Friday, November 24, 2006

The Draft With Hospital Corners -- Part 1.

Steve Gilliard had this up.
The Draft: No Solution to Social Inequality

By Steve Gilliard, AlterNet. Posted November 22, 2006.

Progressives are drawn to Charlie Rangel's call for a draft, but a draft only inducts people. Class determines what job they will be assigned once they are in the military and, often, how happy they will be.

"You bet your life," says Charlie Rangel when asked if he's still prepared to reinstate the draft. With the Democratic takeover of the House, the 18-term representative from New York is slated to chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee giving him a powerful seat from which to push his legislation.

As recently as August, word that the Marines were calling up their last line of reservists had reignited draft chatter for the first time since Rangel's previous draft push during the run up to the 2004 elections. "This move should serve as a wake-up call to America," said Jon Stoltz, former Army captain in Iraq and head of, who called it "proof that our military is overextended," and "one of the last steps before resorting to a draft."

There's a temptation among progressives and liberals to view the draft as a potentially positive force, both in bringing about an end to the war and in evening the playing field in terms of whose children actually have to fight. Unfortunately, to the extent that it ever was true, this simply isn't the case anymore. The draft will only pull more unfortunate men and women from the ranks of the underprivileged and underrepresented.

The Vosges Mountains, Fall, 1944

They had been in classrooms only a few months ago, now they were tramping down some muddy road in a strange place, flinching from explosions. Annoyed by their flinching, someone would explain they were outgoing rounds, nothing to worry about.

Shipped overseas, sent to a replacement depot, greeted with indifference by their new platoon mates, expected to be dead or wounded in a few days, they were infantry and all their problems boiled down to surviving the German Army. Thousands would find themselves in Belgium, France, Italy, the Pacific, fighting on the front lines.

In the longer article here – which is well worth your attention -- Steve drops in what are perhaps the most salient paragraphs:
National Service would be worse than a straight draft. If given a choice of the Army or civilian work, the vast majority taken into the Army would be the poor and unskilled. The Duke Class of 2008 would be working in offices and the poor kids would be humping rifles. Anyone with an option to avoid the Army would and those who couldn't would be sent to the colors.

The military isn't a jobs program, and it isn't an easy solution for social inequality.

Why do people believe this? There are two factions, one who wants to see the risk spread to more corners of society, and others, who think that the Army can create social equality.

Well then sign me up as tiny, third faction. A Fraction: minority opinions at budget prices. Because while I do not believe in the draft as a apparatus for democratizing or destratifying our class system, it is also undeniable that the military is most definitely our National Jobs Program, and has been for decades.

Army ads and recruiters since I was little certainly mentioned duty and honor, but the real Hard Sell was always jobs and college. The guys I grew up with, the ones that joined did so almost universally because they were bright and poor and had no scratch for college.

Hell, when base closure debates boil over, the argument is virtually never about risking national security.

It’s about jobs.

It is always, always, always about the economic impact of yanking X-number of soldiers or sailors out of my district.

And let’s be crystal clear. I am not arguing that the military should be a jobs program; I am arguing that it is, and has been for as long as I can remember.

So let’s talk about jobs and service for a little bit.

Some time ago, owing to some very weird circumstances, I had occasion to listen in on some hotel guys talking about their business.

Some depressed hotel guys.

There are lots of problems in their industry, but a lot of it comes down to this: Ideally, the people you want to manage properties have to go through what amounts to a long apprenticeship before they to get to the top. And once there, they aren’t going to make a ton of money.

So basically candidates are being offered the chance to slog through years of long, hard labor for the chance to make a salary they could otherwise get the day they walk out of a decent MBA program or law school. Or so they believe.

The hotel guys’ “solution” so far as I could tell (It was dim. There was liquor.) circled around these dual propositions:
1. Salary isn’t everything, and
2. Service to others is an honorable calling that needs to be revived in this country.

My reactions were:

1. You’re right.
2. You’re screwed.

Because any business plan that begins “OK, first we’ll reverse American culture to make people want to work for us” is doomed to fail.

Doomed, I tell’s ya, because we have done far, far too good a job in this country explaining to people in every social class, using words of one syllable, that if you do your thing for love or the common good, you’re a mush-skulled hippy idjit destined for a work farm, or a cardboard box on Super Lower Wacker, or a pauper’s grave after your cherce meats have been harvested.

We don’t have hero teachers and RNs here. I profoundly wish we did, but we don’t. We have “Wall Street” heroes. We have rock star pro athletes and CEOs who are paid like pashas for what are basically culturally irrelevant skills, and then celebrated for their salaries.

We honor privilege and bling, not service.

We tell people here, in no uncertain terms, that you aren’t what you do; you are what you’re paid, regardless of what iniquities you may commit to make your nut. And if you don’t play our American Game knives-out, you ‘re stupid.

And stupid people deserve what they get.

