Thursday, April 10, 2008

America Loves a Winner (by BG)

By BG, a frequent commenter from the old Intel-Dump:

America Loves a Winner

Isn't it interesting how character traits can both be one's greatest strength, and at the same time one's greatest weakness. This extends to national character as well.

Patton's famous speech to 3rd Army:

"Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."

One of the Republican/Neocon's greatest arguments against the Clinton administration (and even a failure of the Reagan years) was cutting and running when things got tough. Obvious examples are Somalia and Beruit. These moves were considered to "embolden" our enemy. There is no way the current administration will ever accept a strategy that could be considered the same mistake. Instead, they will drag on the decision to withdraw leaving it to the next administration who they will blame for failing to “stay the course.”

We must “win”, or we will not leave. We can say it is ego, we can say it is pride, but we can also say it is national character and psychology to the point of flaw. What the smart politicians are trying to do is redefine what "win" means. Which side of the isle one sits will greatly impact that definition. This is why we saw all three Presidential candidates make a rare reappearance in Washington this week.


McCain finds himself inescapably intertwined with the current policy and therefore his definition of winning must be compatible (i.e., security, political reconciliation, etc).

How will Democratic leadership define “winning?” Will winning simply be defined as “winning” the White House? Maybe winning will be redefined as Obama states in yesterday’s Senate hearing, as “a messy, sloppy status quo but there's not huge outbreaks of violence, there's still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it's not a threat to its neighbors and it's not an al-Qaida base.”

What ever the definition, and whatever the politics, Patton’s words ring true today as they did 50 years ago. Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Whichever candidate that can best portray themselves as having a winning strategy, or at least best cast blame for losing on someone else, will have an advantage in the upcoming election.


FDChief said...

First, let me say up front: I agree with your analysis, BG.

Second - it angers and frustrates me how much this says about...well, let's just express it as a quote: "No man ever lost money betting on the stupidity of the American Public".

If the "American Public" knew as much about war as they do about McChicken sandwiches and who's leading the NASCAR points championship we'd know that many - maybe even most - wars have no winner and several losers. Or a lesser loser and a greater loser. Or a winner that succeeds at the cost of exhausting itself and falling victim to the next puncher in like - think of the Eastern Roman Empire and Sassanid Persia: two traditional enemies so fixated on fighting each other that they ignored the rise of Arab Islam until it overwhelmed them.

So my whole point is that - given the political hypotrophy of Iraq - any politician that promises the public a "winner" should have his or her tongue immediately slit for lying. We may be able to avoid a loss - but a "win" in the conventional terms? I can't imagine it unless the fundamental conditions we've been seeing are hugely altered...

A better question - to my mind - is the one that Obama tried to get GEN Petraeus to answer: since we can't always get what we want...what do we NEED?

So - what do we need from Iraq? Can we get it? How? And will the gain be worth the cost?

FDChief said...

Matt Yglesias makes my point for me:

Iraq is the #2 foreign danger to the U.S.?

I'm speechless...

FDChief said...

Corrected link: /people_hate_iraq.php

You need to delete the space between the "04" and the forward slash.

FDChief said...

Well the bastard just won't print the link.

Blogger can bite me.

Anonymous said...


fdchief, just C&P and tell where to find it.

Yglesias won't mind, I'm sure.

Or start your own career in punditry and post something.

I've been following your site from time to time, nothing wrong with your writing at all.


bg said...

"If the "American Public" knew as much about war as they do about McChicken sandwiches and who's leading the NASCAR points championship..."


Thank God more Americans don't know much about the realities of war. Because we are insulated from it. When given the alternatives of a public naive of warfare, and one who know it far too well (such as the Iraqis, Afghanis, and just about any sub-Saharan African), I choose naivety.

I thought the point of a representative government was that the policy makers and shakers should understand such complexities so the masses don't have to. So I would revise FDC's statement to read

If the "American Politicians" knew as much about war as they do about pork projects and polls...they would know wars have no winners and several losers. When was the last time a politician successfully launched a war, and was rewarded by history for doing so?

Andy said...


You can use the link tag in blogger comments to create a live link. If you have firefox, it's REALLY easy if you download this extension. With it installed, all you have to do is copy the link to the clipboard, highlight the text you want to make into a link and then right click and choose "make selection URL" and boom - the link is made for you.

BG, I think you bring an important point here and I'll add onto it by noting that election-year rhetoric is often far different from what a candidate will actually do when in office. Personally, I don't see Obama/Clinton as too far from McCain in real terms - Neither Clinton nor Obama will withdrawal completely from Iraq and I think McCain is much more flexible than the current administration. The thing is, each side is forced to pander to their overly-powerful political bases, so we get Clinton/Obama talking about "ending" the war in Iraq and McCain talking about "victory." Each has couched that rhetoric very carefully to allow them to implement a much more centrist policy once they get into office.

Rick98C said...

"I thought the point of a representative government was that the policy makers and shakers should understand such complexities so the masses don't have to."

BG, I must say I don't share your notion of an uneducated electorate being looked after by Big Daddy. I suspect that Stalin and Mao would agree with you, but that was never part of the American ideal that I learned about in school. But then, I grew up when people were still required to have a sense of responsibility. The Left started the slide away from responsibility, but the Right seized it with both talons the last 20 years and here we are.

Just because PT Barnum was right doesn't mean we should embrace his statement.

Publius said...

Good post, BG. I agree.

I'd also add that most Americans have absolutely no concept of what it takes to be a winner in many endeavors, war being foremost amongst them. Example: everybody gets on the Tiger Woods band wagon, but unless one actually participates in golf seriously, one likely has no clue as to what Woods has done to make himself a winner. The countless hours of practice, the absolute dedication, etc., etc.

Military guys run into this shit all of the time. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago and this corporate asshole, a guy about my age who'd never served, picked up on my retired status and loudly opined in front of a bunch of other folks, "well, a career in the military is really just like a career in a corporation."

What ran through my mind was something else Patton said in that famous speech: "when this is over, you won't have to tell folks you spent the war shoveling shit in Arkansas." But I didn't say that. I didn't ask the guy what he was doing while I was in Vietnam. I did say something to the effect of "well, when I see guys going to work at IBM in full ruck and dodging bullets, then I'll agree with you." It was a "fuck-you" moment, something the other folks appreciated. Shut the dude up, too.

I give this example to illustrate just where American politicians and the news media have failed in the past couple of generations. It's my firm belief that, as a war veteran, it's not my place to go around educating people on the horrors of war. Most veterans feel the same way. Some write books, but most kind of keep their traps shut.

So it's up to others to educate the people. Since Vietnam, politicians have been cheerleaders and "happy days" sorts of guys, never, ever daring to tell the truth. And they know the truth, even if they don't actually participate in the fighting. They know it because they get the straight scoop from those fighting. They get the casualty counts, they write the letters, etc. Check Lincoln's letters and you see just how heartsick he was at the Civil War. Bush? He likely doesn't even see the letters.

And then there is the press. Until after Vietnam, the press was pretty honest. No more. Now they allow themselves to be carefully herded from one good news spot to another and they rarely dare to actually ask what's really going on.

This problem with actually getting the truth out to the American people is exacerbated by the composition of the modern American military. This all-volunteer force is now a small, insular organization, whose members have all pretty much signed on to put up with anything the politicians and generals feed them. The quid pro quo includes keeping their mouths shut and loving what they do. You'll rarely hear anything from the ranks that might go against the party line.

I've always blown hot and cold regarding the volunteer military. First, I was against it, then I was for it, now I am against it again. For the same reason I was initially against it. With a draft, with the war actually touching a much broader slice of the American populace, a whole hell of a lot more Americans would have more of an appreciation of what it takes to be a "winner" in war. Americans sure had that appreciation in WW2, Korea and Vietnam. Now, the overwhelming majority, totally untouched by war, are clueless. And when the best the president—the CinC if you will—can say is to tell them to go shopping, how can they learn what war's all about?

This country has won far more times than it's lost. Yes, we are winners and we love winners. But it used to be a lot more people actually paid the price to be winners. We've lost the essential soul of the nation that kicked the Brits out, fought the Civil War, pushed westward through all of the hardships, and then fought the 20th Century wars.

Modern Americans are not winners. They don't deserve to be winners. They are a bunch of passive front-runners, content to sit on the sidelines and let others do their dirty work.

All Americans care about any more is money. Which leads me to a truly perplexing issue. As preoccupied by money as Americans are, how can they sit idly by and watch nefarious politicians piss away the national treasure? I guess Americans really are as stupid as they often appear to be.

bg said...


Sorry, I oversimplified my position about representative democracy.

For Example: I don't know anything about tax code. And I don't want to. I want someone else who is really smart in law and tax code to write it and figure out all the complexities for me, and I will pay my taxes. I don't have the time to do the research, to study the different proposals and make a decision about every little aspect of the tax laws.

That is what I meant by saying let my elected representatives take care of it so the masses don't have to.

And if, at the end of the day, I don't like the outcome of my elected representative's research, salesmanship and decision making, than I will vote for someone else. Those who lived under Stalin and Mao didn't get that option.

Corner Stone said...

Looks like they got Sadr's #2

"Al-Sadr's spokesman in Najaf, Salah al-Obeidi, said the United States bore responsibility for Friday's killing because of its continued presence in Iraq. Al-Obeidi said the cleric appealed for calm and ordered his followers "not to be dragged into others' plots."

