross violation of individual liberty. Indeed, it was Milton Friedman, best known as a libertarian-oriented economist, who took a lead role in the final years of the Nixon Administration in bringing about an end to the draft which had been in place, virtually without interruption, since before World War II. Friedman called the draft “”inconsistent with a free society,” and he was absolutely right. The draft essentially says that a person’s life belongs not to them, but to the state, and that the state is free to send them into the line of enemy fire if it so chooses. That’s incompatible with pretty much everything that this country stands for.

The good news, I suppose, is that the odds of this idea ever being successfully implemented are somewhere between slim and none. As I said, the commanders don’t want a draft, it’s a politically unpopular idea, and we don’t have the money to completely remake the military in the manner that Ricks would suggest we do. Nonetheless, it’s kind of disturbing that supposedly smart people keep coming back to such a dumb idea.

Update: It turns out that this isn’t the first time Ricks has come up with this idea. He wrote a similar piece in November 2010, which James Joyner quite effectively eviscerated.

 

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FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Racehorse says:

    “the burden of military service is being born disproportionally by minorities and the poor. ”
    Strange, but I remember that was always a criticism of the draft.
    We already have a draft. It is called the “Affordable Care Act”.

  2. Scott says:

    The idea of many is that the draft would make all Americans have skin in the game of war and therefore reduce the probability of war. Yes, it is probably impractical for all the reasons listed. Perhaps a better way is to require any military action to be fully funded either through taxes or cuts. Many more people would have “skin in the game” besides other people’s children.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    I agree with you completely on this issue.

    I just keep coming back to the notion that if we were required to pass a supplemental national sales tax, payroll tax, or income tax to pay for our wars, we might be more aware of the decisions our elected officials were making to send our men and women to war.

    I know it seems crass to reduce this to money, but maybe this is the only practical way all of us can be considered to have skin in the game, so to speak. Americans generally cheerlead when it’s time for war, but after it goes on for an indefinite period, we look around for people to blame – well, we are to blame.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I’m probably one of the few here that has been drafted. I graduated from college in 1968 and drafted shortly there after. The draft during Vietnam certainly didn’t do anything to avoid the war or end it . @Scott: The tax idea is a good one – new military action should be payed for with a new tax on those who will profit from it.

  5. @al-Ameda:

    Well, you can’t necessarily pay for every war through taxation. That’s why the government, with the assistance of Hollywood, spent most of the WW2 encouraging people to buy War Bonds. Of course, civilians of that era also had to deal with rationing of things like rubber and many metals. There were even air raid drills even though the idea of a German or Japanese air attack on the mainland United States was largely a fantasy. What things like that did do, though, is make the rest of the country feel like they were part of the war and, of course, in many senses, they were.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, you can’t necessarily pay for every war through taxation. That’s why the government, with the assistance of Hollywood, spent most of the WW2 encouraging people to buy War Bonds.

    I understand the difficulties of doing as I suggest (a supplemental tax to pay for the war).

    In the end, it still comes down to the (any) president making the case to the public and to Congress. We’ve got to get out of the mode of avoiding Congress when it comes to proceeding with war. It’s tempting to avoid Congress – especially this Congress – but in the long run, by doing it as we’ve done so many times, we diminish accountability.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I presume Ricks dropped acid before penning that article.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    I presume Ricks dropped acid before penning that article.

    This idea of re-instating the draft just keeps coming back. It’s a mirage. Smart people like Ricks convince themselves that we would somehow rebuild the sense of shared sacrifice that characterized the World War II years.

    Well fine, except that Ricks and others ignore the fact that we had a universal draft during the Vietnam War, and that did not prevent us from bitterly turning on ourselves over the merits of the war in Vietnam. We’re still trying to recover and reconcile over that.

  9. Scott says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Agreed. But a world war is highly unlikely while the continuous brushfires we get ourselves into are the norm.

  10. Scott says:

    I think there is something deeper at work when these type of articles pop up. It is basically nostalgia of a time (WWII) (real or not) when everyone was pulling together in a great common cause. That brief 4-5 year period left a national memory that still exists. It was a rare, or even unique period of time that hasn’t existed since. I also think that our current culture of the cult of the individual with its attendant narcissism precludes us from even getting close to that era of national feeling.

  11. Racehorse says:

    @al-Ameda: I think that instead of a tax (people hate taxes and we have enough taxes on just about everything – including pets) the government could sell war bonds, sell things like American flags, and children could take up money at schools and churches.

  12. mattb says:

    @Racehorse: So in other words, you support underfunding wars (or putting that funding on the backs of future generations) and subsidizing what you can with selling items made in China.