It is a perfect, brutal little downward spiral that makes us less humane and more bestial every day. And you can take the measure of a man – friend of foe – quick and easy by finding out if he stands opposed to this perversion of honorable living, or if he is counseling that we grease the skids, crank up the RPMs and make the abattoir run faster and more efficiently.

In other words, downsize and outsource faster!!

The WalMart model of keeping everyone too poor to shop anywhere else, working three jobs and skimping on health care to afford even that -- increasingly practiced in industry after industry from Detroit to Denver -- is the apotheosis of this vision of America: A few at the top, tens of expendable millions at the bottom, and nothing but statistical freaks and outliers in between.

End Part 1.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Christ, yeah, driftglass! We need more people to face the REAL elephant in the room. Class and labor issues. All the other crap--outsourcing, who serves in the military, tax raises or tax cuts, illegal immigration, minimum wage, fair trade, health all boils down to Class in America.

The topic no one will touch. The topic that, if you raise it, you will be shouted down, accused simultaneously of trying to start a Class War, while being informed that There Is NO Class System in the USA, we're not like teh British, dammit!

The longer we deny and obfuscate on the Class in America issue, the uglier it's going to get.

It's going to take an AWFULLY brave politican, with no desire to ever hold a higher office, and possibly no desire to be re-elected, to talk about it.

cieran said...

First, Sir Driftglass, this is one of the most well-considered and thought-provoking manifestos drafted since Martin Luther tacked his thoughts up on the church door for others to contemplate. You are definitely finding your voice as one of the most insightful political commentators of our age.

Second, about gentlewoman's follow-up thought:

It's going to take an AWFULLY brave politican, with no desire to ever hold a higher office, and possibly no desire to be re-elected, to talk about it.

At least one politician already is talking about it, and on the pages of the Wall Street Journal to boot... which certainly is the belly of the beast for this particular notion.

And these are yet two more things I'm giving thanks for this holiday weekend...

Anonymous said...

Amen, my brother!

CMike said...

Reagan/Bushism is the steroidal phase of what one guy calls: the corruption of our moral sentiments, which is occasioned by this disposition to admire the rich and the great, and to despise or neglect persons of poor and mean condition.

That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages.

We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt. We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent.

The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness.

Seb said...

Bloody insightful & well-put. My partial reaction, initially posted over at Mr. Gilliard's...

I can't remember who pointed this out first - if someone does, a citation would be appreciated...

In almost every culture, stretching back as far as the written record, there has been folklore in which the poor bested the affluent by their brains, their deeds, etc. The point was that nobility ran deeper than the standard of living.

But there are no such tales in American culture. From Horatio Alger right up through "Trading Places," when the underclass, the disenfranchised, or the dispossessed take on the rich, they only win by taking their place. Poverty is a personal failure, and unless America cures itself of its lingering loathing of anything vaguely "socialist," it will always be this way. The intersection of America's twin idealogical absolutes - Money and Liberty - enshrines the bloodiest kind of economic Darwinism as the One True Path.

How canny to print "In God We Trust" on its currency without necessarily distinguishing between god and the paper the word is printed on. And if there is any vestigal doubt that above the dollar there is none higher, remember the initially intended wording... "to protect the AFFLUENT minority from the tyranny of the majority."

Anonymous said...

"But there are no such tales in American culture."

I gave this some thought and could only come up with Bonnie & Clyde and organized crime. Both working class. Both criminal. Both worshiped by pop culture. In the end though they get caught.

There are plenty of stories about the lowly immigrant working his ass off to become a millionaire. Does that count? Not exactly besting the rich but beating them to the punch and becoming one of them in the end.

I think most of America's heroes are sports related. "Be like Mike"

Most immigrants/conquerors came/come here to make a buck. America has always been about the money. A free for all. (Slavery and segregation of course exposes the hypocrisy.) Where anybody can make it. Where wealth is not solely a birthright. This was untrue for almost every culture before it. We have always been proud to not be a monarchy. This explains the lack of such folklore. This is our own version. This is a positive aspect of our culture. Not a negative.

Now whether these beliefs are factual or not is debatable. We certainly have our own version or versions of royalty, but none-the-less the "anybody can make it here" is part of America's folklore. An English serf had no hope in becoming a Duke. Out smarting him? Yes. Stand as his equal? No. Anybody can join the millionaire's club.

The facts and figures of course get in the way here. But we are talking folklore.

And by the way...

Driftglass, are you for a draft or not? Are you supporting Gilliard's position of no draft? Your postings seem to me to promote a draft.

Anonymous said...

As always Drifty, pure excellence.

Miss Cellania said...

Whoever says the draft will erase class distinctions in the military apparently does not remember Vietnam very well. We had a draft then. It wasn't all that long ago! I can well recall who went (the guys I went to school with) and who didn't (Bush, Clinton, Cheney, Quayle, etc etc).

driftglass said...

Thanks all, but Jeez.
Too much.
Just steer some libidinous lasses my way and we'll call 'er square.

I'm working on a longer answer to your question than I can put here. Look for a post.

Coming Soon To Fox

No Half Measures