Wednesday, April 23, 2008


According to an article in Tuesday's local paper, the Marines and the Army are taking into their ranks more felons than ever in their history. As a "second chance" guy, I think it is not a bad thing; many of these guys committed crimes in their youth; much of it was sexual, underage kids having sex with other consenting underage kids. After intense screening, why not give these kids a shot.

Unfortunately, it appears that the motivation is not "another chance" rather meeting recruiting goals. Recruiting is becoming more difficult based on the war in Iraq and especially a lack of encouragement from parents to join up, i. e., thus felons who under normal circumstances wouldn't get a chance, now do.

I really get concerned on where the military is heading and is this "more felons" symptomatic of larger problems? The Volunteer Army has been sold to the public to such a degree that there seems to be no question as to simply accepting that it is here to stay. There are at least larger questions, i. e., is our mercenary Army in a position to sustain two wars and be ready for whatever might come. I don't think so.

In the wonderful movie, Young At Heart, a documentary about a bunch of older folks who are developed into a first class musical ensemble--there's one scene that speaks to second chances. They go to a prison to sing. The prison is peopled with all these young adults, whose lives have gone to hell in a hand basket. Why not give them another chance in the military? In this case, we must trust the military to be on top of this potentially explosive issue. We want soldiers who often have the sorts of personalities that don't seem to fit the normal population, i.e., war is no day at the beach. It is about killing, it is war.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN--Comments on the military draft

It's hopeless to think that there's some way to persuade, wrangle, or force the implementation of the draft to help relieve our Bush-ed all volunteer but now "Stop Loss-ed" military; that's been spread out over 80 countries and fighting 2 wars simultaneously for years with no end in sight. I'm afraid that it's just not attainable by any conventional political means either. In fact, history shows that the draft is instituted only as a last resort and ONLY AFTER we or one of our allies is attacked and suffer grievous enough losses. Then the public outrage leads to the patriotic response of enlisting and the justification for the draft.

Apparently, 9/11 with nearly 3,000 innocent American men, women and children killed on our very own homeland soil and now over 4,000 U.S. Soldiers also killed and 30,000injured in Iraq, still no longer meets the definition of enough grievous losses and suffering. Not to mention the nearly 100,000 VA claims for PTSD and 12,000 deserters and AWOL soldiers who refused to do 3, 4, or 5 combat tours.

Why has our level of tolerance been extended to such an extreme level of cautiousness? Is it just political correctness in order to win the next party elections? Is it our society's desensitization to violence since we've become so accustomed to seeing so much media reporting that focuses on nothing but all the daily ongoing negatives in our country? What will it take to happen for us to act to re-institute the draft?

I say it won't happen until our homeland is once again attacked and not just suffering some losses but very huge losses. To me this is so tragic that it makes me sick to even think of it happening all over again before the military draft is finally implemented. Also, I even have a teenage son and I still think that the draft should have been implemented a long time ago.

Enlisted Sgt. G. P., Class of '67-'69 Vietnam Tet, 101st Airborne Paratrooper

George, a terrific piece of writing. I agree with you: to be perfectly honest, I don't know where we are heading. The lack of realism about Iraq is simply overwhelming to me. I watch lots of news and it is like scores of people are living in parallel universes. Gen Petraeus and Crocker spoke like they simply were delivering prerecorded comments. I thought Petraeus was fairly realistic but simply the "what ifs" were very negating. And, as you know, it is one thing for the generals to talk strategy from a high and lofty perch but another for grunts to have to live it out on the ground. For instance, we had five GIs killed one of the days that Petraeus was speaking. The constant theme of his talk and Crockers and the Congressman who agreed with him was that violence is down. Yes, according to who? Not the five dead GIs or the hundreds of innocent Iraqis killed. I am amazed. I feel like those of us who are trying to face reality are like the apostle Paul, we are kicking against the "pricks."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Why are they joining? I think it's because they have nothing better
in their lives. They're mostly from mid-America where there are no
more jobs for them. No factories or mines and very few small farms
anymore. And most schools don't inspire young people to go on to
higher ed. Comment in a letter to AP


I think it's a little more complicated than your comments. First of all, the military has spent and are spending millions of dollars in Madison avenue type advertising, enticing these kids. And, it is true, that most come from socioeconomic categories that as much as we hate to say, are, lower middle class or lower in terms of opportunity. (Wow, we hate to admit that we have a class system in America--I do anyway). And, let's face it, we have developed a caste system in that our military officers are college educated, often from the Academies, paid for by the taxpayer, of course--they come from middle class or upper middle class families, while the enlisted come from the lower socio economic classes.

And, in many ways, the military is a good deal: good pay, perceived benefits, and often just the discipline that kids need. Ask many parents? So, why do they join? I think that some of it is the feeling of their invulnerability. They don't think in terms of war but in terms of adventure. If I were a youngster with maybe not stellar prospects, not knowing what I wanted to do, then the military would definitely be a possibility. All I could see would be, "I want to be an airborne ranger."