Probably not the best outcome we were hoping for.

Corner Stone said...

"But then, I grew up when people were still required to have a sense of responsibility. The Left started the slide away from responsibility, but the Right seized it with both talons the last 20 years and here we are."

What does this mean?

bg said...


I agree with everything you said, right up till the end. I disagree that Americans as whole are stupid. As a whole, they are too busy at best, or are too lazy and apathetic at worst.

There is a large chunk of our society, who can be hardworking, intelligent and well educated, who are too busy to take the time to discover the truth. When time is money, and time and money factors in everything we do as Americans, it is easier to listen to the loudest and most accessible pundits. Before they get the chance to commit too much grey matter to the topic, they are off running to their next work project, second job, kids' soccer game or golf tee time. (the latter I highly encourage and consider to be of the worthiest of distractions, as I know you do too).

The other chunk of Americans are simply too lazy or apathetic to learn the truth. It is just too hard to pick up a book and read it, why do so when the News tells you all you need to know. And many just don't see how politics, Iraq, etc, affects their daily life, as you mentioned. Why waste time that could be spent doing something more mindless.

Where I don't know where I stand on a draft, because I am not convinced that a draft will solve the problems you addressed, I know where I stand on the importance of service.

I was attacked before on my feelings that a StarShip Troopers reference is a good idea, but I really like the idea that some form of Federal service, be it military or otherwise, should be a requirement for anyone who wants to run for political office. It demonstrates selflessness and gives experiences critical to someone who may one day make strategic decisions that will impact the path of our great nation.

So perhaps a draft is not needed, because we know the powerful and elite, who usually become politicians, will find a way to avoid the draft. Instead, we need greater incentives for those who do volunteer, and we should expand our volunteer services beyond DoD to suit the needs of those who do not qualify for military service.

J.D. said...

Re "I was attacked before on my feelings that a StarShip Troopers reference is a good idea, but I really like the idea that some form of Federal service, be it military or otherwise, should be a requirement for anyone who wants to run for political office. It demonstrates selflessness and gives experiences critical to someone who may one day make strategic decisions that will impact the path of our great nation."

Well, I have to say that idea scares the hell out of me.

The idea that the government would decide who the People can vote for (which is another way of saying exactly what is suggested above) takes sovereignty away from the People. The People have set requirements for office already - such as age, citizenship, term limits for the president - in the Constitution. As far as demonstrating selflessness or anything else, the People decide whom they want to elect, end of discussion. If they want to elect somebody who never served in the military - perhaps a wastrel like, oh, I don't know, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, FDR, etc. etc. etc., then the People may do so.

Having a service requirement - military or not - is not something we should adopt, ever, because it means that somebody who would have been elected to office otherwise may not serve because he did not fulfill a requirement of serving the government in some capacity. The People don't need this, they can police their own.

Don't believe me? Yes, Bush was elected (supposedly) but that means that the People decided on that. As soon as we start thinking of ways to force the electorate to make "better" choices we are on the road to tyranny faster than ever before. If the People make mistakes (as we the People surely have) then we make mistakes, but we never take sovereignty away from the People because of "mistakes" - because who decides they were mistakes? Yep, those same people. Anything else - federal service required before running for office, for instance - and we are saying to the People that a few individuals in their government will decide whom the People can put in charge. That is not a recipe for freedom.

Starship Troopers is a warning against fascism. The idea that only veterans could be citizens is a fascist idea. Heinlein was issuing a veiled warning, not suggesting we adopt the type of government that he described in the book - a fascist, warmongering, brutal government that did not allow free expression or free thought (the movie actually made that point quite well by having the military dress in neo-fascist uniforms with German ranks, etc.).

The problem is not that our candidates don't have military service - after all, under the Starship Troopers system Mr. Bush would qualify for office while neither Sen. Clinton nor Sen. Obama would be allowed to run.

The problem is in our education system, which is no longer segregated by race, instead is much more segregated by wealth, and with no pretense of "separate but equal." Instead it is strictly segregated by wealth, with rich students getting an education and poor students warehoused until they are old enough to dump on the streets. We used to have a public education system, we no longer do. Rich people send their kids to private schools, and thus the wealthy and powerful have little incentive to fix public schools - which is why they are still not fixed. End private schools tomorrow (not something I advocate) and public schools will be fixed and world-class in weeks. Without an electorate that can read and reason - and is in the habit of doing so - and we will have mob rule, easily-persuaded mob rule, instead of democracy. Fixing our public education system is the most critical issue our republic faces, and nothing substantial is being done.

Next on the list should be corporate ownership of the media. Ownership regulations, like all other regulations in this laissez faire administration, have disappeared, and now a few wealthy corporations and individuals control our mass media lock, stock, and barrel. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and nearly every major newspaper, plus nearly every local television station, plus nearly ever talk radio station (actually, nearly every radio station period) are all owned by a few corporations and/or individuals. Huge corporations own national broadcast networks, local stations, and local papers, so that if you are in LA, for example, you can read the formerly-great but now super right-wing and getting worse LA Times, or NOT. Those are pretty much your options unless you want to read a strictly local paper like the Pasadena Star - and thus get all your national news only from the wire services.

So as we stop teaching critical thinking skills we also consolidate our mass media into the hands of a very privileged few.

Finally, corporations themselves. Why are corporations ever allowed to donate money to campaigns at all? We should have a Constitutional amendment that declares corporations are not "persons" but instead business entities with limited rights - and that includes no right of free speech like people have. I have no problem with the "free speech" of a corporation being trampled all day long, it is not a real person. As long as people can speak out, peaceably assemble, and petition for redress of grievances, fine. Corporations are not real people, and we should stop pretending they are entitled to the same rights as real people. No (I mean NO) corporate money should be allowed in politics at all, neither through donations or through 501(c)3 or PACS or anything. Individuals should be allowed freedom of speech, including the right to donate to campaigns, but corporations or other business entities? Not at all!

Finally, a word on the all-volunteer military: it is possible to have our cake and eat it too. There is a problem with an all volunteer military: it makes it too easy for us to go and continue war, leading to a sort of "foreign legion" mentality - the casualties don't have as much impact in an all volunteer force, and thus fewer voters have loved ones at risk when we go to war - meaning it is easier for people like Bush to swagger about and support violence, his kids are safe. There are strengths with an all volunteer military: volunteer professional armies are more lethal by far than conscript armies. So here is my proposed solution: DO BOTH. Have a limited draft, say 10% of the size of the ground force, and deploy those conscripts as individual, limited replacements, such as 1 per squad. With 8 professionals and 1 draftee the force won't suffer a drastic drop in quality - perhaps none at all - while the conscripts will make it less likely that voters will allow our nation to go to war as easily as they did in 2003. Sending strangers to battle so that you can feel proud of them and all their "glory" is one thing, the very real possibility that war can mean your children or yourself being drafted and seeing combat is another thing entirely.

If we had a draft this war would have been over long ago. If we rely only on a draft we are defending our republic with forced labor while losing the strengths of an all-volunteer professional force. No draft and our civil-military divide continues to grow, possibly leading to a praetorian guard that will kill the republic. Only a draft and we weaken the force.

In short, we should have an all-volunteer professional force augmented by 10% draftees when the force is deployed to combat.

For those who would be concerned about the draftees being abused, if you can't rely on the professionals to take care of your children and treat them with respect if they are drafted, why are you relying on them for your very freedom? We would strengthen civilian control of our military this way, something no Army officer should ever oppose - it is, after all, the very reason for the existence of the Army in te first place.

bg said...

You think I would learn not to mention the book. give me some time to gen up my response.

Aviator47 said...

Some pretty profound and spot on comments. Yes, bg, stow the Starship Troopers model. JD hit the nail right on the head.

From my perch, I am entitled to no higher citizen status for my 35 years of service than my best friend in HS, who never donned a uniform nor worked for the government. Nor did he "dodge" the draft. He was never called, and that was that. 60% of the males in my HS class served in uniform, I would note. And that was from a rather privileged "bedroom suburb" of NYC. I doubt the numbers are the same today.

We are seeing a greater divide between the "haves" and "have-nots" in America. We are approaching a society of exploiters and the exploited. That's not a good thing.

As to Publius' comments about the empty suit who equated military and corporate life, I offer this nugget:

"We have been able to measure the limit of man's intelligence, but we still cannot plumb the depths of his stupidity."

I grew weary of the dolts who would ask, "Did you ever kill anyone?" I would sometimes answer, "No, I was lucky to be in the war that used rubber bullets."

Now, in response to the title of this thread:

bg. Patton was speaking of an America that no longer exists. In the 40's, Americans were a culture of participatory paeople. The current culture is one of vicarious activities. During WWII, the folks on the "home front" made all kinds of sacrifices as their part of the war effort. In 2008, the President tells the folks at home to "go shopping". My mom supported the war by leaving the home and working in a munitions factory, saving bacon grease and buying war bonds. She baked cookies that she & dad took to the USO. Soccer moms today support the war by putting a sticker on their car, and Dick Cheney wears a US flag in his lapel.

My Dad's generation worked for the victory that Patton was referring to. Today's generation wants someone else to do the dirty work to win for them.

Sorry, bg, but it is impossible to compare the American culture that Patton was talking about to the current one. You see, a huge portion of the WWII population could rightfully say, "We won", because they played an active part in sealing the victory. Today, if the military pulls off a "win" (whatever that is) in Iraq, a huge portion of the population will say, "we won", even though the vast majority of them contributed little or nothing to the victory.