    A lesson in patriotism and sacrifice.

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    The best way to avoid war is to make it unprofitable. A large sure charge on defense contractors should do the trick.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @Racehorse:

    @al-Ameda: I think that instead of a tax (people hate taxes and we have enough taxes on just about everything – including pets) the government could sell war bonds, sell things like American flags, and children could take up money at schools and churches.

    I see that as more of the same.
    When in 2003 Bush got Congress to give him authority to fight in Iraq, there should have been a rider to that bill that specified that in the following year (2004) a supplemental tax would be applied to all incomes in order to raise the funds necessary to wage that war in 2004.

    That would have received everyone’s attention. Perhaps the president would have to annually explain well why we need to continue the war and continue the tax to pay for the war. I’m not saying that political gamesmanship or doctoring the numbers would cease to exist, I’m just saying – let’s be upfront and honest about the cost, and the sacrifice in lives and dollars.

  15. Andy says:

    Yes, Ricks is an idiot.

    On taxes, it’s fine to pass a war tax, but just realize that practically every major war going back to the Romans was paid for by borrowing or debasing the currency. Large wars are incredibly expensive affairs and it’s naive to think they can be pay-as-you-go by increasing taxes.

    @al-Ameda:

    In the end, it still comes down to the (any) president making the case to the public and to Congress. We’ve got to get out of the mode of avoiding Congress when it comes to proceeding with war. It’s tempting to avoid Congress – especially this Congress – but in the long run, by doing it as we’ve done so many times, we diminish accountability.

    As a practical matter it is impossible to avoid Congress for long.

  16. Bennett says:

    The idea of going to war with someone who doesn’t want to be by my side is scary. I am as progressive as they come, but NO NO NO to a draft. It’s one thing to advocate a war tax, or bonds or whatever. Don’t saddle the average Marine or soldier with having to have Joe Schmo as his battle buddy.

  17. Just Me says:

    Not a fan at all of the draft. I also don’t think a draft would be the solution to “minority and poor carrying the burden” of military service. Rich individuals will still find a way out of serving if they don’t want to while those without money or pull will end up serving probably even more disproportionately.

    At least right now the poor, minorities, etc are choosing to serve and there isn’t anyone who has signed up in the last 10 years who isn’t aware that the US is currently fighting a war.

  18. G.A. says:

    I say we have one right now till all the 99%ers and blue fisters flee the country!

  19. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    The problem with the cancellation of our military draft for young men is the implicit societal message that our young men do not have an individual responsibility to participate in the defense of our nation and its interests. You can bet your ranchettes that the Islamists are telling there young men something different.

    Before the military draft was cancelled, our military was not an all-draftee organization. There were three-year enlistees and those who further re-upped and who provided the cadres (aka “lifers”).

    The military draft never included all young males. There were deferments and exclusions. My understanding is that during the Viet Nam war only 25% or so of the draft age males served in the military.

    Maybe if we renamed it a “military service redistribution” you folks would go for it ???

  20. EMRVentures says:

    I’m surprised to hear McChrystal’s comments on the draft. My impression has always been that the one of the strongest arguments against the draft is that the military wants nothing to do with unmotivated, conscripted soldiers. They want motivated professionals.

    And as for Ricks — Christ almighty, they’re going to pay for your Social Security and your Medicare and the $9 trillion party you baby boomers threw for yourselves, without getting nearly the returns that you enjoyed. Now, you want to conscript them, too? After your generation made such a game of avoiding same?

    Is there no bottom for baby-boomers?

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @EMRVentures:

    Christ almighty, they’re going to pay for your Social Security and your Medicare and the $9 trillion party you baby boomers threw for yourselves, without getting nearly the returns that you enjoyed.

    You’re blaming the 2008 collapse of the financial and housing markets on the boomers?

  22. llama says:

    The best part is the idea of renting out conscripted young people to private corporations. I’m sure enslaving young people to cut labor costs for corporations will be a wonderful world to live in.

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Ah, today’s Democrats. “We’re already shackling our kids by keeping them dependent on us for insurance until they’re 26 and sticking them with generations of unpayable debt, let’s make it official and make them indentured servants, with the definite possibility of being killed!”

  24. Andy says:

    @11B40:

    I’m a big believer in national service when there’s a legitimate military need. In the case of an existential war or something that’s truly vital to the interests of the US, and enough manpower cannot be raised through other reasonable means, then by all means institute a draft. But I’m very, very dubious that we need peacetime conscription for purposes that have nothing to do with military necessity. Conscription is not something that should be used as a tool for social engineering. Involuntary service is probably not going to send a positive “societal message” especially coming from a boomer.

