Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supporting a Declaration of War Should Be The Same As Volunteering to Fight It

The same day I posted my idea for a "token draft" of 10% of the force to ensure all Americans are at war, not just the military, this appeared in the USA Today. No, I did not read it before my post, it was simply a coincidence. I think the history is off - during most of America's history we had an all-volunteer force supplemented by a draft in wartime, not just since 1973 - but the points are valid. Here is the article in full:

All-volunteer Army: An ongoing experiment

By Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras

In 1973, the military draft ended, and our nation began the experiment of manning an Army exclusively with volunteers.

A decade later, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger proclaimed, "To all the American people, I would say that the experiment is over. We know that an all-volunteer force can succeed, and we know what it takes to make it succeed."

And yet, perhaps today we really don't know all it takes to make the all-volunteer force succeed. Five years of war have turned recruiting for the Army into a continuous struggle. The challenge, however, is not merely recruiting enough soldiers, but "quality" soldiers.

A "quality" soldier is motivated to serve, learns quickly and flourishes in the Spartan conditions of military life. To assess "quality," the Army relies on a high school diploma as an indicator of motivation, higher aptitude test scores as a marker of trainability, and the absence of a criminal record.

Lower standards

Because more recruits lack high school diplomas or require waivers for misconduct, the Army developed plans for programs such as a prep school to attain a GED or more focused training to compensate for lower aptitudes. These recruits have proved very competent.

But the Army is more than enlisted soldiers. There is also the officer corps. Unlike the enlisted force where re-enlistment rates have been high, officer retention continues to be a problem.

The Army's recent incentives, including a $35,000 bonus, have failed to persuade enough captains to stay in uniform, especially officers from top-tier ROTC schools or West Point. These officers, who eventually account for the majority of Army senior leaders, are critical in providing the future direction of the military. These officers are also extremely marketable, even in a tight job market.

What should be done? One option is to mimic the enlistee-recruitment approach. The Army can lower standards to bring in more lieutenants, bypassing the requirement to attend ROTC, West Point or even college. Good training can compensate at the tactical level for the lack of an ROTC or West Point experience in the short term.

Future leadership

As officers progress through their careers, they are called on more for their ability to handle the unknown. But unlike corporations, the Army cannot hire external senior leaders. Bringing in lower-quality lieutenants today will result in lower-quality generals tomorrow.

Another option is a significant drawdown in Iraq, thereby giving our warriors a break from multiple deployments. Besides being a political rather than a military decision, however, this alternative is only a short-term fix that sidesteps the real issue.

The real issue confronting today's Army derives from three aversions held by Americans:

* We are skeptical of a sizable military. "The spirit of this country," Thomas Jefferson noted, "is totally adverse to a large military force."

* While many Americans yearn for some form of national service, few are eager to revisit the inequities of conscription.

* Americans have a low tolerance for long wars.

When the all-volunteer Army was envisioned 35 years ago, few predicted that it would be downsized from a force of 800,000 then to 547,000 today. It was assumed that the all-volunteer force would be supported by a standby draft and that long wars would not be measured in decades, but in years. The result is an Army struggling to maintain quality — especially in its officer corps — in an environment unforeseen by its architects.

Even after we eventually leave Iraq, the Army will still have to attract and retain quality people. Considering the circumstances, it appears this experiment called the all-volunteer Army is not over.

Retired lieutenant colonel Leonard Wong and retired colonel Stephen Gerras are faculty members at the Army War College. Their views are not necessarily those of the Army.


basilbeast said...

Suzanne Gamboa / Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Army has discharged a decorated medic who was deployed to Iraq despite acknowledging he was gay.

Darren Manzella, 30, said he revealed his sexual orientation to his military supervisor in August 2006, and was redeployed to Iraq anyway. He has since spoken out publicly several times about being a gay service member.

Manzella was discharged this month for "homosexual admission." His commander's discharge recommendation included a transcript of an interview he gave to television show "60 Minutes" in December 2007, in which Manzella said he is gay.
Manzella enlisted in the Army in 2002. In Iraq, he provided medical care to other soldiers and accompanied his unit on patrols. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge.

Manzella's last assignment was to Fort Hood with the 1st Cavalry Division.

>end quote<
I seem to recall a bunch of gay Arabists released from their military service as we headed into Iraq.

Sex trumps national security, and we must preserve our "precious bodily fluids" at all costs.


basilbeast said...

Maybe the Pentagon should look into this.


J.D. said...

Basil, what is your point? The "military" has no policy on homosexuals, which is why I hate it when the press refers to it as the "military policy on gays" etc. That is what the right-wing wants - for the debate to be "military v. gays."

The ban on homosexuals openly serving is a law - passed by Congress and signed by the president - and the military has no say.

basilbeast said...

That's true of the present situation of course, and I do not necessarily blame the current military establishment for that law.