Lastly, Rich, as to the Republicans taking responsibility. If such were true, there would not have been any bailouts of the mega corporations that lost their shirts making ill-advised mortgage loans to people who had no business taking out those loans. What is being done is the greater population is being given the responsibility for covering the bad decisions of these businesses, who walk away responsibility free. Just one example.



J.D. said...

Re: I grew weary of the dolts who would ask, "Did you ever kill anyone?" I would sometimes answer, "No, I was lucky to be in the war that used rubber bullets."

Right on! My favorite response is "I don't know, I never looked."

Then there was a show from the 80s or 90s with Alan Thicke, Growing Pains. I am not recommending the show, but there was an episode where Thicke, who portrayed a doctor, was upset that his widowed mother was engaged. The future stepdad was retired Army. The son played by Thicke was hostile toward the future stepdad (normal reaction I suppose). At one point he asked him:

Doctor: "So you were in the Army?"

Retired colonel: "I was."

Doctor: "Did you ever kill anybody?"

Colonel (without answering): "You are a doctor?"

Doctor: "Yes."

Colonel: "Did you?"

I loved that scene.

For the civilians reading this, why is this such an issue? Imagine being in a car wreck this weekend while traveling with your best friends and family, say 20 of them. A few die, a few suffer terrible injuries, and those in the other cars (multi-car pileup) are mangled and/or burn to death. Your mom dies in the wreck. Two of your kids die in the wreck. You survive and return to work on Monday.

On Monday, when a fellow employee you barely know asks eagerly "so what was the wreck like? Tell me all about it", how eager are you going to be to respond.

Now add in the fact that deploying is not all bad, that you are proud of your service in that "wreck," plus the controversial nature of the wreck, plus add in that there are a lot of people who think you wanted the wreck, welcomed the wreck, and perhaps even enjoy being in such wrecks. Plus, if you don't, it is your own fault for volunteering to get on the bus.

And the driver who caused the wreck? The people asking you about it selected him, even after you warned he was dangerous.

Now you have about 1/10th of an idea how wrong it is to ask soldiers "did you ever kill anybody?"

Another response, from a platoon sergeant of mine: "Did you ever kill anybody?" "I'll answer that after you tell me all the details you can about what it is like when you fuck your wife. Or you could mind your own damn business. You decide."

Rick98C said...


Yeah, I understnad what you are getting at. I guess the way you stated it first sounded too sweeping and ominous for me.

What I think of when I say Republicans have been accelerating the slide into irresponsibility is much like what Aviator is saying.

"don't worry, go shopping" Cutting pollution regulations to make a fast buck, bailing out corporations that have been run into the ground by their overcompensated officers, and on and on.

Remember James Watt? He was Secretary of the Interior under Reagan, and he had the faith-based notion that we didn't need to protect the environment because Jesus would be along to fix it all up for us shortly. Even a 2-year old feels bad if he breaks something, but not these self-absorbed yahoos. It's just kept going from there.

Aviator47 said...

Well, JD, as to responses to the "Killing Question", I must admit that I once got carried away. It was in the late 80's and the inquirer was a "stuck in the 60's, middle aged hippie". The situation was a gathering of university faculty at a friend's house.

My response:

Oh, God YES! And the best way was with the 40mm chin mounted grenade launcher. You see, the grenade travels rather slowly, and the target can see it coming, but it's still fast enough that he can't dodge it. And that's really great, because you can watch the look on his face. And, if it's a full frontal shot, that's my favorite, as you not only see the look on his face as he sees it coming, but the change in expression as it hits him, explodes and disintegrates his chest. You actually see him wrestling with the reality of it. I mean it's almost surreal. If it weren't for things like that, war would be such a depressing thing.

She was gagging as I got to the "wrestling" part.


seydlitz89 said...


seydlitz89 said...

bg, I agree with your comments on war, but wonder if the real question is not more one of policy (now I would say that wouldn't I?)? Bush's war was a war of choice, as was the Mexican War, the Spanish American War and WWI. Each had their own economic and political interests behind them and each generated their own version of popular resistance.

Ever read Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience, or what Mark Twain wrote as a member of the Anti-Imperialist League, or of the resistance of Eugene Debs or the writings of Randolph Bourne?

All these questionable policies and wars of choice eventually generated rather thoughtful responses and in all cases a real backlash among the people.

Is Bush's war different? Given the stacked nature of the deck, I guess we'll see, eventually . . .

FDChief said...

Bush's war was a war of choice, as was the Mexican War, the Spanish American War and WWI. Each had their own economic and political interests behind them and each generated their own version of popular resistance.

Seydlitz makes an important point. The American public HAS to get involved in an existential war. Mom didn't go off to a war plant because she chose to hate her some Hitler. Zeb didn't march off the farm to join the Army of the Tennessee because he had a beef with Jeff Davis. These were wars that Americans HAD to win and understood them as such.

IMO this war is probably best tought of as the 21st Century analog of the "Philippine Insurrection". A group of wealthy, well-connected neoimperialists say it as the opportunity for a "New American Century" (among other things). The appear for the average Joe and Mary Lunchpail has NEVER been there. For a long time the GOP managed to scare a lot of folks with their booga-booga scary towelheads rhetoric. But I suspect that the hardcore support for this mess is down to the real Coulter/Rush hate radio CHUDs.

These people will ALWAYS have their DolchstoBlegende. They cannot be reasoned with or compromised with - only destroyed. If we do not we risk the same result as the one we got when we ended Reconstruction without thoroughly destroying the Lost Cause bullshit and hanging the honset label on the Confederacy of what is was: Treason in Defense of Slavery.

Sadly, as Publius points out, the press is worthless and will not participate in showing that Bush II has no strategic clothes. What was today's headline over the story about Bush's speech promising to hand over a 140K-strong occupation to his successor? "Bush sticks with his plan".


Since when is standing around with your thumb up your ass and your brains in neutral hoping for a miracle a plan?

One of the reasons we are so fucked is that, regardless of the fact this this mess was never doable, was screwed five ways by the people who wanted it to happen, and has been prosecuted without retribution for incompetence or venality to the detriment of the public purse, the press will not place the honest blame where it belongs.

If the public is stupid - which, in many cases it truly is - both the press and the politicians are its enablers.

Publius said...

BG: "I agree with everything you said, right up till the end. I disagree that Americans as whole are stupid. As a whole, they are too busy at best, or are too lazy and apathetic at worst."

Well, bg, where I come from, we view folks who are too lazy and apathetic to pay attention to the classic journalistic Five Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and one H (how), as being "stupid." Same with those who are "too busy." Too busy! How can one be "too busy" to pay attention when their nation is at war? How does taking the kids to soccer practice or watching American Idol fit into being "too busy" to keep an eye on your government? That's just utter bull shit.

And whether you realize it or not, the very fact that so many Americans are so "busy" or so apathetic or whatever is what makes guys like you start thinking, "Hmmm, Heinlein might have been on to something with that Starship Troopers meme."

No, my friend. Do not go there. That is not the United States of America. We do not apply tests to citizens' voting rights. American have a right to vote; it is not a privilege granted by the government in return for service. I suggest you brush up on the history of the civil rights movement and see the shenanigans that governmental bodies pulled to deny the right to vote to certain Americans. Despite the fact that such shit has all been outlawed, these pricks keep trying to find another way to limit the numbers of people allowed to exercise their voting rights.

From where I sit, support for any suggestion to limit voting rights to military personnel or others who've done "national service" pretty much equates to support for Jim Crow. BG, I know you'd react violently if I were to suggest that you in any way favored denial of the franchise to blacks or any other minority, so I'd ask you why you might even entertain any notion that would deny the franchise to the MAJORITY of your fellow Americans.

Like it or not, we're all Americans and we're all in this together. We who follow the issues and actually think about them have a responsibility to try to educate our fellow citizens as much as we can. That's all we can do. Sure, we get pissed off at their apathy and stupidity, but we must never fall prey to the notion that we should support governmental action to deny them the most essential right any citizen enjoys. If we do, we're no longer Americans; we're merely agents of a totalitarian state and we deserve everything we get.

How would you like Tommie Franks as president, BG? That's what you'd get if you follow the Starship Troopers model.

Finally, BG, Al and FDChief provide very valuable thoughts. This ain't an existential war. Far from it. Vietnam wasn't. Nor was Korea. Nor was World War One. There've been four of 'em: Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War and World War Two. The American people paid a lot of attention to WW1, Korea and Vietnam because a whole lot of Americans didn't come back and because of the "ripple" effect deaths of boys from hometowns had. Small wonder they're paying little attention to Iraq and Afghanistan. Most Americans don't know anyone who's been killed and don't even know anyone who knows anyone who's been killed. That's what you get with a small volunteer Army and Marine Corps.

Like it or not, most Americans view today's military as the "go-team," a force that doesn't belong to America, but rather belongs to the government and is there to deal with all of that weird and arcane shit that government thinks is important. IMO a lot of greater America doesn't really think it's got a dog in this fight. And those who do somehow think the government has all of the answers. Which is where I came in: they're stupid.

Charles Gittings said...

"I was attacked before on my feelings that a StarShip Troopers reference is a good idea, but I really like the idea that some form of Federal service, be it military or otherwise, should be a requirement for anyone who wants to run for political office."

