Monday, November 03, 2003

Spread The Pain? 


Via David Lindroff writing at Salon, we are told that the Bush administration has quietly begun a campaign to bring the community draft boards back to life by filling the 16 % of vacancies on them.

I don't know about you, but I had no idea such boards still existed, and to the extant they do, would have thought the vacancy rate to be more like 90%. Shows you how much it's possible not to know about your own damn country, even when you're trying to pay attention.

Lindroff gets a lot of his information off an "obscure" governmental, (actually, DoD) website DefendAmerica, "the U.S. Department Of Defense News About The War On Terrorism." that features a prominently placed call "To Serve Your Community And The Nation," by becoming a local Selective Service Board member. Placed unobstrusively within the annoucement of how to apply is this unexploded bomb:

If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines.

Lindroff includes the "not to worry" comments by the administration.

Not since the early days of the Reagan administration in 1981 has the Defense Department made a push to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. Recognizing that even the mention of a draft in the months before an election might be politically explosive, the Pentagon last week was adamant that the drive to staff up the draft boards is not a portent of things to come. There is "no contingency plan" to ask Congress to reinstate the draft, John Winkler, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs, told Salon last week.

Rep. Rangel isn't so sure. Experts quoted come down on both sides, not gonna happen, and the logic of the current policy points in the direction of a draft. Here's Ned Lebow, a military manpower expert and professor of government at Dartmouth College:

The government is in a bit of a box," Lebow says. "They can hold reservists on active duty longer, and risk antagonizing that whole section of America that has family members who join the Reserves. They can try to pay soldiers more, but it's not clear that works -- and besides, there's already an enormous budget deficit. They can try to bribe other countries to contribute more troops, which they're trying to do now, but not with much success. Or they can try Iraqization of the war -- though we saw what happened to Vietnamization, and Afghanization of the war in Afghanistan isn't working, so Iraqization doesn't seem likely to work either.

"So," Lebow concludes, "that leaves the draft."

Lindroff points to the roadblocks in instituting another draft, starting with congress, where authorizing legislation would have to be passed. I rather think it won't happen, for all kinds of reasons, although I'm waiting for those columns by Tom Friedman and Richard Cohen praising the Bush administration for providing for the possibility, despite the political liability.

What this secretative preparation actually illustrates is the total lack of transparency in everything this administration does; in a crises, the draft can be instituted, without prior discussion, without input from congress, and most certainly without input from the American citizenery, but with plenty of bluster and fear-mongering and cries of un-American for anyone who dares to question, how did it come to this?

The other, broader issue it raises is the on-going assumption of this administration, mirrored in Secretary Rumsfeld's much discussed and carefully choreographed leaked memo, that the locus for all aspects of our response to terrorism, and in particular that eminating from the Islamic world, should, quite naturally, be centered in the Department of Defense, an astonishing assumption on the basis of the record so far.

corrente SBL - New Location
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