    @al-Ameda:

    Not speaking for him, but the fact of the matter is that boomers had a relatively light burden with regard to paying for social programs thanks to demographics. For post-boomer generations the demographics work hard in the opposite direction and post-boom generations will be paying a lot more on top of what could well be lower incomes than what boomers enjoyed. To use VP Biden’s term, that’s a pretty big effing deal if your a post-boomer.

  25. JKB says:

    Why not just issue them all a M4 to keep in the closet and drill the Militia once or twice a month. Just set up drills for the unorganized Militia and change the law to include all females. A sense of national service, no low wage competition for current workers, a more prepared Militia. Five years of drilling and they would be more mature and ready for service in a crisis.

  26. Console says:

    If the American military were a purely defensive and reactive force, I’d agree with a draft. Conscription makes sense in that case because the military would be smaller in theory and the fights would be unavoidable. But if we are going to be the world police then a well-paid and equipped volunteer military makes more sense, both politically and practically. A draft and WW2 works. A draft and Vietnam almost tore this country apart.

    I definitely believe in the idea that you can’t have a stake in society and believe your only obligation to it is monetary. Sorry but there are people out there that have given up a lot more to America than a high tax rate. So I do see conscription as a reality check. But practicality should be the main concern, not my ideals about equality and service.

  27. Edward Ahlsen-Girard says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Right. AQ bombed the Cole, hit the Towers and the Pentagon, blew up trains etc. because General Dynamics makes too much money. “It takes but one foe to breed a war, and those who have no swords can yet die upon them.”

  28. Rob in CT says:

    Yeah, I think Vietnam shows that a draft doesn’t do what some folks wish it would do. If I thought it might work… I’d still hate the very idea of a draft, but I’d have to at least consider the tradeoff. But no, it doesn’t work. So no, no, no a thousand times no.

    The tax idea, sadly, is also unworkable. It appeals to me, because I think that actually might stand a chance at checking some of our government’s idiotic interventions (because it would hit people who never seem to serve in the pocketbook, which appears to be about the only thing they care about), but: a) I don’t really know that it would work either; and b) you cannot make it work for “serious” wars, and once you’re quibbling over what’s a real serious war and what’s a stupid Dubya-style adventure, well…

    The solution to our problem is a voting public that is more informed and motivated. Given all of the things that I’d have thought would wake people up but haven’t, I can’t really figure out what it will take.

  29. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Ah, today’s Democrats. “We’re already shackling our kids by keeping them dependent on us for insurance until they’re 26 and sticking them with generations of unpayable debt, let’s make it official and make them indentured servants, with the definite possibility of being killed!”

    Of course you fail to mention that part of that “generations of unpayable debt” are due to two “off the books” wars (or one large war with two major front).

    Oh, and not to mention the fact that at the same time those wars were going on off the books, the same administration that was prosecuting them was enacting across the board tax cuts and mailing out tax refunds.

    So that’s conservatism at work, huh… Who cared about the grandchildren then.

    BTW… the Dems do have some stuff to answer for on this. While they didn’t control either the House or Senate, the Republicans have demonstrated how effective the minority party can be at blocking things in the Senate (well… except when reconciliation comes into play).

  30. mattb says:

    (sarcasm)

    Let’s just go all Starship Troopers and make governmental service 100% volunteer (allowing everyone to serve in some capacity, even those people with disabilities), and tie enfranchised citizenship to its successful completion.

    (sarcasm off)

    To be clear: I don’t think at would be a good idea.

  31. Racehorse says:

    @Console: The problem with Vietnam was no plan to win and no plan for exit. Nixon came the closest with the “Vietnamization” plan where the South Vietnam would take over combat roles. We should never enter a war without a strategy to win.
    “No terms except unconditional surrender” (General Grant)

  32. mattb says:

    @Racehorse:

    We should never enter a war without a strategy to win.

    Or a clear understanding of what winning would look like.

    That has been fundamentally one of the larger problems with the recent “War on Terror.” What, beyond the total elimination of all terrorism, would constitute a win?

  33. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Well, you can’t necessarily pay for every war through taxation. ”

    Yes, and if WWII rolls around again, that’ll be an issue.

    But for every other war we’ve been in for the past almost seventy years, and the most likely wars fo the next few decades, we d*mn well could pay as we go.

    And if the 1% knew that there’d be a punitive tax on them, they’d no longer think of war as profitable and fun.

  34. @al-Ameda:

    You’re blaming the 2008 collapse of the financial and housing markets on the boomers?

    Yes. They’re like a demographic locust swarm that has moved through one institution after another in our society, consuming everything available and then leaving an unsustainable wreck that collapses the second they’ve moved to a stage in life where they no longer need it.