It's just a bad idea, and even if I thought it was a good one, considering on your comments on the tax code, we'd be well advised to disqualify soldiers and elect accountants.

However, that too would just be a bad idea, and I have some criticisms for just about everyone on this thread: people are people, and stuff like this has been going on a very long time.

It was entirely possible that Abraham Lincoln might have lost to George McClellan (of all people) in 1864. Every war ever fought was LOST by military professionals, and the United States has never fought a major war that didn't include some serious stupidity on the part of military professionals.

And no offense Rick, but the notion of right-wing responsibility is pretty silly when you consider the Great Depression, all the footsie with Nazi Germany before 1939, segregation and slavery, etc, etc.
Not to mention such egregious right-wing fictions as FDR selling us out to Stalin.

My comment to BG's post will not come as any surprise:

What are the objectives?

In point of fact, there simply aren't any. Mr. Bush's objectives in Iraq are the same as ever: to continue the war in Iraq for the sake of having a war in Iraq. The man is simply and unambiguously a war criminal, and Iraq is by far his worst crime -- as well as his most thoroughly clueless failure.

There's no easy solution to public ignorance, and it isn't just a function of education either if you consider the credentials of folks like Yoo, Mukasey, and Harvard-MBA Yale-grad Bush etc. It's a way worse problem than that, and I speak as a self-educated high-school drop-out who has a better education than most PHD's because I understood that a lot of the problems being discussed here were very serious problems indeed when I was ten, looked around me at all the adults, and said to myself:

"If I let these people do my thinking for me, I'm fucked."

And the second thing I thought about it was: the only way to solve a problem is to use your head, which was something I'd learned from reading Homer the year before -- it wasn't the prowess of Achilles that took Troy, but the cunning of Odysseus.

What we're talking about here is the human condition, everyone has a stake in it, and everyone should have a voice. If there was any magic solution to anything, we wouldn't be having this conversation. "A republic, if you can keep it" is what Ben Franklin said, emphasis on the if. We haven't been this close to losing it since the Civil War, and the biggest problem we have now is exactly the same one we had then -- the unreasoning prejudices of unreasonable people who don't have the faintest idea what they are doing or why, other than they're afraid of losing their perks and and figure the best way to be safe is to beat somebody up.

There is nothing to debate about Iraq: we should simply get out as fast as we can evacuate, and I mean 3 months give or take. I have no illusions that option will be discussed before or likely after a Democratic victory in the Fall, but that is what we should do, and anything less is just a waste of time, money, and lives.

Fasteddiez said...

Well that didn't take long, I'm already banned from the new Intel Dump. I did say that the Shootist was an SOB, and did allude that a cat called masters needed another cup of spiked Arrabiato...the latter probably falling into the nether regions of the WaPo's personal attack domain. Shucks, i thought I would last longer.

BG, I'm tracking with Publius on the Stupidity Meme....Laziness is stupidity. Taking kids to soccer is no excuse, when I grew up in Montreal, Parents did not attend their offsprings' athletic events; they had adult shit to do. For instance dads would sit on the front porch/stoop and drink beer in their ever so fashionable white Italian Sports shirts (now called tank tops)....and only in the summer.

You know better, how many dunces do you run into that are too stupid, or emotionally unsuited to do Intel work/ I guess we can call the latter emotional stupidity.

J.D. said...

Charles, that was really well said. Good comment.

Fasteddiez, you are always welcome here, but I am laughing at you being banned already from Phil's new blog. I didn't have you at the top of my betting pool. :)

Andy said...


I love Starship Troopers - it's a great book - a not-so-great (but still fun) movie. I can certainly understand the appeal of "federal service" as some kind of litmus for the Presidency, but I have to agree with the others that it's a bad idea on the whole and too open to abuse. Such a change would require amending the Constitution and that is something I cannot support. Freedom and Democracy require faith in the American population despite the many lazy and probably undeserving slugs that inhabit our society. Such a requirement would create a privileged class - something that is, IMO, against American ideals and I think history has shown that in most cases societies that allow such classes end badly.

JD and Publius,

I honestly think you're looking at the media in times past through rose-colored glasses. The difference today is choice - we can choose where we get our news and information and we're no longer dependent on the one newspaper or the big-three networks. Choice is the American way and I'll take that any day over being spoon-fed information from the "mass" media which was, imo, designed to control and manipulate the masses. There are downsides to today's distributed media of course - more choice means people, particularly the lazy ones, simply go to the source that speaks to their own biases. The downside is that choice means you don't have to have to hear a contrary viewpoint if you don't want to. For someone like me who likes diversity in news and media it's never been better - I can take in the various points of view, account for source bias and make my own conclusion. There's no way I'd ever want to go back to those old days where independent research was nigh impossible and one had to have faith in the media because one didn't have a choice.


Congrats on the ban! What did they do, ban your IP? There are ways around that you know...

I have yet to be banned from any blog, but I came close last week at Col. Lang's site. I won't go into details but will just say that we had a misunderstanding that is now resolved.

bg said...


You know I think I am getting sloppy dealing with those lamb like commenters on the Intel Dump WAPO site. I gotta pick up my game here.

While I agree which much of what you said, I don't think, as Al says, you hit the nail right on the head. Actually, you hit the nail a couple of times, but I think you glanced off the side on a couple of other issues.

1. Your argument against some form of required federal service is a convincing argument if I was only referring to a military service. I am not convinced thought that if there were many more options available, we might be able to find a way to make it work.

- John Adams was a lawyer, and he defended the public who may or may not have been able to pay. Perhaps lawyers who offer their services to the public at no charge, perhaps this could be one form of Federal (or even state) public service that would qualify one.

This is only one example, I would love to see an expansion of the a local version of the Peace Corps, other public service volunteer programs, but we must have incentives to get serious and intelligent people to participate. There are many ideas for what could count as service, enough for everyone to play. I think it could be done.

So on this issue, I am not yet 100% convinced it is not a good idea, but I head your warnings.

2. Education: You could not be more right on this issue. This should be an entire blog entry of it's own. We are so broken on public education that I won't even start or I will never end this entry.

3. Corporate owned media: Ok, I get it, I see your point. So what, what are the other options? Greater regulation of who owns the media? While I see the problem, I don't see the answer.

4. Corporate donations to campaign: 100% agree, because it is hard to justify that any corporation's interests in a candidate constitute anything other than a hope to maintain or increase profits (at the expense of others, which is the way of business).

Is is really true that corporate donations fall under free speech though? That seems incongruent to me.

5. A 10% draft in time of war:

This one loses me a bit. You seem to imply that an all volunteer force is easier to commit to a war. There is some psychology behind that that seems reasonable, however, I think the true ease in commitment is based on capability, not willingness. It is more a function of the size of a standing army, and not how badly they want to go to war. If we keep the standing army smaller, that would limit the options.

In that scenario, I think the draft is the mechanism (as it was before WWII) to increase the size of the army slowly, making it painful and hard thus making the decision to mobilize painful and hard.

But my biggest issue with the draft is not the idea of it, but the execution. For it to work as you suggest, there can be NO exemptions. President and congress sons and daughters can not find a way out, there can be no way to buy your way out or use college as an excuse not to go.

I gotta roll, but more to follow. Thanks to all for beating me up good.

FDChief said...

Well damn, Fast! You da man. I always worked from the basis that if something I was doing wasn't pissing someone off up at Battalion staff that I was sucking up to the commander entirely too much. Sorry to hear they banned you entirely, tho. I've had a couple of my posts disappear for using The Adjective, but so far I can still sneak in the door.

I have to say that with the migration of some of the old Dumpers the general quality of the comments has risen. The main difference is that while the upper levels of commentary are fairly substantive there's a lot more of the "Me no like ragheads! Hulk smash!" and "No blood for oil! No blood for oil!" level kinds of posts that we harly ever saw at the old site...

BTW - I have to second JD's comment - good post, Charles. The real bottom line for me is that there is no plan - or at least no plan that can be publicly stated, since neocolonial occupations of foreign countries are supposed to be a no-no here in the Land of the Free - and few in the Fourth Estate seem to be willing to hammer on that failure.

Charles Gittings said...

"Is is really true that corporate donations fall under free speech though? That seems incongruent to me."

Oh ya, and... Ya. It's one the bigger messes in Constitutional law, dating from Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), from the same court that gave us Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 ("separate but equal" civil rights for blacks and whites). I found a web page with a fairly concise history...

The Santa Clara Blues: Corporate Personhood versus Democracy
by William Meyers

Aviator47 said...

Let me offer the following re: the draft.

I like JD’s proposal that a fixed percentage of the military be conscripts. I would offer that this percentage be in place at all times, and be a minimum, expandable in times of mobilization. During the 1945 to 1973 time frame, the draft not only conscripted people, it motivated people to enlist, enroll in ROTC, join the reserves, and the like to have a bit of control over the circumstances of their service. So, why not design a draft that is intended to conscript and motivate people from all segments of society to serve. Something like this:

All youth must register for the draft on their 17th birthday. Each December, a “lottery” will order the birthdays from 1 to 365, with those whose b-day is 1 conscripted first and so on, until the required number of conscripts are identified. The number of conscripts will be set by the size of the armed forces, and recruiting goals will be set based on the remaining accessions necessary to meet end strength.

