Saturday, December 23, 2006

Of Lead Balloons

As soon as word "leaked" out that the Selective Service was going to run a test on how to get young people quickly into the military, rumors of an impending draft flew around the country. The rumors grew even faster once a Veterans Administration official suggested a draft might benefit the country, even after he made it clear that he was not advocating a draft at this time. After all, the President had just announced that he would approve an increase in troops for the Army and Marines, and he was considering an increase in troop levels in Baghdad to quell the chaos there. As a result, the Selective Service offices were deluged by calls from worried parents. From today's NY Times:

What prompted all this was a Hearst wire service article noting that the Selective Service was making plans for a “mock” draft exercise that would use computerized models to determine how, if necessary, the government would get some 100,000 young adults to report to their local draft boards.

The mock computer exercise, last carried out in 1998, is strictly routine, Selective Service officials said, and it will not actually be run until 2009 — if at all. The exercise has been scheduled several times in the last few years, only to be scuttled each time because of budget and staffing problems, and Mr. Flahavan said he would not be surprised if it was canceled this time around, too.

...Although senior military officers agree that the armed forces are stretched, they also agree that a return to the draft is not the best way to fill the ranks. Draftees, they say, are not as motivated as volunteers, and tend to leave as soon as possible, after spending much of their time in costly training. Re-enlistment rates are much higher among volunteers.
[Emphasis added]

OK, so the exercise being planned by Selective Service is merely "routine" and, unless some funding shows up, will probably not be run in 2009 anyway. But why did the issue come to the fore at this time? Coincidence?

Given the initial comments of that VA official, probably not. While this administration claims it doesn't pay attention to polls, it certainly has no objection to floating some informal polls of its own, and I think the whole draft idea was just one of those trial balloons. When the American public reacted so dramatically to both the Hearst article and the VA official's comments, the White House got the answer it needed: the American public was serious back in November. It doesn't want its children in Iraq any longer, and it's not real thrilled about them being pressed into military service.

Not that the White House intends to be bound by the opinion of the American citizenry, especially when it comes to Iraq: the President continues to make it clear that he is the decider. It now looks like his next decision will be in favor of increasing troop levels in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group recommendations be damned.

While an open discussion of universal service, military or community, for American youth would not be a bad thing, that discussion should not be held while the country is engaged in an illegal and unnecessary war. The last thing we need to do is to give this administration more young lives to "invest" in such folly.

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Blogger GWPDA said...


However - the VA official was almost mischievously misinformed as to the existing Selective Service System and law - and the test of the system is in fact a perfectly ordinary thing. The fear of it happening is contained in the outdated reference to getting people to 'report to their draft boards'. In 2006 and beyond, no one reports to a draft board. Draft boards do not in fact handle or initiate draft actions - they exist solely to determine the validity of exemptions of one kind or another. They do not draft.

A draft can be initiated only after the President, with the concurrence of Congress declares the necessity in the event of national emergency. This is in fact the way we used to have wars - but as it stands now, it is not a unilateral declaration and it is not something that has to be figured out from the start. The Selective Service laws and organisation are fully in place and fully ready to implemented - this is why thruout the year Draft Board members attend training, why the system itself is tested and why in the event that there is a combined Congressional/Presidential declaration, the system will be put into place.

11:28 AM  

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