  35. 11B40 says:

    @Andy:

    Greetings, Andy:

    I don’t think that we are really all that far apart. In that spirit, I would offer the following:

    It takes a bit of time to train up draftees and turn them into soldiers, so there’s a bit of a foresight problem in your analysis. As Pearl Harbor proved, it’s hard to divine when the next military action will begin. So, the “peacetime” draft, which was in place before Viet Nam went large, is kind of a prerequisite to get us through the initial stages of any military attack.

    Now, the previous military draft was not a two-year commitment. Actually, it was a six-year commitment consisting of two years active duty, two years active reserves, and two years inactive reserves. This approach provided a pool of previously trained soldiers who could be activated with limited refresher training in dire circumstances.

    I think that there is a lot of “narrative” in the difficulties that some predict are intendant in a largely conscript military. The dark days toward the end of the Viet Nam war may have more than their rightful share of problem cases, but society at large had plenty of those same problems without any conscription “burden”. So, while that “meme” is oft repeated, I don’t accept it as totally valid. Good leadership tamps down a lot of problems. And, my understanding is the our miracle “all-volunteer” military still has brigs and stockades available for the not totally miraculous volunteers.

    Similarly, I don’t accept the conclusions of our general and flag officers who proclaim the success of our current force structure and great fear of a return to the draft. I don’t see today’s proclaimers as moral guides so much as semi-politicians looking for their next promotion. If the all-volunteer military is such a success, where were the needed troops during the dark darks of Iraq? And that was a military that required approximately 15% females to fill out the well underestimated billets.

    We are at war with Islam, as Islam has been at war with the world since about 632 A.D. Trying to skate through without requiring anything from the twitter-ati is just as much a fool’s mission as what we did in Viet Nam.

  36. Andy says:

    @11B40:

    Thanks for your reply. I don’t disagree with a lot of your points. I don’t think drafted soldiers are any worse than professional soldiers, but I would caveat that with training. A lot of skills in the armed forces require a year or more of training and thus those positions are not good candidates for a draftee who will only serve 18-24 months.

    I do think you identify a problem regarding foresight and the ramp-up time required to raise and train a military. I would take a middle route by maintaining about the same number of total troops we have now, but I would move the bulk of the Army and Air Force into the reserve. Reserve forces would be cheaper to sustain during peacetime and they can be called up quickly. They would serve as a bridge while conscripts are trained (should conscription be necessary).

    I’ll just reiterate that I think a draft should primarily be driven by military necessity, not unproven assertions that it will engineer a better society. Ideally you want to look at the strategic situation, plan for scenarios, derive force requirement for likely scenarios, examine the resource and manpower requirements for those, and come up with a number for how many soldiers you need, the ration of active/reserve/guard, etc. At that point one can examine the necessity for a draft. If, as is likely the case, we are looking at a smaller military in the future, then why do we need a draft?

  37. Rob in CT says:

    Or a clear understanding of what winning would look like.

    Just wanted to highlight this. YES.

    It’s not just having an exit plan. It’s having a VIABLE exit plan, which entails a clear understanding of what “victory” means.

    And, if you’re going to fight a war of choice (ala Iraq, or Libya, or Kosovo/Serbia bombing… which I’d rather we avoided), though it can be something discussed only in “quiet rooms” there also needs to be an understanding of what “defeat” means – the point at which it isn’t worth throwing more resources down the drain.

    Those are complicated questions that are hard to answer. But this is war we’re talking about. Of course planning it properly is hard!

  38. Dazedandconfused says:

    The reasons why drafting just to get people involved is a bad idea have been described too well by others for me to improve upon.

    However, the thought that some form of forced public involvement is a bad idea, well, I agree General Stan on that. He’s not the first senor military man to suggest it either IMO. Creighton Abrams buried the lions share of the Army’s logistical capability in the reserves with exactly that idea in mind, I thinks.

    Taxing would be best. And no, the Libertarians do not get to opt out. The tax would be heavy and on everybody. That’s the price of living in a democracy, where the only check on ambitious or reckless politicians is an engaged, informed public.

  39. george says:

    I’m surprised to hear McChrystal’s comments on the draft. My impression has always been that the one of the strongest arguments against the draft is that the military wants nothing to do with unmotivated, conscripted soldiers. They want motivated professionals.

    I’ve heard this time and time again from military people of all ranks. I suspect they may know what they’re talking about.

  40. steve says:

    Doug- You confuse liberty with license. There are good reasons to not have a draft, but liberty is not one of them. You also have a responsibility to defend your country.

    “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

    Lord Acton

    Steve