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One Unforeseen Crisis Away From A Military Draft?

The fact that the bulk of the American public’s military assessments are filtered through the prism of the powers that be…a la the Bush administrati on…can be rather misleading and may well engender a false sense of security. Implied in these assessments is an assurance that our nation is being sufficiently protected from harm. It’s not only possible that this is a rose colored view; we may be one unforeseen crisis away from the need to reinstitute a military draft.

A survey of a few thousand current and former military officers overwhelming ly concludes that our military has been stretched dangerously thin by the war in Iraq. What the survey doesn’t state may be the ominous six hundred pound gorilla in the room.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has been stretched dangerously thin by the Iraq war, according to almost 90 percent of retired and current military officers polled on the state of America’s armed forces.

Eighty percent said it would be unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to wage another major war successfully at this time, according to the poll by the Center for a New American Security think tank and Foreign Policy magazine.

More than 3,400 serving and retired officers took part in the poll, organizers said. Around 90 percent were retired officers, a large majority had combat experience and about 10 percent had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“We are putting more strains on the all-voluntee r force than it was ever designed to bear,” Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, a prominent counterinsur gency expert, said at a panel discussion in Washington on Tuesday to announce the results of the survey.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents said the U.S. military had been stretched dangerously thin by Iraq. Sixty percent said the military was weaker than five years ago, 25 percent said it was stronger and 15 percent said it was about the same.

Truth be told, most Americans still look at military service as an abstract notion that rarely hits home. Yes, they are aware of the failings evidenced during the execution of the Iraq war and the tragic and prolonged loss of life…but they rarely have to worry that their family members might face the prospect of a draft.

If this survey provided only one insight, it should be a recognition that we may be one military crisis away from the necessity to reinstate a policy of involuntary military service. Even more disquieting is the prospect that we may not be able to properly respond to an unexpected military conflict.

In reality, the implementati on of a draft would not facilitate an instantaneou sly fortified military nor would it come without a tremendous price tag. Hence, we could well find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to prioritize our military engagements… or prosecute them with dangerously compromised strategies.

Not only does that suggest a level of vulnerabilit y not seen since being forced to ramp up in order to meet the challenge of past World Wars…it points out just how absurd it was for George Bush to ask Americans to go shopping in the aftermath of 9/11. It also demonstrates the inherent short-sighte dness of our commander in chief and the degree to which he prefers placation and prevaricatio n to the direct disseminatio n of the low-down.

The fact that we have repeatedly found ourselves in unrevealed and/or unexpected positions and predicaments suggests that Americans shouldn’t take comfort in the assurances that a draft is out of the question.

A look at the recent Pakistani election and the evaporating power of Pervez Musharraf highlights our current president’s propensity to put all of America’s proverbial eggs into one basket. All too often that basket has turned out to be a leaky sieve filled with little more than broken and empty shells. The need for a draft may be the next egg scheduled for a surprise scrambling. That would not be a delectable dish.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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2 Responses to “One Unforeseen Crisis Away From A Military Draft?”

  1. Daniel,
    very interesting.   Just completed my reading of LATOC daily reports. It seems everything is in flux. Our avarice and greed is about to pay the price. We have simply got to get out of Iraq. While i worry about my male grandsons, i believe if we implemented the draft immediately, we would be out of Iraq in 90 days. turning our national foreign policy over to the neocons has got to be the greatest blunder in world history. Me, i support the implementati on of the draft tomorrow.

  2. Yup. LtCol Nagl, that was cited in the Reuters story, is not just “a prominent counterinsur gency expert,” he is the man who rewrote and updated the official manual on that subject that is doctrine for the Army and the Marine Corps. He also wrote an analysis of lessons learned in counterinsur gency warfare in a book titled “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife,” a very well done study. Some of the historic and current facts he and others have found:
    1. Counterinsur gency warfare is slow and often takes decades.

    2. The prize you are fighting to possess is not any piece of territory, it’s the goodwill and cooperation of the large majority of the people - in other words, hearts and minds. Heavy-handed tactics may achieve short-term success, such as killing or capturing a targeted individual, but if they kill, injure, humiliate, or cause economic harm to innocents in the process they will be a net loss in the longer term.

    3. It is people-inten sive, requiring enough troops to either saturate the region where you want to smother an insurgency, or enough highly trained leaders to train local (host country) troops and lead them.

    4. It can’t be done without losing a lot of your people killed and wounded.

    5. It is low tech - electronic surveillance and satellites can’t spot insurgents in urban crowds and can’t tap into the communicatio ns of an insurgent movement that does most of their coordination via face-to-face conversation s. Use of high-tech weapons systems like cruise missiles, aerial bombing and strafing, artillery, and tanks causes too much indiscrimina te mayhem and destruction and alienates the people you must win over.

    6. To have a reasonable chance of success, you need troops who speak the language of the country they’re serving in and understand and respect the culture.

    7. These troops also have to be disciplined and/or mature enough to react with great restraint when provoked, even when attacked, putting a higher priority on avoiding “collateral damage” than on killing their attackers. It’s a lot more like police work, with a big dose of local politicking thrown in, than traditional conventional combat.

    8. Because counterinsur gency warfare done right relies so heavily on building trust in personal relationship s between the military leaders and local civilian leaders, both civic and religious, it works best if you keep the same units in the same places for years at a time. Our current policy of rotating units in and out, using regular active duty, reservists, and national guard troops, is like trying to heal a wound by ripping out the stitches and starting the suturing over every other day. It turns what could have been a fairly clean healing process into a mass of scar tissue and permanent open sores.

    Those factors make it very unlikely that we could handle another war while we’re in the current ones, especially since it too would probably mutate quickly from the kind of stand-up heavy-duty combat we are the best in the world at to yet another counterinsur gency.

    Unfortunatel y for the idea of pulling our nuts out of the fire via restarting the draft, the kinds of troops it calls for in large numbers don’t look much like draftees, but more like special forces. They need to be thoroughly trained, long-service  , mature and dedicated, highly disciplined, and educated somewhat about the place they’re serving to speak at least some of the language and understand enough customs to avoid accidentally offending people.

    So basically, to continue on the path Fearless Leader has started us down, we need several hundred thousand more regular active duty special forces - Green Beret types - or very high quality light infantry units that have taken the time to do a bunch of preparatory training. They don’t exist at the moment, and the draft can’t meet the need because draftees aren’t around long enough, even if they become inspired enough to put their hearts into the mission.

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