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Cold Fusion: Liberals and Neocons for a Draft

Washington, DC

The debate over the size of the military inside-the-beltway is how to increase the number of troops by 100,000, not whether to do so. At a recent debate on the draft sponsored by the Center for American Progress, the views range from reinstating the draft to enhancing economic incentives to increase enlistment.

Rather than questioning the administration’s policy of preemptive strikes, or the vast size of the military industrial complex or urging cuts in the wasteful, redundant defense budget which consumes half the federal budget’s discretionary spending, the inside-the-beltway crowd’s analysis starts from the U.S. needing a larger military to achieve its foreign policy and economic agenda.

Both the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century and the “progressive” Center for American Progress are calling for adding 100,000 new soldiers. During the presidential campaign Senator John Kerry also called for adding tens of thousand more troops to the military services.

At the forum sponsored by the Center the span of the debate ranged one former captain, Phillip Carter, who is currently an international contracts lawyer and an advocate of the draft; and Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan, also a retired captain and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress who advocates expansion of the military by 100,000 soldiers through an improved incentives program. However, Korb also said that if the United States invades Iran he would favor a draft.

The Center for American Progress describes itself as non-partisan, but its Executive Director is John Podesta the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Materials handed out at the event describe the Center as copying the strategy of Republicans ­ creating think tanks, in order to “save the Democratic Party.” The hand-out, an article Matt Bai of The New York Times, describes how Podesta is caught in the “treacherous crosscurrents” of the Democratic Party ­ the left and center wings personified by Howard Dean and Senator Joe Lieberman. The “divide” may not be as treacherous as Podesta believes as Howard Dean did not challenge the military industrial complex and since being chosen to lead the Democratic Party has been silenced on Iraq. In fact, during the presidential campaign Dean criticized Rep. Kucinich for calling for cuts in defense spending.

On the military manpower issue, the Center’s summarizes their position saying:

“First, they must add at least 86,000 soldiers to the Army. These additional soldiers will allow the army to add two peacekeeping and stabilization divisions to the force, double the size of the Special Forces, and add more military police, civil affairs personnel, and engineers to the active component. Second, they should amend back door draft policies by reducing the military service obligation to four years of active service and modifying stop loss so that no solider is extended more than once. Third, the administration needs to give higher priority in the defense budget to quality of life issues. Fourth, the Congress must repeal the unworkable don’t ask, don’t tell policy, which forces the Army to discharge individuals with critical skills for fighting the war on terror.”

Compare this to the right wing “Project for a New American Century” which wrote Congress on January 28, 2005 calling for an increase in troop strength saying: “While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.” When you get into the details the differences shrink further.

Phillip Carter calls for a draft based on pragmatism, not on equity or fairness. He recognizes the U.S. military is in a “pretty bad spot” describing the short falls in recruiting especially in the Army and Reserves and how more and more recruits are non-high school graduates. He acknowledged that the Iraq occupation is driving recruitment needs and problems. Further he argues we sent too few soldiers to Iraq comparing the number of troops used in recent military efforts (e.g., Kosovo) during the Clinton years and saying we needed “258,000 to 576,000 soldiers to pacify Iraq.”

Carter describes U.S. foreign policy as requiring a large military. In a matter of fact way ­ almost equivalent to saying the sun rises every day ­ he describes how every ten to twenty years the United States sends 600,000 to two million soldiers overseas to support our foreign policy. His thesis is that the United States can remain the world’s superpower or it can maintain an all-volunteer military ­ it can’t do both. He recommends a national service plan, including military service, for anyone who wants to attend a four-year college.

Lawrence Korb criticized the Bush administration for not planning the war better and for ruling out a return to the draft during the presidential campaign. He demonstrated their failed planning by highlighting how they expected to have reduced the number of troops to 30,000 by the end of 2003 and being out of Iraq by the end of 2004. Instead, more than 135,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq.

Regarding the draft, Korb argues that the Bush administration “provides a textbook case on how to destroy the all volunteer force.” He is concerned about the draft because there are always loopholes that allow people, especially the wealthiest and politically connected, to escape serving. Even at the height of the Vietnam War only one out of six eligible for the draft actually served. But he criticized President Bush for saying he would never allow a draft because that should be something a president keeps as an option. Indeed, Korb would support a draft if the United States invaded Iran. He rhetorically asks ­ “Why do you think people are required to register with the selective service?”

Rather than a draft Korb favors changes to make recruitment easier, e.g. for every year a soldier serves active duty abroad, s/he should get two years at home; National Guard and Reserve should have 30 days notice before being mobilized and serve no more than one year out of every five on active duty; troops deployed to hostile areas should spend no more than one year in the combat zone. He also favors ending the “back door draft by modifying stop-loss orders so that no soldier is extend ed more than once. He also wants to see more money, benefits and lifetime health care provided to soldiers. Finally, he wants the “don’t ask don’t tell policy” repealed as well as allowing women in combat. With all of this he would like to see recruitment increase the size of the Army by 100,000 people and paying for the increased personnel costs by cutting the F-22 fighter, the Virginia class submarine and the V-22 Osprey, as well as by slowing down the deployment of the untested national missile defense system.

Both speakers see the crunch hitting at the end of 2006 but acknowledge the longer the Bush administration waits to ratchet up the size of the Army the more difficult it will be. Some might think that the Democratic Party leadership position is a tactic ­ taunting Bush to make the political error of reinstating the draft. Whether a ploy or true belief, it is obvious from this inside-the-beltway discussion that those who oppose the draft will not be able to rely on the Democrats to stop it ­ unless their spine is stiffened by the grass roots anti-war base. It is time to get organized now or risk being stampeded into the reinstatement of the draft.

Groups opposing the draft are organizing a joint lobby day on May 16. People can come to Washington, DC or register to lobby from you home. Go to webpage at http://www.nisbco.org a to get information about the anti-draft lobby day, learn more about the issues and sign up to prevent a return to the draft. Other groups are working challenge recruitment in a counter recruitment drive. A list of counter recruitment organizations is available on the links page of DemocracyRising.US.

Voters should be demanding that their elected officials oppose expansion of the Army, support the end of the Iraq war and occupation and oppose the reinstatement of the draft. Urge your representative to hold a public meeting where s/he should be required to publicly state their opposition to a draft, including a draft disguised as a national service plan. Make them put their view on the record in public so they can be held to it when the issue develops. The time to act is now.

More importantly, as a paradigm shift in U.S. foreign policy we need to move away from a foreign policy based on the United States being the only world’s superpower. Continuing to rely on our status as the world’s preeminent military power and one that uses its economic power to force countries to change to our liking is an approach that will weaken us by sapping our strength ­ financial, moral and human. It is time to confront the military industrial complex not kow-tow to it.

KEVIN ZEESE is a director of the ‘Stop the War’ campaign of DemocracyRising.US. You can comment on this column by visiting the blog spot on DemocracyRising.US.

 

Further information:

Center on Conscience and War http://www.nisbco.org/ Later this week, DemocracyRising.US will be publishing an interview with the director of the Center, J.E. McNeil.

For links working on counter recruitment visit: http://democracyrising.us/component/option,com_weblinks/Itemid,4/

Phillip Carter’s speech summarized an article he co-authored in The Washington Monthly, “More Boots on the Ground: The Case for the Draft.” http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2005/0503.carter.html.

The Center for New American Progress describes it’s position on military manpower in their “Progressive Priorities Series” in a report entitled “For Soldier and Country: Saving the All-Volunteer Army.” [See: http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=269841]

Letter to Congress calling for expansion of military by the Project for a New American Century, http://www.newamericancentury.org/defense-20050128.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.

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