There will be no deferments. Rather, a “lottery winner” can volunteer to serve, either by enlistment (4 years), enrollment in ROTC or a similar program, or joining the reserves. Of course, the “lottery winners” must compete with the population at large for the available positions for volunteers. And, if a “lottery winning” ROTC student drops out of ROTC, he then serves his 2 year conscript service - immediately. Under no circumstances should a surplus of volunteers lower the number of conscripts that will be brought on duty.

No enlistment bonuses will be offered. If there is insufficient volunteers, then the conscript numbers will be increased. If there is a surplus of volunteers, then some will be turned away.

Conscripts will serve 2 years, while volunteers will serve 4. Conscripts would be assigned to the less desirable billets. In return for their 4 year service, the volunteers will have more influence of their MOS, choice of assignment, officer vs enlisted, etc. Conscripts will enter service while 18 years old. Volunteers can contract for a bit more flexibility. Volunteers who try to evade their contract for deferred entry will be immediately conscripted. Volunteers can be offered re-enlistment bonuses. Conscripts are not eligable for a bonus until their second re-enlistment of at least 3 years.

Veteran education benefits will be given to all who honorably serve. The level of benefit will be based on years of service. Thus, conscripts will receive ½ the benefits of a one term volunteer.

What does the above do? Well, it would bring about 50,000 people from all over the socio-economic range into the military. Since Harvard bound folks are subject to conscription unless they enroll in and complete ROTC or its equivalent, we solve IRR’s demographics concerns. And, we would make volunteering a much more competitive process. Finally, the president would have to take into account that there was always a significant portion of the military that was conscript or conscription motivated, and would be somewhat less likely to be supportive of questionable adventures. Nor would the population be as divorced from the human toll of questionable adventures.

Now, there are some who would immediately point out how much work this might entail. Well, I am convinced that it would make recruiting easier and eliminate costly enlistment bonuses, while also benefiting the country itself by broadening the demographics of the military. The purpose of this type of draft goes way beyond expedient "body snatching".

Just a thought.


Fasteddiez said...

Al, great post on the draft; like Publius, I was on again, off again regarding same.
I don't know that I am officially banned from WaPo, but I did violate two of their no no's

On corporate contributions, I view them as bribery. If you were to drive 120 mph in your Maserati and were subsequently pulled over by a CHIPS, there are basically two ways to go: comply with the officer and accept ticket. You could slip two crisp one hundred dollar bills between your proffered papers and innocently inquire as to the existence of a Chippie benevolent officer's fund you can contribute to. If the officer takes your dough, he is in fact representing your local CongressCritter; if, instead he busts you for attempted bribery, the local prosecutor must prove intent. So a change to the laws to make all corporate donations illegal would be but a first step. Since I am not a barrister, I am out of my league on how to tackle that.

Rick98C said...


No offense taken.. I admit I was talking crazy.... I think I just wanted to throw the right-wing dog a bone to seem fair. They mostly just used to talk about responsibility. However, when faced with the majority of republicans today, those of yesteryear seem relatively benign by comparison. Despite their opposition to rights for women and minorities and any sense of community with those unlike themselves and on and on. Argh.

I never meant to imply that they were kind and caring.

It's gotten to the point that I can barely stand to listen to anything Bush, Cheney, McCain et al say. Their divorce from reality seems complete.

Aviator47 said...


Congrats on making the WaPo equivalent of The Motivation Platoon.

Semper Fi


Pluto said...

I think I just had a post disappear from this blog. I wrote it last night and was a little concerned when it didn't immediately appear but reasoned that all things computer can be a little strange. Still not there this morning.

You guys have already said everything I meant to say other than congratulating everybody on the high level of discourse.

Charles Gittings said...

I get it Rick -- and I was a Republican up to 1987 when I got fed up with the hypocrisy. Since then, things have passed the point of no return as far I'm concerned: they've degenerated into a criminal organization in the same sense the Nazis and Soviets were.

And it's an absolute disgrace.

Charles Gittings said...

Pluto, I suspect you just got caught in a glitch involving the 'word verification' biz.

We'll get used to it. We hope.

J.D. said...

Pluto, re: "I think I just had a post disappear from this blog. I wrote it last night and was a little concerned when it didn't immediately appear but reasoned that all things computer can be a little strange. Still not there this morning."

I don't know what happened to your post, Pluto, but I can assure you that you were not censored (ok, Eddie? You are safe here. :) ).

It might be the word verification stuff. I tried the blog without it and got spammed mercilessly, so we kind of need it, but if you set up a google id then you just sign in and don't need the word verification, you just post.

seydlitz89 said...


Thanks for kind words. We see the link. I would also consider the whole attitude towards US military service among the American people post-1918, not really very much the "loves a winner" view at all.


Fasteddiez's in motivation platoon, already?


Publius said...

BG: "There are many ideas for what could count as service, enough for everyone to play. I think it could be done."

You won't give up, will you? bg, I don't know about the others, but I don't care how far you expand your definition of "service," I'm still going to violently disagree with the whole idea. You're telling me that some fucking government bureaucrat somewhere is going to decide whether or not an American CITIZEN can vote? You're telling me that my daughter, who paid more in taxes last year—taxes that run this government—than a lieutenant makes, cannot vote because she hasn't met your test of "SERVICE?" Bull shit. Get off it. Your dog won't hunt.

Draft: The problem with JD's ten percent idea, Al's eloquent exposition and my own visceral support of the draft—in my case simply to maybe forestall stupid foreign wars—is this: There ain't enough spaces in the military to take all who would be in the window. Don't forget, this is 2008. You'd better include women, too. Who are your unlucky ten percent, JD? How do you stop gaming of the system? How do you convince the ten percent that they weren't just ratfucked? I've got to admit, I know all of the questions, but I've got few of the answers.

Fast Eddie: I think I can speak for everyone in saying how very proud we all are of you. If you really are banned—although according to you, that may not be the case—you might have set a record. And we, just like America, love a winner. You da man, indeed.

Anonymous said...


I'd like to thank God you guys are still writing.

I saved this from last night as I couldn't finish, and look at all I have to catch up on

In just a few hundreds of words, national service, war-winning, media and an informed public, and nosy and rude civilians seeking vicarious thrills have been touched upon.

As to a combat veteran being asked about killing, I want to mention a bit from John Crawford's "Last True Story", which I remember mentioning a couple of times at I-D, where he described to his non-service buddies back home in graphic detail how he killed a kid who picked up a wrecked AK.

Immediate silence ensued.

I also want to add into the conversation, if I may, the topic of religion. Another book, "What's the matter with Kansas", by Thomas Frank, illustrates the strange disconnect social conservatives have in regard to political conservatives who have ruthlessly covered themselves with the philosophy of the SCs in using that power and support for their own selfish purposes. Which I see as a corporate/political hegemony that will use any method to stay in and increase their power.

It's a perversion of true religion that teaches love and forgiveness for gain in worldly power and influence.

IMO, Obama mentions this in his latest faulted bit in Marin County, where he spoke of the disillusionment of the plebs outside the BeltWay who are promised all kinds of goodies but see them sail away overseas.

It is significant who criticizes him.

This is where I started again.

Let me say I am very happy to see ya'll around and writing again. I did recommend I-D to those I know who want a military/legal opinion of our world, and will do so here also.


Andy said...


I'm pretty sure BG wasn't talking about voting rights, but requirements to eligible for the Presidency.

While JD's idea for a draft is commendable it's ultimately unworkable. Why? Congress. There's simply no way Congress would make it truly universal. Loopholes would be added all over the place for the same reasons loopholes and special privileges are added whenever our tax code is "simplified" or "reformed."

bg said...

Publius, you know I won't give up. And apparently you don't know I wasn't even talking about suffrage, nor citizenship. I was talking about serving in public office.

What I am looking for is an incentive to get people, good smart people, involved in service to our nation. That service can come in many forms. And anyone who wants to serve our nation as an elected public servant should have zero aversion to performing some form of voluntary public service. If he/she doesn't feel they need to serve our nation doing something hard, what in the hell is there motivation to run for any office?

Perhaps the right solution is not an amendment or a law, but as JD says, it is up to the people. Perhaps we should simply expect this sort of thing of those running, and if they don't have some form or service, we ask, "why?" Perhaps there is no need for a formalize law when an informal implied rule (enforced by voters) is the best way to go about it.

"Sorry, bg, but it is impossible to compare the American culture that Patton was talking about to the current one. "

Al, I agree, yet I strongly disagree. Please do not confuse Truth with Perception of Truth (Reality).

Truth: Yes, you are probably right, Americans today are not the same people who lived through the Great Depression, expanded our nation in the hard west, fought and won WWII, etc.

But we still BELIEVE we are. That is all that matters. Our reality is based on our perception of truth, and perception is often influenced by our desire to see what we want to see. (plus it is a form of mob mentality, where the group is stronger with a different personality than the individual alone).

We see ourselves as the same Americans who won WWII. This creates our national reality and national psyche. Politics is all about perception of truth, not truth itself because politics is about people, not cold hard facts or truth.

Al and JD, I like your thoughts on the draft, but second Andy's notion that it may be just too hard to do right. If we did a draft again, it would probably be done so quickly and so poorly that it will defeat the purpose as we see it.

Fasteddiez said...

BG said:
"Truth: Yes, you are probably right, Americans today are not the same people who lived through the Great Depression, expanded our nation in the hard west, fought and won WWII, etc. But we still BELIEVE we are."

