Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Role of the Military - Part 1

I am dreadfully sick of complaining. No, really. I didn't think it was possible, but I just can't stand bitching any longer. That is probably the reason I neglected you for so long. And for that neglect I am sorry my dear readers.

There are those who argue that the problem is the opposition, that the Democrats have no agenda, propose no solutions. While I agree that they are doing a very very crappy job of articulating their positions, and are still behaving liked scared little bunnies in spite of the total tanking of Our President's approval rankings, the fact is that the Democrats do have an agenda. In fact they actually stand for things like freedom and security and education and uplifting those who need help and that people are more important than money. And they should keep saying so. I will too, from time to time. But there are others who are better at that than I.

But today I have a different horse to ride. Today I am concerned that the unitary executive -- read imperial President -- no, read fascist dictator who is in the process of wrestling the other branches of government into submission has at his disposal a very large and effective military. That scares the hell out of me, especially since his military has been crafted to do his bidding without question.

This is not a good thing. <-- Yes, an understatement.
The President already has his own little paramilitary force. We know them as the Secret Service, but make no mistake -- they are a paramilitary organization, consistently competent and loyal with a fine record. They even have semi-cool unis with golden badges, they get to wear sunglasses, and walk around talking into their sleeves. During the current administration they have even become adept at ensuring that no dissenters appear in the visual range of Our President and haul away the occasional free-speecher who happens to get through.

Allowing the President to have his current unchecked power over the military services frightens me more than about anything he has done. It should frighten you too. And if it doesn't perhaps you haven't absorbed some of the implications of my last post. If nothing else, scroll down and look at the picture. Without the weight of the military behind him, he can only do so much. So I have been struggling with what permanent changes we might make in the current structure so that the present state of affairs is unlikely to happen again.

My goal is to put together some cogent thoughts about how to restructure the system, about what to do to ensure that any future military truly be responsive to civilian authority regardless of who is President. I know this is a book length effort but I want to touch on a few ideas here. Let me begin with the most obvious idea -- not mine by any means -- and reinforce the notion proposed by a number of folks and currently championed by Charles Rangel of eliminating the 'all volunteer force' replacing it with universal service. A productive example was introduced as the Universal National Service Act of 2003 by Fritz Hollings in the Senate. It is a simple bill really. It calls for

To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security
and adds some simple implementing language.

To belabor the obvious, the all-volunteer force packs the military with the poor, the desperate, those who strongly believe in the military system, and those who are so weak-minded that they cave as soon as a recruiter gazes in their direction and winks. I am not for a moment saying they aren't patriotic excellent recruits, but they aren't enough. Of course the military loves these folks. They don't want to have to deal with more women, gay folk, those with graduate degrees, uppity civilians, and the children of congresscritters. And those folks are desperately needed in the mix. Not only would that produce a diversity of thought but members of Congress, governmental leaders, and even members of the court system would be related to military personnel. I would argue that such an arrangement would strengthen communications between the personnel and civilians, but it would broaden the bases for decision-making. I am quite certain that those with a child at risk make decisions about going to war much more carefully than do most of our current crop of critters.

I'm out of time, but I'll be back with more. In the meanwhile feel free to tell what I have wrong or haven't thought of.

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