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How times have changed

I got into a pointless political argument with some dinner companions the other night. The whole thing was emblematic of the way I've repeatedly been drawn into such morasses during the Bush years. Had my dinner companions been content simply to pronounce Bush a poor president and the war in Iraq a failure, we would have all agreed and happily eaten dinner together.

But no, for some reason they were absolutely compelled to proclaim Bush not merely bad, but the worst president in history, and were quite insistent about it. When asked what made him so, the answer was predictable, I suppose -- the war in Iraq, which itself was the worst war in the history of our Republic.

Now this I found astonishing, since my debate opponents were easily old enough to remember the Vietnam war. But Vietnam was "better," they insisted, and would not hear otherwise. What made it better, I asked? A failed war in a conflict in which we had no business, that resulted in more than 50,000 American dead, many of them draftees rather than volunteers? By what measure, I asked, was Vietnam "better?"

Well they hemmed and hawed and cast about for a while, and finally the answer came back (are you ready for this?) The Vietnam war was "better," they said because of the draft. More Americans might have died, but they died "more democratically," you see, since a conscripted army presumably represents a more diverse cross section of the populace. I personally think they were glamorizing the "democratic" aspect of Vietnam-era conscription, as the powerful and connected were always able to get a better deal than someone from the wrong side of the tracks, draft or no.

But they went even further. They argued that the draft should be reinstated. If we had more sons and daughters of the rich and powerful dying in Iraq, it would increase pressure to end the war, as it did in Vietnam... after 20 years, of course... and nearly 60,000 dead... but still.

I was stunned, of course. I'm appalled by the notion of a draft in general, but even more shocked at the logic that says 50,000 casualties are preferable to 3,000 so long as there are a few more Yale graduates thrown in the mix. Also interesting was that the quality of a conscripted military didn't even seem relevant to them. Indeed, their entire argument for reinstating the draft seems to have been to create a poison pill that would prevent the military from being used at all. Fascinating, isn't it?

Now I know that most Democrats do not wish to revive the draft, Charlie Rangel notwithstanding. Still, the fact that a significant component of the anti-war left has now embraced the draft as a means to opposing the war is further evidence of how screwed-up and bass-ackwards political discourse has become in our country.


Yeah that is pretty ass–backwards. You can’t really compare Iraq to Vietnam anyway since they are two very different scenarios. We didn’t lose many troops at all in the actual Iraq war, we’ve lost the majority of them while policing a hostile zone after the fact.

Regardless instituting a draft isn’t something I’m very fond of. I’m not fond of the other screwball idea floated lately of conscripting foreignors into the armed services. The basic premise is to lower the bar for citizenship in return for military service. The army is even suggesting that they might open recruiting stations overseas. This is a bad idea on so many levels.

I'm sorry. Why are you having dinner with these people? Were you slipping something in their drinks? Were you drinking that pretty green drink again? Without the water and ice? In what way was Vietnam better? I do not understand.


That's some argument, Barry.

Here's something that many folks seem blissfully unaware - the U.S. Military is a meritocracy.

That's correct.

The result has been that over 95% of the Special Forces troops are white and male, and over 98% of Naval Aviators (Navy pilots) are...white and male, Air Force pilots are also well over 96% white and male.

There are a number of Special Forces members who now work in the FDNY. I know a number of them and they all laugh about calling the support areas "the penitentiary," because there were so many minorities there.

To be sure, it's not merely Special Forces members and Pilots who are in harm's way over there - in fact support transports are a prime target of roadside bombs and ambushes, BUT it's the Special Forces guys and the pilots who are there to deliberately engage the enemy.

There's a simplistic naivete to calling the entire Iraq situation "the war in Iraq," when in fact, the "war" ended in less than a month...the initial post war "mop up" less than six more and since Saddam's capture (December of 2003?) we've engaged in confronting an insurgency - some of it fueled by Mujahadim from Iran and Syria and an in country insurgency fueled by long-standing ethnic tensions - the Shiites and Sunnis have been at each other's throats since Saddam's fall, while the Kurds to the north have moved on quite peacefully and appreciatively, to boot.

Although I've said that I'd have removed Saddam and let Iraq repartition along its natural, ethnic fault lines, I accept that I may well have been wrong on that.

I am most certainly wrong on that IF one believes that we can and should forge peace with those moderate Muslims and Muslim states that seem to mean us no harm.

Of course, my overriding view that remains that we are now at the beginning of what will be a momentous and possibly catastrophic war with the farces of Sharia-based Islam, that this will be a truly global conflict and will take very possibly upwards of 100 years to settle, makes the view that we should seek peace with such "moderate Muslims" unacceptable, given that they still, the bulk of them, subscribe to Sharia Law.

Casualties alone; Vietnam: 1959 - 1973...the bulk of the casualties, almost 45,000 suffered between '65 - '72 - that's over 6000/year during those years.

Iraq: 3000 caualties in going on 4 years.

At the current rate, if Iraq went on another 10 years, it would render a csualty count of about 13,000 over the same period that Vietnam rendered 58,000!

Moreover, the "Domino Theory," even then, had its detractors. Those who claimed more terrirotry meant more responsibility and more drained resources for the Communist world.

Saddam's Iraq was "the leading State sponsor of international terrorism" between 1991 and 2003 and a government that had forged an alliance with al Qaeda (Ansar al Islam) against the Kurds of northern Iraq.

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”


The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

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