Not intending to continue a circular argument, while at the same time acknowledging that perception is often reality to the perceiver, I feel obliged to point out that the reason these Murricans visualize they are of the same cloth as the Depression survivors and WWII victors is because they are stupid, ahistorical, Boob tube addicted/propagandized, non reading, war/conflict avoiding, non union joining, don't roil the waters MotherFuckers.

So yes, there's a few of your generation that don't meet that criteria, but I hope you don't ever have to hold a position at night with a passel of these Winning citizens, should the Gummint ever have the bad taste to press gang these shitheads to your bosom. Hunility, self awareness, awareness of others qualities, and of your surroundings, married with tactical snap are the coins of the realm on the battlefield. The perceivers, especially the latter day gang banging Cat IV soon to be Cat V dregs now joining institutions cannot have these qualities instilled in them; even to the tune of a mace.

Aviator47 said...

Before I comment, allow me to post a link to some encouraging news that I'm sure JD is waiting for.

BG- It doesn't matter what the current generation thinks they are. What is important is what they are capable of, and/or incapable of. What is important is their behavior. And, the current generation is not capable of what the population did in the 40's, nor are they doing what the population did in the 40's.

The Army and Marine Corps are making the sacrifices to fight the war in Iraq. The general population is not sacrificing anything. Instead, they are mortgaging their grandchildren's futures. Not so for my parents and their cohort of the 40's.

The current lending crisis speaks volumes about a culture of immediate gratification, with no sense of responsibility.

There has been a major culture shift in the past 60 years, and regardless of perceptions, behavior has changed dramatically. And, I would say that that change has not been beneficial to the common good.

Yes, America loves a winner. And some use steroids, others use someone else's money and so on. We have not progressed as a society. We have simply become more adept at catering to short term self interest.


bg said...

I agree Al, we have changed significantly, and not for the better.

But I just don't think the average person realizes it. Or perhaps more accurately is not willing to accept it and will cling to any perceptions that will allow them to believe.

As Fast says, Perception can be reality. I can't even tell you how many times I've counseled soldiers with that phrase. The mind is an amazing thing and any discussion that fails to consider psychological aspects is only a partial argument. (caveat, as a Pysch major, I see the world in many shades of grey and don't believe in any black and white).

basilbeast said...

bg, I'm gonna take up you call for national service. I think it would be a great opportunity, not for qualifying for full citizenship, but something all should spend some time doing to broaden their horizons so to speak.

Many high schools around where I am require some community service time for their diploma. I don't see why that can't be expanded somehow by military time, Americorps, Peace Corps, something different and worthwhile to add to a resume.

As for some rich kid on a fast track to an MBA or party school feeling "ratfucked" by being in the 10% draft, better it happen young before kid becomes some whizbang at WalMart who decides to "ratfuck" himself by deciding to persecute the family of a dead Iraq WOT hero for medical insurance.

Even if it is technically legal. Many of these "aces" don't have the ethics of a cinder block. Now I see WalMart is being screwed by their video recording service, because they got screwed by WalMart.

Tell me there isn't something missing in the management of that company.

I think it was Kucinich who has proposed a Department of Peace. Yes, put some $ into sending some of America's finest into the world to do some good. It would certainly knock them out of the jingoistic self adulation we seemed to have fallen into these days.

Fast E, IMO you should wear that "Banned by WAPO" as a badge of honor. Too much of the stuff the elites at WAPO have done over the past years goes far beyond obscenity.


Aviator47 said...


While universal national service is an emotionally pleasing concept, there is no way the nation could afford the bill for millions of participants. Thus, I would expand upon my original conscription proposal.

Everybody would be liable for conscription. The young would have to decide whether to compete for an alternative entry into military service before they knew their conscription standing. Offering non-military alternatives simply opens the door to a different form of socio-economic advantage.

In short, on Jann 1 of your 18th year on this planet, you stand a 50,000/xxxxxxxx chance of being conscripted that year, where xxxxxxx = the total population of persons turning 18 that year. You either compete for a voluntary enlistment/ROTC opening or you take your chances on whether or not your number is selected.

If you think that non-military service should be added to the mix, then I would make that a follow-on draft of those who did not enter the military. Thus, one would go through two rounds of selection. Thus, a certain number of folks would be brought into military or non-military service each year, but the decision of which sector would be made by lot, not individual choice. The non-military selection would be in a manner similar to the military. Those not entering the military would be in the subsequent non-military pool. Before they know if they are to be conscripted into non-mil service, they could compete for entering the type of service of their choice. Once the available openings are filled, then the prescribed number of involuntary persons would be called.

What I am offering is an approach where everyone's liability for national service is equal. The only way out is the luck of the draw. Volunteering could offer better circumstances, but the rate of volunteerism would not reduce the liability to serve. The military would always have the X% that JD suggests.

The inequities of the Cold War draft were rooted in the numerous ways one could play the system and reduce the odds of serving. A good friend and Army service veteran taught at a major university during Viet Nam. His anecdotal contribution was:

"Faculty feared failing marginal male students because that would subject them to the draft, and in their minds, that was a one way ticket to Viet Nam and certain death. So many substandard students received degrees. Many of these students majored in education, as teaching was a guaranteed deferment upon graduation."

While he did not practice this, he was often pressured to go along with it. He often wondered what the long term impact was of these academically substandard teachers upon the generations of youth they taught.

I am quite supportive of a system of national service. I am not sure that we can afford universal service, but I am quite sure we could make the liability universal. Making the liability universal would have a much more profound and positive impact than any approach we have tried before.

What do you think?


bg said...


I've heard of high schools requiring public service. I wonder if colleges could pull that one off as well.


I do like the idea of everyone having an equal chance to "win the lottery" of national service. How would you suggest we go about prosecuting those who dodge this draft?

Aviator47 said...


There's always Gitmo........

Well, if the conscription service is for two years, some kind of really trashy "road gang" like service for two years, coupled with severely restricted liberty. Not necessarily incarceration, but distasteful enough to be a deterrent.

In times of armed conflict, however, I'd up the ante to incarceration, and if armed conflict erupts while serving outside of prison for evasion, the penalty is raised to be completed behind bars.

Should we ever have to return to a draft to sustain the Armed Forces, I strongly support JD's idea that a certain % of the military be conscripts. The former practice of using conscripts only to pick up the slack just lowers the odds of the load being borne equitably.


Charles Gittings said...


Q: How did we prosecute draft dodgers when there was a draft?

A: The same way you prosecute any other offense.

But we do not need a draft, nor do we need a military as large as we have.

Andy said...


Like I said before, I think it's a commendable idea, but do you really think Congress is at all capable of implementing it without adding endless loopholes, outs and exceptions? I just don't think it's possible that congress would actually make everyone 100% liable for this conscription.

Aviator47 said...


I didn't say it was possible, but I do think it would be good for our country and the military. But doing what's good for the country and the military is not on anyone's agenda any more. Witness the past seven years.


Read the above. We may not "need" a draft, but we definitely would benefit from one. I am not supportive of an AVF, even if we can field a good one. Defense of our nation, regardless of the size of force you deem necessary, is everyone's responsibility.


Charles Gittings said...


The thing is, I'm really not sure that we would benefit from it, but very sure we don't need it.

What I think we do need is some very serious reform of the educational system, perhaps even things as radical as reducing primary and secondary education to 10 grades from the current 12, and summer vacations from three months to one. Perhaps as part of that (along with retention of selective service registration) all teenagers could be required to go through basic training at a certain age.

But this is absolutely clear to me -- military service should not be in any way, shape, or form the basis for drawing distinctions between citizens, no more than serving on a jury or paying taxes should be. I have a great deal of respect for the military profession per se, but absolutely none at all for militarism.

And there's something else that strikes me about this discussion...

That the greatness of our nation isn't a function of the military anywhere near as much as the fact that we were nation of mariners, tradesmen, and farmers which enjoyed some really tremendous advantages of geography and made the most of them.

bg said...

"What I think we do need is some very serious reform of the educational system"


I have never agreed with anything that you've said more. This is the 3rd or 4th time this topic, seemingly completely unrelated, has popped up as one of the convergent issues. I wish someone had the balls to give the entire system a complete overhaul.

"But this is absolutely clear to me -- military service should not be in any way, shape, or form the basis for drawing distinctions between citizens, no more than serving on a jury or paying taxes should be. "

On this issue, I disagree. You seem to imply that being in the military, more specifically, the AVF, serves as a basis for drawing a distinction between citizens. If this is true, I believe that by making military service like paying taxes and serving on a jury, something that everyone has the requirement to do (or at least have an equal chance of having to do, aka a draft), will make military service exactly what you desire. Something that makes military service no different from any other part of being a citizen.

Publius said...

"Defense of our nation, regardless of the size of force you deem necessary, is everyone's responsibility."

Sure, Al, but did it ever occur to you that a whole lot of citizens may not believe that the current adventures overseas have much to do with defense of the nation? That, in fact, these adventures are actually weakening the state of our defenses? We emphasize the need for a smart populace; maybe a lot of folks, especially the younger ones, are a little smarter than we thought.

Now, of course, this is the issue with the draft: as matters stand, I guess we can console ourselves by considering that everybody participating in what a lot of people think are "dumb" wars that do little for our national security is a volunteer. OTOH, if we had a draft, maybe we'd lessen the chance of "dumb" wars. Maybe.