There are many other questions that have to be answered for the military--the biggest one is that the Volunteer Army has been so sold as successful, that it is hard for the American public that cares to think in any other terms. And, we don't have the moral or political will to do what we ought; institute some sort of National Service. Until we have a crisis truly and another course has to be considered, we will continue on in what we're doing. And, the fact that we have almost no leaders, John McCain, an exception, even if he is somewhat tainted in my opinion, (We surely respect his POW time) not just because he is a Republican but has always been in an elite kind of category, i. e., his Dad/Grandfather were Admirals. I would be more impressed if his Dad/Grandfather were Sergeants.

Maybe one scenario is that if we were to get to the point of overwhelming crisis, repetitive tours that are intolerable, not enough enlistees, cannot afford the Volunteer Army, etc., then we might see another course of action, i. e., the draft.

And, let's don't forget patriotism and tradition for some of these kids: although maybe a small number but they're there: and, these kids who are serving are good soldiers from what I see. And, I for one, appreciate their sacrifice. In the long run, most of the kids who've chosen the military are going to feel that there service to the country, even in a sorry war, was worth it. They did something that many of their peers did not.


When I was draft eligible, meaning 18-26, contending with the draft was simply a way of life. You couldn't do anything unless you figured it out. And, "draft dodging" could be a part of it. Most anybody who had the means and was smart could escape the draft: (at least for awhile) school deferment, married with children and naturally the classification of 4F which was a physical thing. And, the stories of how guys got 4F status are legion. It is hard to know how serious most of us took those who dodged the draft. In many ways, at the time, it was more power to them. From a philosophical standpoint, 40 years past Vietnam: we saw our duty and did it--at least it's what we tell our grand kids.

A new term has arrived on the scene; WAR DODGERS. What this means is soldiers who for whatever reason have come to believe the war in Iraq is not worth it. Or as one put it, when he was halfway into his second deployment, "This is what my buddies are dying for." Noway, he deserts. During Vietnam, Canada and Sweden were havens for draft dodgers and deserters. I had a little personal experience with Sweden.

When I was in Europe during the early seventies, I was in missile battalion and one of our officers was this fine, young West Point graduate. He had "orders" for Vietnam and since I was just back, wanted to talk about how I saw Vietnam and what was going on over there. We had a great talk. He asks probing questions and I tried to answer honestly, not supporting all we were doing but discussing the various party line at the time which I believed. We had a moral obligation to keep the North from taking over the South, had to stop communism, the domino theory. (at that time I didn't know enough or had not read enough to know about the corruptness of the South Vietnamese government or Hoi's determination to unite the country which was little related to communism and had to do mostly about nationalism. I only got this years later). The young Lieutenant stood up. Saluted, did an about face and promptly drove his MGB to Sweden where he asked for political asylum. From then on, it became a joke, "unless you want a guy to desert, don't send him to see the Chaplain."

Something is vastly wrong when you have the equivalent of an entire Division of soldiers deserting--since the war began, over 20,000. This may mean from being gone for 31 days which the military categorizes as desertion or forever. This is awful. And, another example of how everything about this war has been mismanaged.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


WHAT'S HAPPENING THESE DAYS WITH THE VOLUNTEER ARMY? For one thing, even the casual observer can tell you that they are to the wall: fighting two wars and political leadership that couldn't find their posterior in a snow storm.

A few things we know: the standards of education have been lowered and we have kids who have been given a pass as to felony arrests. This isn't to put these soldiers down--most perform well and who can be against giving some youngster another chance. However, the fact exists that most volunteers probably come from homes across America who are strugglng; kids who don't have lots of other options. I constantly read where a youngster will say about his reasoning for joining the military, "My parents couldn't afford to send me to college." I know several who are in this category. The very insightful book, AWOL spells this out.

We have an educated officer's corp by in large, to include graduates of the Service Academies (West Point, Annapolis, etc)for which we foot the bill. And, many of them immediately leave once thier obligation is up.

And, for those of us who care and have some knowledge, we applaud our Volunteer Army and the job they're doing which is fantastic. But, the elephant in the room always is the fact that so few Americans are truly invested in our fine young men and women soldiers. So, what can we say about American investment as a whole--yes, really great to support the troops but it is easier when we don't have "skin in the game." Hypocritical? We can't blame those who don't serve as we have a Volunteer Army that we have touted for years as being incredibly successful. Two wars have shown us that there are gigantic holes in the Voluntary Army philosophy, in addition to the fact that our kids who have the fewest options choose the military.

Over the years, I've writen hundreds of letters to politicians, various Captains of Industry with my idea of AllServe. Rarely have any of them responded. It is not politically feasible and they surely don't have the moral backbone. There's really nothing to be gained in what one of my friends called, "forced volunteerism."

We have 1.4 million active duty soldiers and another 1.26 million in the Reserves, including 456,000 in the National Guard. We have 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan, 37,500 in South Korea, and 116,400 on bases all across Europe. A more practical course is coming, I fear: we will be simply unable to financially afford a volunteer military.