The Widdershins

Archive for March 15th, 2012

A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.  Julius Caesar, Act I Scene II.

This is a post that I could never imagine writing.  It is so far beyond anything that I might have ever conceptualized even thinking.  It is flat-out contrary to anything I have ever believed, but here it is:  We need to return to the draft.

Yep, I said it.  Me,. who spent a lot of time demonstrating against the draft and the war.  Me, the absolute pacifist  – a Southerner who does not own a weapon as a matter of principle.  My daughter will tell you stories of how much she hated having to pound her caps with a rock because her mean, mean Mommy would not allow her to have a cap gun.  I’ll say it again – we need a draft.

The Third Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the quartering of soldiers in a private home without the consent of the owner, whether in time of peace or war,  The Quartering Act is the basis laid for the fundamental right of privacy in one’s home.  The framers of the Constitution also had concerns about the maintenance of a standing army, and took steps to ascertain civilian control of armies and militias in the absence of ability to foist the care and feeding of the army onto the civilian population.  During the time of the Vietnam War, however, many scholars postulated that the Third Amendment may have actually precluded a peacetime draft.

Until the Second World War, peacetime military service was for the most part voluntary.  Pearl Harbor changed that. and the draft continued unabated through two more wars, until public pressure (in the form of open insurrection) brought an end to it.  American males were expected to register for selective service at the age of eighteen.  Educational deferments were plentiful.   Deferments lasted through high school and college graduation almost automatically.  Deferments for medical school and divinity school were granted regularly.  At one time, deferments for post-graduate degrees of any type were available.  President Johnson put the kibosh on that, stating that these were tantamount to buying one’s way out  of service.  (See Dick Cheyney –  he was doing “other stuff”: until he was too old to go.)  Sole surviving sons were exempt, courtesy of the Sullivan brothers.  There were also medical deferments – anything from a heart murmur to flat feet got you out.

I bring all of this up because the Staff Sargeant who executed sixteen Afghani citizens is pretty much the last straw.  This man was on his fourth tour of duty – three in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.  He had suffered a traumatic brain injury and was cleared for duty – by whom, I do not know. (I do know that I would not wish to be that health care professional.) We have had episodes of American military personnel urinating on corpses.  We have the recent flaming Koran event.  All of these things point to a mammoth case of  battle fatigue in a small group of exhausted personnel.  One percent of Americans have fought one hundred percent of this war, and they are apparently unraveling at a frightening pace.  Clearly, the watershed moment has arrived.

I have no problems whatsoever with an all-volunteer military in time of peace.  I think that it’s becoming rather obvious that we cannot keep going with the few troops that we have in a military action of nearly a decade.    As much as it pains to say this, I honestly think that we have to consider drafts during wartime.  Not only a draft, but a draft with only the most basic of deferments.  High school and college – yes.  Physical infirmities – some.  There are a lot of desk jobs in the military that could be performed by flat-footed people.   There are many athletes playing with heart murmurs.  Call me crazy, but if you can play football, you can join the military.  That sole surviving son can remain at a stateside post. Selective Service registration is still in place, we just need to make it much less selective when needed.

I think that, just maybe, certain elements in our leadership might be just a teensy bit more reluctant to launch into further military adventuring if their own son were vulnerable.  (Okay, so John McCain has two sons involved, but I just can’t think of too many others in that position.)  In the immortal words of Country Joe MacDonald. “ Be the first one on your block to have your kid come home in a box”. Methinks that Washington would be a mite less bellicose.

I also have to wonder how many more of these excursions that we would be making if it were mandatory to impose at 10% national sales surtax to cover the costs of war.  A sales tax would be better – there are just not the number of loopholes that income tax has.  Food, clothing, medication are about it.  I’m also certain that this sales tax would hit Congress, lobbyists and the One percenters as much if not more as the rest of us.

I’m just sick about this, as I have two beautiful grandsons. That said, I see no other way in our current balkanized society. If we extend the sting of war to everyone, there may be much less appetite for it.

  This is an open thread.

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