My last word on "Starship Troopers." Bg, methinks you're being a tad disingenuous here. I think Heinlein's premise was service as a prerequisite for full rights as a citizen, to include the vote. You advanced that as a worthy goal. Now you've backed off to where "service" would be required to hold public office. All I've got to say about that is that your idea sees George Bush as qualified for public office, whereas Bill Clinton is not. Without going into detail, who here thinks that born-again Bush will be viewed as a more successful president than sleazeball Clinton?

Nope, no matter how you slice it, under bg's plan, some government employee is going to be able to decide whether or not somebody who wants to run the government and thus be his/her boss is qualified. Non sequitur, anybody? I say the American people get to vote for whoever they want, damn the consequences.

Back in the good old Cold War days, when I, and others who were fighting the Commie menace, were discussing these matters, usually with the aid of copious amounts of adult beverages, I would ask, "what would you do if the American people elected a Commie as president? There's nothing in the Constitution precluding that, you know. And, inasmuch as we've sworn an oath to the Constitution, what would you do?" The response was always, "let's have another drink."

Oh, BTW, bg, with reference to your post on Phil Carter's new blog, some of us MI people had a very rewarding time in both war and peacetime. You just have to have the right background and training and be in the right job.

What bg and a whole of lot of folks are trying to do is to deny Tocquevilles's essential truth: the seeds of our destruction are within us. Substituting a dictatorship of the "service" proletariat for the current fucked-up, anarchic system wouldn't matter. America would still be gone. Maybe it will turn out that participatory democracy doesn't work in the long term. The results aren't in, but the trend lines aren't favorable.

Rather than discussing bg's pie-in-the-sky idea (anybody really think two-thirds of the Congress and three-fourths of the states would go for it?), I think we should focus on somehow trying to educate the American people on the very high stakes here. That's what I work on.

bg said...


Okay, last word on the ST thing, more in my defense than against what you said. I simply referenced ST and the requirement for public officials to have performed some form of service. I didn't ever say, nor ever think that a form of service is a good idea for citizenship or voting.

I concede that a mandatory requirement for public office is a bad idea. I was wrong. The real issue, as I figured out during this posting, is not the requirements, but instead the education of not just the future public servants, but of the education as a whole. Mandatory requirements is the easy way out in accounting for the stupid people among us.

I couldn't agree with you more about the need for education, and the importance of a discussion of how to go about it.

As far as the MI thing, full disclosure, I was never MI during peace time, I was Infantry. So my comments were based comments made by every single tactical MI soldier that I met. Tactical being the key word, as you say, there were probably some great gigs, just not in the tactical MI world.

Publius said...

Bg: WRT tactical MI in peacetime, been there, done that. Didn't like it. The only thing I did was perfect my pinochole game; lost too many good troops, too. Ever hear of a program that goes by the initials "GS"? That took addressed the problem.

Keep on truckin', bud. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

bg said...

I am familiar with GS. I am in the community.

Aviator47 said...


I was not postulating that a draft is the cure for dumb wars. My thinking in in terms of a general benefit arising from all citizens being subject to serving the collective well being of the nation. A sociological benefit. A cultural benefit. A benefit that comes from a societal expectation that each of us is expected to make "deposits" to the national well being, not only "withdrawals". A system where withdrawals outweigh deposits cannot be sustained. The inevitable outcome is called bankruptcy.

You are preaching to the choir on the need to improve our education system. But, I would add, that piece of paper one receives upon graduation must be indicative of meeting rigorous standards, and sadly, not every soul in our fair land is capable of meeting such standards. Yes, Virginia, there are people who are incapable of meeting the standards for a diploma. They may be intellectually challenged, physically challenged, culturally challenged or just plain lazy. We have applied the same strategies to diplomas that the Army applies to recruiting - ease the standards to raise the numbers.

Ask a soldier why he wants high standards and you will find that he doesn't want a dolt protecting his flank. It's a matter of life or death. Well, societies also live or die. If a diploma does not ensure that the holder has met a reasonable standard, our society has exposed flanks.

I guess that in my old age, I have become more and more obsessed with a focus on the common good, not simply that of the individual. I prefer seeing that all are fairly well off, rather than seeing only a select few well off, while many are scavenging. But what I would hope to see is a cultural manifestation, not one that can be easily achieved by legislation or electing a specific political party. It has taken a long time for the American culture to move toward the state it is currently occupying, and only a truly traumatic shock can alter it.

Well, I could expand upon this more, but the sun is shining and my Vespa is calling.



Andy said...

I enjoyed my time in intel during "peacetime." I put that in quotes because I spent most of the 90's in the Navy going from one hot-spot to another along with WAY too much time on "groundhog station" AKA Operation Southern Watch. The advantage of aircraft carrier duty is that one tends to get to see every crisis du jour.

The one thing I really love about intel though is its diversity - there is always something new to learn and relief from boredom is usually just a PCS away.

Speaking of which, it looks at this point that I may be rejoining the service, this time in the ANG with a predator unit. The wife is PCSing this summer and there's a unit nearby so commuting won't be a problem (which was a major reason I quit before - travel is not reimbursed for UTA's). As an added bonus, if activated, I'd probably stay at home station.

Almost Drafted said...

If I remember the late 60s correctly, the preferred (gut)major for staying out of the Army was Political Science. Education was rightly viewed as an easy education but a hard life.

And I certainly do think that conscription had a lot to do with us eventually getting out of Vietnam, Tricky Dick's "secret plan" notwithstanding.

Finally, I have to take a shot at the Starship Troopers discussion. Heinlein created a future society that was neither utopia nor dystopia. And this society's history included a general collapse of countries -- I don't recall any indication that it was a direct successor to the US.

Even when Heinlein did envision a monumental change in US politics, it was only after a cataclysm of some kind. As he once wrote, "lessons from history are best read after falling flat on one's face."

The basic premise that is being discussed was that anyone who wanted to be a public servant -- or even vote for a public servant -- had to demonstrate that they were willing to do public service.

I think that bg did change the paramers by limiting it to public service, but the same tweak occured to me as I read the earlier parts of this discussion. And some other interesting slants on the basic idea have been expressed here.

The best one, imho, is to move our society to the point where it won't vote for anyone who has not demonstrated the willingness to serve. Don't know how we get there, but it's nice to have a clear goal.

So, read the book if you want to know what Heinlein actually said. The movie was a hatchet job by people who assumed the story was a thinly-veiled pitch for fascism, and reworked the story to fit that assumption.

Two example spring to mind. One was Doogie Howser showing up, in uniform, with SS-looking collar tabs on his greatcoat.

The other was the scene where a DI throws a knife through a recruit's hand. Never happened in the book. What did happen was a scene where recruits were being taught to throw knives. One asked, "Why are you teaching us this stuff when we could be learning how to use dangerous weapons?"

What followed was an interesting treatise on there being no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men. And that they were trying to teach recruits to be dangerous, with any weapon or unarmed.

Finally, there's a fairly good case to be made that if not for hard SF writers like Heinlein, Clarke (recently deceased, RIP), and others, we would not have a space program. Because so many engineers in the 40s, 50s, and 60s were influenced by his writing.



mike said...

aviator47 has the right prognosis. How to implement it is the issue. Maybe sell it to Phil Carter or Paul Rykoff as they could end up as movers and shakers in the next administration, or as opinion shapers to the next congress.

And as much as I love Heinlein's fiction and bg's proposal, it will never fly. Although bg is right about the "Starshp Troopers" movie taking on fascist overtones that were not in the book. The director was Verhoeven(sp?) a Dutchman who also directed "Black Book" which showcased his fascination with Fascism (albeit as well as some lighter fare like the topnotch cinematography all the way up Sharon Stone's legs in "Basic Instinct"). Now I do not believe that Heinlein's original was Fascist inspired. But to my mind it does smell a little like the Bushido code if it is restricted to military service - too much Samurai worship for my taste. To bg's credit he does not restrict it to service in the military but opens it up to any public service. But what are the details on that? Does my daughter qualify for her less than 50 hours of pro bono work when she was still a law student? Does my sister qualify for her helping out at church benefits? Does my neighbor down the street qualify for his volunteering for a few days every year to help senior citizens repair and repaint their homes? Or does public service mean getting paid on the public nickel while working for a bureaucrat for two years???


Aviator47 said...


I agree with you on the overemphasis on Samuri.

There are great benefits, culturally, to a form of national service, and from my grumpy old man viewpoint, I would limit how much choice the population could exercise in selecting the nature of one's service. I tend to think that "national service" includes a significant element of sacrifice, and one way to ensure sacrifice is to have those serving do what it is they are called to do, not necessarily what they want to do.

Further, I do not think that national service should result in subsequent "privilege", but an attempt at avoiding (evading) it should result in some loss. In some countries, evading military service can result is loss of voting rights.

Could we institute a form of obligatory national service in the US? I doubt it. First of all, our notion of conscription is based on a manpower needs model. If enough people volunteer, then mandatory service is not necessary, and, as we have seen with our AVF, continuously raising the bonuses and pay packages can stimulate a larger pool of volunteers. At least up to a point. The danger in this "market driven" approach is that you can price yourself out of the market.

Also, as we have discussed, once you have a small, highly paid force of folks who are serving because they want to, the disincentive for adventures such as Iraq is minimized. If the force included a significant number of people who were serving because our nation needed them, then the nation's real needs might be a bit more likely to determine the use of the armed forces.

