Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When Did the Draft Become So Great?

The lack of a draft did not compel us to use private military contractors in the Iraq War.

This is an interesting article on the rise of private military companies (mercenaries). I would think that is interesting, of course.

But I have to really object to this statement:

The conflict that reintroduced the mercenary to public awareness in America was the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom — the largest American military occupation since the Vietnam War. The all-volunteer American military, lacking in manpower or the ability to increase staffing on short notice, turned to private companies to provide logistics and support. The economic consequences of the abolition of the draft in 1973 became apparent as the occupation began to drag on far longer than American war planners had initially predicted. Politicians could no longer increase the number of boots on the ground at the stroke of a pen — it was now necessary to bring out the public checkbook.

We had a smaller military in 2003 because we decided to have a smaller military after the Cold War was won in the 1989-1991 period. Even without the draft after the Vietnam War, we had a much larger military until victory in the Cold War led us to repeatedly reduce our active duty forces.

And when we finally did decide to have a larger ground force to cope with the longer fight in Iraq, we were able to do that by reorganizing the Army and then when Congress demanded it, by increasing recruitment for an expanded ground force. No draft was necessary to achieve that expansion.

Further, what happened after Congress ordered the expansion was exactly the reason the Pentagon resisted expansion of the ground forces--we won the war in Iraq and then had to reduce our ground forces again when our nation didn't want to pay for that size of a force, with all the dislocations that any reduction in force can cause.

So yeah, private military contractors were able to temporarily do military-related jobs (often with former soldiers with years of experience) that could easily be ended when we didn't need that capacity without harming the core military.

If you think the draft would have been better than the course we followed, explain why we would need to create a complicated and expensive system that would induct only a tiny fraction of annual 18-year-old cohort to provide the manpower that the ground forces needed to wage the war in Iraq. Who would be exempted? We'd need lots of exemptions, after all.

Face it, a draft would have brought in a large number of people who didn't want to be in the military. How good would they be as soldiers? And if the draft replaced all recruiting of volunteers to address whatever theoretical shortfall in recruiting that could have happened depending on how large you think our Army should have been during the Iraq War, we would have blocked the people who wanted to join the military--recruits far more likely to be good soldiers--in favor of counting on luck to induct them in the draft lottery.

Even comparing the annual cost of a single American soldier to the single-year cost of a contractor is nonsense. The soldier--say a sergeant as the article notes--required perhaps a decade of costly training and maintenance to reach that stage when you can look at their annual cost. And that sergeant, if the sergeant stays in uniform another 10 years, will continue to cost the government money for retirement and health costs for the rest of that retiree's (hopefully long) life.

The contractor is a cost for only as long as he or she is under contract.

So whatever the merits and problems of using contract troops--a practice with a long history--using the Iraq War experience as an argument for a draft of inexperienced and resentful civilians-turned soldier as an alternative to contract soldiers who often had years or decades of military experience already--is nonsense.