Saturday, April 16, 2005


Read an interesting article in Reader's Digest about the expensive gadgets and toys parents and grandparents buy their children. It was saying something like "even if one is affluent, still not a good thing." It was indicating that children truly expect to get everything they ask for and that most parents (even if they can't afford it) will still buy. It went on to say that this kind of thinking has even spilled over to older adult children in that they still go to their parents for handouts - that they can't learn to live within their means.

This is not new news but some times I think that maybe, just maybe, what most Americans kids need is to learn sacrifice, team work, being on their on. How about the military?

I see kids, sloppily dressed appearing to be aimless--those kids need to be in the Army. What a chance for youngsters if we could only get them interested. Simply we can't. They don't have too and consequently, they won't (join up).

Think about this: inner city kids in Baltimore as depicted on the HBO program, The Wire. It is a segment of society lost to America in a sense. Kids with no hope, no chance, no future. Many will be dead before they reach adulthood. They live in the "projects" where drugs are a way of life. How to reach those kids! We can't under present circumstances; if we had a draft, an AllServe, they might have a chance. Do you think they will sign up of their own volition? Forget it!

I saw this Marine sign on the window of a recruiting station that said, "We'd promise you (if you joined up): sleep deprivation, mental torture and muscles so sore you'll puke. But we don't like to sugar coat things."

How many American kids would benefit from joining up? MOST!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005



Breaking promises is a way of life for the soldier. Over the years, they have endured, RIFs (reductions in force), downsizing (fired), and SERBs, (selective early retirement boards). Most young soldiers don't think in these terms but any of us old soldiers know that promises made at one point are hollow at another one. It is the nature of the beast. Even as we speak, benefits are being eroded for retirees and some VA hospitals are struggling to provide basic services for returning wounded from Iraq. And, these are just two issues among many. Frances Quarles in the 1500s penned this very appropriate poem which applies so aptly to today's soldier,

"Our God and soldier we alike adore.
When at the break of ruin, not before.
After deliverance both alike requieted.
Our God forgotten, and our soldier's slighted."

CAN WE AFFORD THE VOLUNTEER ARMY? moneywise or emotionally?

Based on the costs in Alfganistan and Iraq, we may quickly be closing in on what I call the Iraqnam quagmire. Congress wants to add more troops, by some estimates, at least 40,000. We can't recruit for the 500, 000 authorized even. How are we going to get these? And, how can we afford them. John Kerry says for instance, that to add 40 thousand to the regular military would cost 4.5 billion to attract and retain troops. And, where are we going to get these troops short of a draft? What would be the incentive to join up?

Friday, April 08, 2005


No soldier starts a war-they only give their lives to it. Wars are started
by you and me, by bankers and politicians, excitable women, newspaper editors, clergymen who are ex-pacifists, and congressmen with vertebra of putty. The youngsters yelling in the streets, poor kids, are the ones who pay the price
. Father Francis Duffy

Our military is stretched unbelievably thin. We have 310, 000 military serving in 120 countries. For example, in an NPR (National Public Radio) program recently, I heard a young Marine interviewed who served in the African country of Darfor. I didn't even know we had troops there. And, in Iraq, with 40% of the Guard and Reserves making up the force, we are in deep kimchee (kimchee, a type of vegetable in Korea which literally is fermented and to be in deep kimchee, means that you are where it is buried in the process and literally walking on it deep in the ground while it is marinating; a little like the crushing of the grapes in wine country. Deep kinchee is not a good experience). How can we sustain this number of troops, many are already serving repetitive tours.

Where would we be if we truly had to fight another conflict?--philosophy is out the door. The draft would be our only possibility. Now is the time to plan and act! Obviously, there is scant support for the draft in Congress or with those in power.

I'm convinced that the part of the public that cares would accept a draft if it were part of a bigger plan. A National service plan in which young people could still volunteer for the military but have options of other types of service.



The All Volunteer Army is strained to the max bigtime. When I first started talking about restoring the draft or mainly to have some kind of AllServe, I didn't think we stood a chance for really seeing the return of it. Now, I'm not so sure. The non genius Secretary of Defense's plan of transforming the military into a high tech mobile force simply has lost so much credibility that we are close to crisis. Rumsfeld, if anything, is stubborn; failed policies in Iraq, a tenure marked by one misstep after another. He's invulnerable, however, it appears, so living with him is a given. However, forces beyond his control seem to be shaping up. The Volunteer Army keeps dwindling.
Early on, I said that to bring back a semblance of the draft, American kids had to quit volunteering and it appears they are. Attempts by the military to offer greater incentives and appeals to patriotism don't seem to be hacking it.

The draft ended in 1973 and seemed to be assigned to the trashpile of history. Maybe not! The Marines have missed their recruiting goals for the last two months and the Army can't fill it's ranks of 500,000 and the National Guard and Army Reserve is way down. They are trying to buck up but the goals keep going south. For the first time of recent note, the military bureaucrats are admitting they have a problem


A friend of mine calls what the military is doing now is something business often does. In a sales organization, a style of management that doesn't work usually is to bring in some manager with a whip and tell the galley slaves to row harder: sell more, do more cold calling. Whip. Whip--the movie, Glengarry, Glenross approach. These guys in the movie are selling swampland in Florida with a motto of lie, cheat, steal...all in a day's work. Translated to the military, it shakes out to be more recruiters, get your quota, pull them in at any cost.
How this translates is for the military to lower standards or in one ploy: uping the age to join up. If you are 39, you can still join the Reserves or Guards. Please! The military at the fighting level is a young man's game. It would be like putting some aged football type into the backfiedof the Greenbay Packers and expecting him to perform like a 22 year old. Galley Slave approach: bring in a new advertising agency.
But, at the bottom line, parents and potential soldiers are realizing, "this ain't no game." I can be told anything by a recruiter but my next step may be Iraq. I think not.


When I talk to people which I do constantly about some sort of Universal service, what I call AllServe, those who think about it can give arguments out the gazoo: I understant. Reps Charles Rangel and Pete Stark gave the draft a symbolic try in Congress which got "lost at the train station." The draft is political machinations and hot air say some. All the "talking heads" have some general view and scenario of how the Volunteer Force is working. The simple fact exists that if Iraq drags on, how are we going to play the role we have set for ourselves without some sort of draft: what if North Korea or Iran truly erupts.

Most who do any thinking about our Forces tout the success of a Volunteer Army. The success resides in numbers only--the volunteers are good but in pure terms are mercenaries--they are being paid to fight. My retort constantly is that I don't have any real arguments for these views that the Volunteer Force is working. The only unrefutable argument I have is that the Volunteer Army simply is not representative of our country. And, it is not fair to have only one portion of our society bear the burdens of military service.

Presently, we are like teetering on a needle. If certain things happen, then we'll be OK but if the direction goes toward more conflict/terrorism, our stuff is in the streets--we are not ready or able to counter. We simply don't have the troops. Sure, if the Iraqis begin to police their own country and we can begin to bring home our troops, assuming the present "powers that be" would do that, the All Volunteer Force is what worked.

During the "cold war" when there really were no bullets flying, the All Volunteer force worked like a gem. However, we doubt the "powers" will disengage from Iraq or the Middle East since we are already there. Ever hear of the NeoCons who are driving our foreign policy--way too much influence from those who got us into Iraq with faulty thinking in the first place.

We would be much better off to bite the bullet NOW and come up with a plan for an AllServe conscription plan. Even if it is years out, to put it on the table, to prepare, to be ready. We need to do this now and not "hope that all things are going to work out." They're not.