Rear Admiral [Ret.] Jim Carey is Chairman of the NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE and NATIONAL DEFENSE PAC. His background includes duty in cruisers and amphibs, at Naval Beach Group, and in the Pentagon, and naval service from Seaman Recruit to Rear Admiral. He also served in the Reagan and George Bush Sr. Administrations. Further details at The National Defense Committee and The National Defense Political Action Committee.
I really shouldn't watch the weekend TV News Shows. I argue with the airhead commentators, most of whom seem to totally disagree with 101% of everything I've ever been taught to believe in since I first reached the age of awareness as to what was going on around me [when that happened is subject to great debate by most of my limited few liberal colleagues].
The latest looney-tunes dialogue that seems to be rearing its ugly head once again is the suggestion by some to "bring back the Draft Board -- the current system is unfair -- only the poor are in the military" -- and similar airhead baloney and "unaware hogwash."
Last I checked, the current system is called "The All Volunteer Military," with volunteer being the operative word. Which brings these questions to mind:
How is the current system unfair? Is it not "all volunteer"? Doesn't all volunteer mean that each person in every service in America's armed forces of today volunteered to join and is voluntarily serving? What's unfair about that?
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought by America's poor while the rich stay home and make money off the war? Not sure where this premise comes from, but in my experience, it's not backed up by the facts. In my own 33 years of service, I served with a broad spectrum of both troops and officers that seemed to come from every corner of America, every level of education, and every possible ethnic and religious and economic circumstance. But the two common themes I saw were that everyone was a volunteer and everyone was a patriot. Of these latter two items, there is zero doubt. So I fail to see how the media arrives at the conclusion "that only the poor are in the military"?
I just heard a talking airhead on TV tonight state "We've already got the draft -- we're extending mobilized Guardsmen and Reservists beyond their scheduled demob date and that's the same as a draft." What absolute horsepucky [although it did serve to so outrage me that I got my butt up off the couch to write this column]. The truth and the facts are that ALL Guardsmen and Reservists are ALL volunteers, and ALL of them volunteered to serve for the duration of the service they volunteered for -- including being subject to recall and the periods of recall being at the sole discretion of the Department of Defense. How in any one's mind that equates to the equivalent of the draft truly escapes me, but then I only have 33 years in uniform to back up my opinions. This particular TV commentator had NONE. Hhhhhmmmmmmmm!
So you've probably already determined that I'm not a big fan of bringing back the military draft system, and you're right -- unless the nation is in dire national security need and our nations elected leadership, elected by all of the rest of us, agrees that it's needed for national survival. But until then, in my opinion:
The current all volunteer military structure is serving us well. It has produced a superb fighting force that has distinguished itself every time it has been called upon to prove its mettle.
The quality and education levels of our armed forces today are at the highest levels in our nation's history. Why would we possibly want to change that? Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
Our troops who are on active duty today are there because they volunteered to be there. Our troops who are in the Guard and Reserve are there today because they volunteered to be there.
When you have a draft, you end up with lots of troops who are not volunteering to be in the military and DO NOT WANT TO BE THERE. Why in heavens name, unless our nation were on the brink of being over-run -- and at a time in history when we have the largest and most effective armed force of any nation and are the only Super Power on the planet -- why would anyone even think there is a need for a return to the military draft?
It seems to me that the problem is NOT a need to force our fellow citizens who do not want to be in the military to be there. Rather, I've watched frustrated over the last 10-15 years as there's been a constant drumbeat of pressure by both Republican and Democrat Administrations and by both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress to cut the size of the Armed Forces, to cut the numbers in the Guard and Reserve. In fact, I've watched over the years as we've sent good troops home that wanted to continue to serve -- they went home because the force was being cut, not because they wanted to leave military service.
We've proven over the years that even in the all-volunteer force, we can recruit and train and retain sufficient numbers to meet almost any end-strength that our nation has set for us other than all-out World War. Indeed, we're doing so now, in spite of active wars in at least two nations and troops deployed in another 35-40 foreign nations during any given month.
So please Congress -- PLEASE -- do NOT bring back the draft. It's not needed and our experience with the all volunteer force has proven time and again that we're better off without having to use the draft except in national emergency. If you feel we need more troops, the draft is NOT the answer -- and in fact the answer is MUCH easier and MUCH more palatable to our fellow citizens -- simply increase the authorized end strength [i.e. size] of the active duty forces, and increase the authorized end strength of the Guard and Reserve, then fund both entities to the levels needed to recruit and retain these troops. You'll end up with all the troops you need, they will all have volunteered to be there, and if you enhance such benefits as better pay and increased G.I. Bill education benefits and quality of living facilities and if you will continue along the same lines to make service in the Guard and Reserve more and more attractive, trust me -- you'll be turning applicants away.
It turns out our sons and daughters are much greater patriots than many of the talking heads in the media give them credit for. Just last year, a million-plus dollar a year professional football player showed us that when he turned down a multi-million dollar contract to serve in the U. S. Armed Forces. He wasn't drafted -- he volunteered. He was an incredible patriot and a true American hero. Last week he gave the last full measure of devotion to his beloved America. He is not alone. Every single American man and woman in our armed forces volunteered to serve just like he did.
America does not need to return to the military draft. We can and do already successfully man our armed forces with all volunteers, and over the last 20-30 years we have successfully done so at much MUCH larger force levels in both active duty AND Guard and Reserve Forces.
Why would we ever want to force our young fellow citizens to have to serve in the military if they don't want to serve, unless our nation was truly in peril?
And in my view, we're not in peril, nor anywhere near it.