Well, kiddies, it is well past time to get serious about the unhappy condition of our good old U. S. of A. I’ve done the best an old hound dog could do to inform y’all of the malaise which has sort of crept over our dear old country. I believe our military is representative of the troubles besetting us, and so have chosen to set out some thoughts on how we might recapture its better spirit.
Our national defense structure and culture have undergone some rather unsettling changes in recent years. We have gone from a more or less all-inclusive citizen soldier force to an “all volunteer” military. This very basic composition shift tends to relieve wealthy folk from having to worry about their progeny becoming “cannon fodder” as the old phrase goes, and could factor into decisions (being made by our elected leaders who usually happen to be in the upper income brackets) concerning entering military conflicts.
The primary mission of our armed forces also seems to have evolved from a stance of national defense (it took four years of heavy lobbying to get us all the way into WWII), to “containing our enemies,” and more recently to “making the world safe for democracy.” Unfortunately, our references to our troops has changed along with the mission drift, as well. During World War I, the American Expeditionary Force troops were called “Doughboys,” a term supposedly coined during the Mexican War, when covered with the southwestern dust, our troops appeared to be coated with baking powder. World War II gave birth to the moniker, “GI,” an acronym for “government issue.” More recently, coincident with the Iraq and Afghanistan fiascos, the term “warriors” came into vogue. For a thinking dog, this last designation for our troops is particularly troubling! Actually, the word “war” seems to have somehow infiltrated our national conversation to an alarming degree, as in “war on drugs,” “war on terror,” “war on cancer,” “war on poverty,” etc. Have you noticed? This “war” word has lately almost become ubiquitous in our Americanized English language.
“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, 20th Century French Philosopher.
President Eisenhower, in his farewell speech from the White House, allowed as how after WWII and the “Cold War,” conditions in the world had gotten to the point where we as a nation could no longer rely solely on our demonstrated and amazing ability to “turn plowshares into swords.” Along with his approval of our need to maintain a powerful defense system, though, he also warned of what he saw as the inherent problems of the growing allocation of our resources to war machinery and the potential dangers of an overly prominent Military/Industrial Complex (M/IC)
Well, things probably haven’t gotten as bad as this cartoon drawing would suggest, but we now spend about one third of the amount allotted to military activity by all the countries in the world, and about three times as much as China and Russia combined. Single-handedly, we have the wherewithal to annihilate every last living being in the world. So, as old Ike worried, the Military/Industrial Complex has gotten a bit out of hand, and a part of our super-sized military seems to be to “protect American interests around the world.” Well, this old dog would suggest that the “interests” of Big Multinational Corporations and their highly compensated CEOs are not necessarily synonymous with the interests of most citizens of the good old U.S. of A.
So, perhaps our military focus could more efficiently be returned to our national defense, using our sophisticated technological surviellance capabilities, together with our relationships with our allies around the world to sort of keep a lid on the potential bad guys. We’ve certainly demonstrated that we aren’t very adept at mediating or even ameliorating tribal disputes in troubled areas of the world.
Our old M/IC could probably benefit from some fresh competition, too. Pappy says he’s read about the difficulties faced by new potential suppliers trying to enter the defense marketplace. Actually, old pap spent a few years in the military (his old Mum would proudly tell her friends, “I don’t know anything about it, but my son is either a corporal or a colonel.”), and even worked in the Budget and Accounting area. He recalls that units were encouraged to spend all of their current allocations before the end of the fiscal year, lest their future budgets be negatively affected. He remembered an old Beatle Bailey cartoon in which Beatle had saved his company five dollars one year. After floating up and down the chain of command, it was determined that the Army had no mechanism for handling a “refund,” so Beatle was awarded a five dollar bonus for his exemplary frugality, thereby resolving the conundrum. Could this system remain in place today?
Just maybe, by tweaking the budetary process and staying out of unnecessary disputes, we can save a few bucks. So, what then, would a crazy old hound dog and his teetering old pappy suggest we do differently?
First, we would reinstitute the military “draft,” with no exceptions. Every young resident of the United States, after completing high school or attaining (age 18, let’s say) would be required to participate in a “basic” training program consisting of regular physical exercise as well as classroom instruction.
[The potential is already in place — installations which the military says they don’t need, but congress won’t let them close, and weapons systems the military doesn’t want, but congress forces them to buy!}
Why not use the facilities and money to give our youth a fighting chance, and, as importantly, a sense of purpose!
After a “basic” training period of say, 3 to 6 months, the kids could choose perhaps a 2 year military hitch, or a longer (3 or 4 years) “domestic peace corps” (DPC) work plan. The DPC would be deployed refurbishing our deteriorating infrastructure, much as the Depression era WPA (Works Progress Administration) had done.
Once their service period was completed, an updated GI Bill could allow for college tuition assistance or further vocational training. Can you remember the amazing period of prosperity that the original GI Bill ushered in?
Obviously, a ton and a half of details need to be ironed out, and the plan would need to be phased in over some time in order not to completely disrupt our college and university systems, though some might feel that just a tad of disruption could be useful over there in academia.
Bringing back the “draft” would have the additional advantage of reviving the concept of “fairness,” an old American ideal which has received scant attention of late. It would also benefit our weary old country by getting the poor kids off the streets, and it probably wouldn’t hurt the rich kids by allowing them time to reflect on their extreme good fortune and introducing them to a splash of humility. It could also be a wonderful opportunity for: who better to whip our overly chubby youth into shape than those tough old Generals at the pentagon with a ready source of drill sergeants from the bloated staff right there in those stuffy old buildings. Can you picture them now, marching along with the raw recruits?
Admittedly, my plan for the old militare is a tad extreme, but big problems usually require big fixes. Often, you’ll see the media referring to our good old U.S. of A. as the last remaining Superpower, but what they fail to mention is that our military and economic strengths are largely based on borrowed cash. As I may have mentioned before, we were broke back when the old Soviet Union went bankrupt. The only difference was that we still had credit, but we keep on stretching it to the breaking point. To put it in the vernacular, we got to start acting like we got some sense!
PS: The cartoon mentioned above may or may not accompany this article, freakin’ computers.