Mark Finelli hungers for the draft
The real failure of this war, the mistake that has led to all the malaise of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the failure to not reinstitute the draft on Sept. 12, 2001—something I certainly believed would happen after running down 61 flights of the South Tower, dodging the carnage as I made my way to the Hudson River [I worked at the World Trade Center as an investment adviser for Morgan Stanley at the time].
[Brackets original] - and it's a dramatic story in itself. Read it here.
I have several problems with Finelli's prescription of the draft as the answer to all our Iraq War woes. CPL Finelli is, of course, entitled to his opinions... but I find it frustrating that he offers up several assertions as facts when they're demonstrably false. First are these:
But President Bush was determined to keep the lives of nonuniformed America—the wealthiest Americans, like himself—uninterrupted by the war. Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While America’s bravest are in the military, America’s brightest are not.
I don't know where he gets off claiming that President Bush, his Commander-in-Chief (and mine), himself a volunteer veteran of the Texas Air National Guard, is somehow "uninterrupted" by the war, yet even worse, Mark goes on to bash a "severe talent deficiency" in our all-volunteer forces? It's simply not so, Mark. Today's all-volunteer forces are, on average, better educated than the U.S. population as a whole. [PDF] Check it out:
"Heritage Foundation analysis of DOD enlistment data for 1999 and 2003 shows that, contrary to some claims, voluntary military recruits are better educated than the general population and were more likely to come from higher-income areas after 9/11."
A study which, to my way of thinking, should flatter a brave, educated, post-9/11 volunteer such as Finelli.
Later in the piece, Mark will advocate for a "fair draft" without deferment provisions, but if what he wants is a smarter, brighter military, why is he pining for a decline in the miltary's already higher-than-average demographics? But Mark's next sentence I find bordering on offensive:
Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and I’ll bet that in six months they could render IED’s about as effective as a “Just Say No” campaign at a Grateful Dead show.
Um, Mark? This isn't Saddam's old Iraq. This is America. Ah-MER-eee-kaaaa, Mark! Here we don't force our top scientists into military service and demand instant tech solutions under threat of hazardous duty or death. Sheesh! Even allowing for Mark's obvious rhetorical flourishes, I'd hope that a guy as bright and brave as Mark would know the basic differences between the culture of US forces, and the culture driving Saddam's forces we were deployed against.
Mark's been on about the draft for a while now, appearing in NRO, and on MSNBC and other programs and publications. He has a book in the works, which I promise to read and review here as soon as it becomes available.
By all means, read it all. Though our experiences differ in many regards, there are many similarities, too. Mark and I are both 31 years of age, both of us volunteered for 8 year enlistment contracts, both of us have served in Iraq, both of us are understandably proud of our service.
But Mark favors a return of the draft, while I oppose it. Why? Because while Mark references some legitimate problems with our emerging warrior class, this recent piece in the WaPo addresses those difficulties much better:
...But the brightest national spotlight is reserved for killers who are war criminals, such as the alleged perpetrators of the Haditha massacre, or heroes who are victims, such as prisoners of war. American civilians no longer seem comfortable labeling a soldier as both a killer and a hero.
In fact, they're not particularly comfortable with the military in general.
Never mind that 92 percent of military leaders still insist their civilian masters should have the final say on whether to use military force. And while nearly two-thirds of military leaders believe they share the same values as the American people, only about one-third of their civilian counter-parts agree. The vast majority of civilians believe service members are intolerant, stingy, rigid and lacking in creativity.
Studies by organizations ranging from the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization to think tanks to the Department of Defense indicate that members of the military are actually better educated on average than their peers. As many as 98 percent earned a high school diploma or equivalency degree, compared with 75 percent to 84 percent of young civilians.
Where Mark sees a "blue collar fraternity" where America's elite are underrepresented, I see America's elite, period.