Yes, Charly, we can debate the size of the armed force we really need. Definitely we could size them so small that it would prevent adventures such as Iraq. But, what would that force be capable of when faced with a non-elective requirement? Trust me, my friend, it takes a year or more to stand up a new brigade to where it is capable of doing a brigade's job. And, it would much less expensive to maintain a reasonably sized military if we didn't have to pay so much in recruiting expenses and high pay for people in their first 18 months of service.

At the heart of the problem is our culture's lack of an ethic of unconditional giving. When I was a youngster, people gave to the "United Way", and the United Way determined how the funds were dispersed. Today, in order to raise funds, the United Way allows donors to select which charities will and will not receive the benefit of your individual donation. Even the most "noble" of all groups, churches, have given in to this approach. I am a product of my upbringing, and in that upbringing, it wasn't sacrifice if it only entailed doing it in a manner which was pleasing to you. How far has this movement away from unconditional giving moved? Well, we have the ultimate example in Bush's exhorting people to "go shopping" as their part in supporting the war on terror.

IMHO, the root of the behavior arises from the American notion that the individual is supremely sovereign, and the common good is merely an afterthought. It is from this that GWB's "ownership society" arises, with each citizen owning his or her piece of the pie exclusively, even if that piece has insufficient nutritional value to sustain life. If only the poor would die off, so that the rest of us would have more to own. Not share - OWN.

If you don't think that our culture has been profoundly effected by this, look at the number of religious organizations (I cannot, in good conscience, call them churches) preach prosperity. Yes, indeed, God wants you to have a bigger house, a better job, a low interest rate mortgage. And they have the scriptural passages at hand to prove it. It is all about you.

I fear we have reached a point where we no longer think in terms of investing in our country and all its people, if we ever really did. Investment, in American terms, is only when the person making that investment directly receives immediate, tangible return on that investment for his or her own personal portfolio.

Perhaps old age has just made me cynical.


Aviator47 said...

To see what I mean by the cost of paying the "market price" for volunteers, read this.

If JD's 10% conscript model were used, BILLIONS of dollars would be avoided, and our population would be required to make a personal investment in the country as well. And, as I have said over and over again, this investment would pay great dividends to the collective well being in terms of cultural shift.


Fasteddiez said...

Howdy, I'm going to experiment with a link in here using straight HTML.
This is a groovy story about our steadfast warriors using their Murrican, though culturally clueless Ham handedness, in order to get our latter day Marvins to take the fight to our latest Black hearted enemy (Mookie and the Jamsters)....sounds almost as catchy as Katrina and the waves (now why didn't they play Nawlins?....we should ask SNLII.

Ok here we go
Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American’s Plea

Andy said...

Al said, "I fear we have reached a point where we no longer think in terms of investing in our country and all its people, if we ever really did."

I think the "if we ever did" is more accurate. Individualism has defined this country since its inception and conscription, with the exception of WWII, has never been popular and only began with the Civil War (and didn't work out very well in that case).

Only since the 1930's and the rise of significant federally-funded social programs enabled by the 16th amendment (which itself has probably done more than anything else to increase federal power) has the idea of collectivism really been a part of American ideals.

And personally I think, individualism is much more likely to keep us out of elective wars than collectivism will. If we really want to limit such things, then ISTM the best way is to limit federal government more generally and that, I think, would require repeal or significant change to the 16th amendment.

Publius said...

"IMHO, the root of the behavior arises from the American notion that the individual is supremely sovereign, and the common good is merely an afterthought."

Al, you're right. And you're also right about aging making one more cynical. However, it's my sense that Andy has made a couple of important points. First, a review of the American experience demonstrates the truth of us being a nation of individualists who've only really pulled together in times of extreme peril. Clearly, the American people do not view this as a time of extreme peril.

The other important point Andy makes is that collectivism may make it more likely that Americans are receptive to jingoism and actions taken for the "greater good." Individualism, OTOH, makes people more prone to ask the hard questions. Case in point: our modern military, which has embraced the collectivist model: still very supportive of the Bush wars despite all evidence to the contrary.

Collectivism gave us Fascism, Nazism and Communism, systems where the person who points out that the king really doesn't have any clothes is singled out for opprobrium—if he/she is lucky—and far worse. The U.S. saw the "good" collectivist model in WW2; we've seen the "bad" model since 9/11. This post-9/11 collectivist model is especially bad because millions of Americans are shitting their pants about terrorism, but are totally unwilling to do anything about it.

For good or ill, we are a nation of individualists, a people who say, "what's in it for me?" This has been our strength for more than 200 years. We don't have much use for the "Rodina" or the Volk" type of political approaches. We've traditionally been far too cynical for those types of approaches. Which is why Mr. Bush hasn't been able to keep it together. We're not wired that way.

We can bewail it all we want, but it's who we are. Reality is that a large standing Army is totally contrary to our national character, something that's made us schizophrenic as a people since WW2. The essential dichotomy is that collectivist military personnel expect individualistic Americans to somehow change their character. In many respects, today's all-volunteer military and its views are out of place in the real America, the one that's always been here, since the founding.

We're not going to have a draft. We will muddle through with what we've got. But we have to avoid excessive veneration of the military, we've got to avoid giving its opinions undue weight, and most of all, we have to keep an eye on it. Citizens of a free state must always be wary of a standing military, asking questions continually of what it's doing and why it's spending our money. This is where our politicians have let us down. And where we've let ourselves down.

Charles Gittings said...

Individualism is strictly a mirage -- humans are fundamentally and profoundly social. The sort of radical individualism espoused by such folks as (ahem) slave owners and robber barons has always been one of our greatest weaknesses, while the reality is that most Americans are about as individualistic as a heard of sheep -- which has a lot to do with why it's possible to elect a drooling sociopath like Bush president.

Aviator47 said...

You guys seem to have missed my point. I was not speaking in terms of militarism nor nationalism. I was speaking in terms of the "common good" in social terms. Simple things like health care, social security, or other contributions by the individual for the general benefit of all.

An example: More and more health insurance providers have defined high cost life saving drugs into a "Tier IV" category, and require the patient to pay a healthy "co-pay". For many drugs, they now become prohibitively expensive. In actuarial terms, they are redefining the population across which certain risks are shared so that the majority of the population pays lower premiums. Thus, while you may think you have a "Cadillac" policy, it is only that for certain maladies. Risk is no longer spread equally across the subscriber population, something that insurance was once intended to do.

If the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer, there will come a day when a second revolution is going to take place. If winning is the only thing, the masses will some day make their move to be the new winners.

We run up huge national and personal debt which will become someone else's burden. The solution to our debt is less spending and more revenue, yet no one really wants either. If the current economic crises worsens, it will be interesting to see what "the people" cry for.

Just being cranky.


Aviator47 said...

Off topic, but here's an interesting tidbit. The USAF awarded a $50 million contract to promote the Thunderbirds!

Publius said...

In re: the Thunderbirds, thanks to Al:

"And it will say that improper influence was used to choose a particular bidder who had ties to a retired general, according to several defense and Congressional officials."

A couple of points here. The quote above demonstrates just how dirty so many general officers (one is too many) have become. They routinely take care of their retired buddies now in industry and feather their own nest, looking for the cushy job in retirement. Why military personnel should respect a lot of generals (they used to be viewed as God-like) or in any way listen to them is beyond me. ISTM that our generals have become just another class of inferior politician, inferior because they're generally poor at public speaking and can't easily adopt the "aw-shucks" common-man persona needed in politics. A lot of generals have always been assholes, but at least they were honest assholes.

Second point is: why do we even need the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels? Huge waste of money, IMO. Plus it can be dangerous. I had a front-row seat for the crash, subsequent death and tons of property damage last year at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Military pilots should have better things to do.

Aviator47 said...

I have two neighbors, both retired Greek flag officers. Both live simple lives in small houses on modest plots of land. By US standards, they sure have it wrong!


Aviator47 said...

Well, I have more than two neighbors. That said, of the neighbors, two are retired Greek military flag officers.

Our village is small, but not that small!


jd.noway said...

First, as a former long-time Intel Dump ''lurker,'' I hope I won't come across as an idiot when I do post. That said, however, I, truly enjoyed the tutoring you guys offered: with respect to the military and the variety of opinions and topics covered.

Unfortunately, I've never ‘’donned’’ the uniform - but I consider myself fairly well read, including some military history, and enjoy the gamut of political economy, to foreign relations - or, with our current administration - lack of same.

Second, I believe that a tangent of ’’America loving a winner’’ has enabled this administration to run roughshod over the Constitution, target its citizens for a majour psyops campaign - with barely a notice, and turned the current military into some mythical haven for the ‘’chosen ones’’ e.g., the USAFA influence of Fundamentalist Christians.

Third, I'm enamoured of aviator47's proposal for service - although, we might quibble over details; but, I, too, believe that the current volunteer force does not represent a broad enough slice of America, our forces are far too insular and far too dominated by the GOP - particularly, the active duty officer component. If more families from across America were forced to put some ‘’skin in the game’’ - the political calculus would be altered significantly.

Moreover, I would postulate that some of the oppositon to the AVF is directly related to fear by the current AVF that an integration of ‘’centrists / pragmatist’’ into the ranks could endanger their current warrior ethos, not to mention, their current obeisance to the GOP.

Lastly, I'm more likely to lurk than post - but, again, I've long enjoyed the tutoring I've received from the Intel Dump old timers; thanx for your service...