Sunday, February 25, 2007

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

George Washington said, “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.” But the differences between a professional military and a citizen’s army are profound, and each makes its own demands on the nation.

The professional military requires the commitment by the soldier of a significant part of a lifetime to the study of arms, and to the pursuit, at all costs, of national purpose when arms are called upon to effect that purpose. Having a professional military demands of the taxpayers that they pay for the services – all of them – that their hired professionals require.

The citizens’ army counts on a small cadre of professionals to maintain the training and leadership base, and requires of all citizens a commitment to some small portion of their lives to service. Through both taxes and through voluntary associations, they bear the burden of the survivors.

The suspension of the draft in 1973 defined the armed forces pretty much for all time. The American people did not want a citizens’ army – they wanted a professional army, calling it “All-Volunteer” so that it didn’t sound so “professional.”

All administrations have left much of the long-term help for the wounded and disabled soldiers to volunteers. By doing so, they have it both ways. They get the professional army they want and they don’t have to pay full price. They go so far as to re-direct veterans to voluntary organizations for assistance instead of expanding the formal organizations such as the VA to handle the cost. They short-change the formal organizations, and appeal to the patriotism of the citizenry to support the veterans. Instead of buying the wheelchair or the prosthetic, they praise the volunteers who sacrifice to do the government’s job and then take credit for inspiring that volunteerism to cover their own failures.

Those volunteers are disappearing. The large organizations peopled by WW II, Korea and Vietnam War veterans are getting smaller and smaller as fewer people join. Smaller, community-based organizations seem to thrive only when local personnel serve: without that involvement, they tend to die out.

As the true citizen army moves further into the past, so does the willingness of ordinary citizens to volunteer to help the veteran. Citizens who had already served felt a camaraderie for those who also served. Very few citizens serve these days; very few are capable of understanding exactly what price the veteran pays.

With a professional army, the moment that a soldier takes the oath, the government must be committed to continuing care for a lifetime. The professional soldier gives up almost all other possibilities for personal advancement and most possibilities for personal wealth. They also give up some of their rights as citizens. In exchange, they should receive good pay, full medical benefits for life and a respectable pension.

Maybe we should collect a separate sum from each taxpayer that is their portion of the costs of both war and the maintenance of a professional war-making force. The current war is costing $250 M a day; each taxpayer could receive a separate bill for war expenses of $300 per family member. The taxpayer could then receive another separate bill for the maintenance of the armed force. At $481 B for 2008 that would be $1,600 more for each family member as a continuing cost. The bill could be delivered by a disabled veteran.

There are not enough volunteers to handle the problems we are growing daily, and veterans are falling farther behind on the scale of interest of the American people. As an example, at that advertises itself as a gateway to one million charities, there isn’t even a category for veterans.

We need to get things back on track. We need to tell everyone that they cannot have it both ways. If you want a professional force, pay the price. If you don’t want to pay the price, restart the draft.

It is past time for America to pay the complete price for having the military force it wants.

It is also well past time to decide what sort of foreign policy we will have and what the size scope and mission of the force that is called for in that policy will be.

But that is another story.

Sandy Cook
25 Feb 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Money Trumps Peace, Sometimes

Money trumps peace, sometimes
Especially in desert climes
Where the produce is oil
Deep under the soil
And it takes no persuasion
To mount an invasion
And roust out the locals
Except for the moguls
Who help in our desire
To create a new quagmire

Timing is everything in life. George W. Bush chose Valentine’s Day to tell us at a news conference “Money trumps peace, sometimes.” He did this in the context of complaining that Iran was somehow responsible for selling weapons to Iraqis and that they probably did so through Europeans. The implication is that Iran did this for money. What Bush failed to say was that the United States had only stopped selling F-14 repair parts to Iran on 23 January, about 3 weeks earlier, for money. Our Congress found out and stopped the Pentagon practice of selling surplus spares to Iran. This Bush rant is by the same team that years earlier brought us Iran Contra under Reagan’s leadership when we sold weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in Central America. I sometimes feel that it is disingenuous to complain about Europeans arming a potential enemy when we have been doing it for decades. It is hypocritical to condemn our European friends when the receipts are hardly dry on our own invoices. We are now losing helicopters to MANPADS (shoulder fired anti- aircraft missiles). I have no evidence that these missiles were part of the Ollie North deals with Iran, but since money trumps peace, any sale should be suspect, including those by Rumsfeld and Cheney back in the eighties as well as the ones by Ollie and the more recent ones by the Bush Administration.
Bush dropped a further hint that Iranian Shiites were responsible for soldiers killed in Iraq. These are the sect members that we have supported in the current civil war, incidentally, and they probably are responsible for up to 8% of those killed. Again, what Bush failed to say was that the higher percentage (92%) of our combat fatalities have been caused by Sunnis who are supported by Saudis and even by Jordanians. Why is there no outrage against Saudis to match the rhetoric against Iran? How many of the 9/11 hijackers were Iranian? How many were Saudi? Oh, there were no Iranians? All but two were Saudi? Maybe that is why Bush would rather glide over that bump. It would appear that Bush is spoiling for a fight again.
Now if Bush had been successful in Afghanistan where our enemy was linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban or in Iraq where neither had prior residence, I could explain this behavior against Iran as immoral but likely to result in a military victory. Unfortunately, there is no rational explanation. This is irrational behavior. Or is it? You and I and millions of hard working, dedicated and patriotic people see this behavior as irrational because it means that we will likely enter another war that we cannot win. You and I have made an unspoken discussion that War is a means to an end. We are fond of quoting Clausewitz and seeing War as an extension of foreign policy where there was a triangular arrangement of nation-states (sovereignties), soldiers and common subjects to the crown (the governed). Governments wage wars using soldiers and the governed have no say in the process. What if Bush could create a sovereignty where the governed have no say in the government? This is where Congress becomes irrelevant and the common people lose power at the fundamental process of a democracy of governing the government. Who needs the FISA courts with the Unitary Executive? The Judiciary becomes irrelevant.
Let me ask just one more very scary question. What if War is not the means to an end, but the end itself? What if winning or losing is less important than selling goods and services to the system of wars? What if Corporatism supporting Halliburton and Parsons is the real reason for war? What if Eisenhower underestimated the Military-Industrial-Complex? Forgive me. I have exceeded my question quota. As others have noted, we should only extend personhood to a corporation on its first colonoscopy. Later we will consider why Ollie North called John McCain and Joe Lieberman liars for stating that the troops support the surge. Somehow those two and colonoscopy go together.

George Giacoppe
18 February 2007