Sunday, October 24, 2004

Press Gangs

During the Napoleonic wars, Britain the faced the imminent threat of invasion from a subjugated Europe with only two advantages: the English channel, and the unmatched Royal Navy to defend it. An attack could have come from many quarters, and so the British undertook a naval blockade of Europe, a commitment that required a vast pool of manpower to keep the requisite ships under sail.

Britain granted Royal Navy officers wide lattitude to sweep up the idle, the unemployed, the pettily criminal, and the just plain unlucky to be "pressed" into service aboard British war vessels. The times were desperate and the measures arose to match them. Britain remained free of Napolean's dominance, and it was thanks to a large segment of the British populace serving involuntarily to defend their nation.

It's time to take both candidates to task for idiotically promising that neither of them would impose a draft on the nation. When a million starving North Korean soldiers mass on the border and start eyeing Seoul like a hot meal, that's not the time for the US Government to issue a "pretty please" to the populace to find the soldiers to defend a longtime US ally.

Here at Boring Diatribe, we're not big fans of the draft, but we are devoted disciples of realism. The insurgency in Iraq, now anywhere from 5000 to 20,000 Iraqia strong, is having no trouble keeping 133,000 of our troops occupied, and the conflict could easily absorb another 100,000 American soldiers, the level of commitment senior military officers predicted as a requirement to prevent this Middle Eastern Adventure of the Bush Administration from transforming into the unqualified catastrophe it has become.

Assuming a mobilization of available American troops from other friendly and currently unthreatened nations, coupled with an ill-advised move to eat the Army's seed corn, it might be possible to raise troop deployments in Iraq to a level sufficient to make headway against the rebellion. Until then, the numbers above show us that one Iraqi insurgent can keep anywhere from 5 to 25 American soldiers pinned down in a miserable war whose aims have become as murky as its constantly-shifting justifications.

Meanwhile, the American military can do little to suppress the exploding poppy production in Afghanistan, worth an estimated 2.3 billion dollars to criminals and associated terrorists, Iran is racing to follow North Korea's example to aquire the only known surefire method of staving off an invasion by a superior military, and United States Army is straining to equip and fortify even the troops it already has fielded.

No candidate for president should ever promise to avoid a draft or a hike in taxes. Both promises telegraph to anyone capable of doing math the limits of American commitment to a cause. Don't vote for John Kerry or George Bush because either says he'll keep the military an all-volunteer force. We broke Iraq, and so we bought it, but something else might break without our help, and we'll need the resources to buy that situation as well.


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