Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.
Recently, when John Kerry brought up the possibility of a return to the draft, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld was quick to respond that Kerry was full of it.
But my take is that Kerry is right on the mark. Not only because Rummy has been flat wrong on every major military call regarding Iraq, but because this is a war that won’t be won by smart weapons or the sledgehammer firepower we see every night on the tube.
Right now – with both our regular and Reserve soldiers stretched beyond the breaking point – our all-volunteer force is tapping out. If our overseas troop commitments continue at the present rate or climb higher, there won’t be enough Army and Marine grunts to do the job. And thin, overworked units, from Special Forces teams to infantry battalions, lose fights.
Clearly, this war against worldwide, hardcore Islamic believers will be a massive military marathon, the longest and most far-flung in our country’s history. By Christmas, more troops could be needed not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but wherever the radical Islamic movement is growing stronger, from the Horn of Africa to Morocco, Kenya, Somalia, Yemen and across Europe – remember Spain?! – to Asia.
Accordingly, we need to bring our ground-fighting and support units to about the strength they were before the Soviet Union imploded, especially since the proper ratio of counterinsurgent-to-insurgent in places like the Middle East should be around 15 to 1. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. in military personnel to conclude we need more boots on the ground.
Most of our warriors – who are mainly from blue-collar families from Small Town, USA – have few political connections and few conduits though which they can effectively sound off. So when they get screwed over by a desperate Pentagon’s makeshift policies – such as the “Stop Loss” program that’s holding over large numbers of our servicemen and -women well beyond their contractually agreed-upon terms of enlistment, or the widespread calling up of out-of-shape, ill-trained citizen soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve – these “volunteers” salute, suck it up and lay their lives on the line.
But like elephants, they won’t forget that they are “backdoor draftees,” as Kerry and John McCain call them. Which means that when their hitches are up, they won’t be rushing to re-enlist. And they’re also warning their younger brothers, sisters and pals to stay away from recruiting stations.
Although Pentagon puff artists insist they’re making quota, recruiters are already saying it would be easier to find $100 bills on the sidewalk outside a homeless shelter than fill their enlistment quotas, even with the huge bonuses now being paid.
So the draft – which will include both boys and girls this time around – is a no-brainer in ’05 and ’06.
Oh sure, the Pentagon suits will fight it. Volunteers tend to go with the flow and seldom blow the whistle on military stupidity, flawed tactics and self-serving leadership. And draftees don’t hesitate to make waves and tell the truth. Not to mention influential citizens with draft-age kids who’ll soon be demanding an answer to the same type of hard question their moms and dads shouted during the Vietnam War: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
Rumsfeld, in fact, has already kicked off the anti-draft campaign by denigrating the draftees who fought in Vietnam. The SecDef, who prefers sycophants who don’t ask questions, recently stated that Vietnam-era draftees added “No value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services … because … it took an enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone.”
Wrong once again. I led draftees for almost four years in Vietnam and for several years during the Korean War. If well-led, there are no finer soldiers. Ask the Nazis, the Japanese and the Reds in Korea and in Vietnam, where “no value” draftees cleaned their clocks in fight after fight.
Israel, a country that has lived under the barrel of the Islamic terrorist gun for decades, has the most combat-experienced counterinsurgent force in the world – and boy and girl draftees are its major resource.
Count on it. We will follow their lead.