I sure as hell blame the military of the 90s however.

By the beginning of 1993, it appeared that the military's ban on gay personnel would soon be overturned. Shortly after his inauguration, President Clinton asked the Secretary of Defense to prepare a draft policy to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he proposed to use the interim period to resolve "the real, practical problems that would be involved" in implementing a new policy. Clinton's proposal, however, was greeted with intense opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, members of Congress, the political opposition, and a considerable segment of the U.S. public.

After lengthy public debate and congressional hearings, the President and Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reached a compromise which they labeled Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue. Under its terms, military personnel would not be asked about their sexual orientation and would not be discharged simply for being gay. Engaging in sexual conduct with a member of the same sex, however, would still constitute grounds for discharge. In the fall of 1993, the congress voted to codify most aspects of the ban. Meanwhile, the civilian courts issued contradictory opinions, with some upholding the policy’s constitutionality and others ordering the reinstatement of openly gay military personnel who were involuntarily discharged. Higher courts, however, consistently upheld the policy, making review of the policy by the U.S. Supreme Court unlikely.

I have a question, though, if a commanding officer in the field discovered that one or 2 or more members of his unit were engaged in a homosexual affair, and they denied it because they did not want to leave the service, abandon their team, whatever, but it was obvious to the whole unit, and their absence would dramatically reduce the unit's effectiveness in accomplishing the mission, does the commander have any leeway at all or is it out of his hands?


J.D. said...

Isn't it clear by now that a few individuals do not speak for "the military?" Gen. Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is against the ban on gays - so that some former chairmen are or were for it shows nothing. And when did the Joint Chiefs become "The Military?" Did anyone ask colonels, captains, sergeants, or the rest of the hundreds of thousands that make up the military? And Colin Powell clearly does whatever his higher-ups tell him to do - witness his disgrace and shame over Iraq and his testimony to the UN over "mobile bio-weapons labs." He can suck it - no pun intended.

After Rumsfeld, can you really tell me the Secretary of Defense has to give a damn what soldiers think for it to be policy? Your excerpt does not show it was the military that made the policy, it confirms it did NOT.

The Army does not make policy. There is no anti-gay military policy. There is a federal law, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, that orders the military to ban gays.

Or do you blame the Army for invading Iraq too?

The Army obeys the will of the people - and the will of the people at that time was anti-gay. It was wrong, but it was not the military's decision, it was the decision of the people. Just like Iraq- it wasn't up to the Army. And blaming the Army for the policy against gays is just like blaming the Army for invading Iraq. We the People are responsible, not those sworn to carry out our orders.

As for your question:

"If a commanding officer in the field discovered that one or 2 or more members of his unit were engaged in a homosexual affair, and they denied it because they did not want to leave the service, abandon their team, whatever," STOP. If a commanding officer discovered the affair, then the soldiers are in violation of the law passed by Congress and must be discharged. That they claim otherwise is irrelevant if the commander himself knows the truth - he or she must not lie or tolerate those who do, so a "convenient lie" is not an option. At this point in your hypothetical the paperwork is being submitted that will result in separation from the service - unfair, yes. Harmful to the soldiers and the nation, yes. But it is the law and soldiers obey all lawful orders.

To continue: "but it was obvious to the whole unit, and their absence would dramatically reduce the unit's effectiveness in accomplishing the mission, does the commander have any leeway at all or is it out of his hands?" Whether it was obvious to the unit or not is irrelevant. As to any leeway because it would reduce the unit's effectiveness - there is no leeway, and it ALWAYS reduces the unit's effectiveness when a soldier is separated for no other reason than that he or she is homosexual.

You can blame the commander, of course - but the only option was to betray his oath to obey all lawful orders, or to follow those orders. And that order is terrible, wrong, hurtful, shameful, and I have followed it myself gritting my teeth the entire time and cursing the idiocy of the policy under my breath. But it was the law. I wouldn't have wanted to invade Iraq and kill Iraqis either, and I would have followed that order too. When you swear the oath that makes you a soldier, you put many decision in the hands of the people you are sworn to serve - and you don't get any veto. You obey all lawful orders even unto death.

In your hypothetical, the soldiers are separated and the unit, the soldiers, and the nation are harmed. That is what happens when we the people make bad decisions. Our republic isn't the best form of government because of the decisions we make. It is the best form of government because of who makes those decisions - the People. And like any other form of government, they can be wrong (Iraq?). But they are sovereign and soldiers serve so that the People remain in charge, not because they agree with the decisions those people make.

If you think the law banning gays from serving is wrong (I sure as hell do) then write your Congressman. Don't talk to the Army about it - many if not most agree with you, but they can't do a damn thing about it. YOU CAN.

basilbeast said...

Actually, I think circumstances will have more push than I have.

I think as an issue, it's much like the desegration of the military in the first half of the last century.

Thanks for your reply.