Should we bring back the draft?

Mary Boland
Mary Boland
Staff Photo |

I have always had misgivings about abandoning the draft and relying solely on a volunteer military. When our own children are not at risk of being drafted, it is easy to become too complacent about the government’s decisions to use force. The result is endless war and extreme bloating of the military/industrial complex.

In fact, the result is not far from that wished on us by Osama bin Laden when he predicted “We will bankrupt you.”

Of course, we need to keep a core volunteer/professional force that is up to date on new high-tech weaponry. But all the support services now provided by private companies should be performed by draftees. Outsourcing these services to private companies has only resulted in war profiteering and fraud, along with a very unhealthy increase in military/industrial complex lobbying for more and more war.

Many of the generals involved saw at the outset and have seen in hindsight that the invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake. And I believe we would have investigated and considered more carefully and then not have allowed that invasion had it meant our youngsters would be drafted.

A number of books, including two by Generals Daniel Bolger and Tony Zinni, have recently come out describing our outrageously costly failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. My favorite is “Pay Any Price” by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times national security reporter James Risen.

Risen, by the way, kept writing in the face of the Obama administration’s threats of jail time for his refusal to name the whistleblower sources of his leaked classified material.

As a taxpayer, I question the administration’s right to classify documents showing how our money (or our debt) disappeared into war profiteering, outright fraud, bureaucratic turf wars, and absence of accountability. That’s not protecting national security, that’s covering up gross incompetence and malfeasance.

If only we had FDR to tell us in the aftermath of 9/11 that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Instead we had a panic-stricken Congress and war-mongering administration overreacting to the Al Qaeda threat and treating it as a national security rather than a criminal matter.

That panic-stricken Congress threw cash at the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI at a rate so fast they didn’t know how to spend it. But, of course, private individuals and companies eagerly stepped up with all sorts of schemes and projects for soaking up the money. Risen’s book details much of this.

Just a few of Risen’s revelations:

• Some $20 billion in cash was sent to Iraq with virtually no oversight or direction as to how it should be spent. Almost none of it accomplished anything and over half of it is still totally unaccounted for.

• A Pentagon report details more than $400 billion given over the 10 years after 9/11 to private military contractors who had previously been sanctioned for millions of dollars worth of fraud.

• Then there was Dennis Montgomery, a failed gambler turned confidence man who actually conned the CIA into believing that he had devised a means for decoding Al Qaeda messages hidden in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Even after discovering he was a fraud, the CIA pretended to know nothing about him, the Pentagon kept working with him and kept sending money his way.

And, of course, our panicked response to 9/11 has added a horribly bloated “homeland security-industrial complex” spending some $80 billion annually to our already outrageously oversized military-industrial complex. And that is not to mention the total disregard of our constitutional right to privacy that has resulted.

Our tendency to jump at military action in the face of problems that can only be solved by winning over hearts and minds has been going on ever since the beginning of the Cold War.

I assert that instead of intervening in other nation’s affairs, our national security would be better served by taking better care of our own affairs at home. If we could show the world a real democracy whose citizens enjoy universal access to higher education and healthcare, enjoy their constitutional rights and practice sound environmental policies — well now that would win some hearts and minds.

Instead, we seem unable to realize that violence only leads to more violence, especially when it involves intervening in the internal affairs of other nations. And it is our long Cold War history of such interventions unseating leftist governments and supporting right-wing tyrannies which has earned us so much ill will in the first place.

In the case of Al Qaeda, for example, it was our one-sided support of Israel and the corrupt Saudi monarchy that set Bin Laden against us. Personally, I have never believed we needed to use the military to protect our access to oil. Oil-rich nations need to sell the West their oil in any event because, after all, they can’t drink it.

Mary Boland’s column appears on the third Saturday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.

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