Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Clausewitzian View of the Current Conscription Debate in the US - Part III

Conscription has a long history in the US and is mostly associated today with military mobilization during World War II or during the Vietnam War when its abolition became a useful political issue for Richard Nixon as Al has pointed out in his thread. My intention here is to provide the example of conscription as developed during 1917-18 for America's participation in the First World War. The reason for this is that the debate at that time brought in many of the same arguments as we have seen in Parts I and II of this topic.
The inspiration for the set of posts was a series of articles/blog posts on whether bringing back conscription/the draft in the US is a good idea. Here's Dana Milbank arguing in favor:
Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.
Robert Scales was not impressed with Milbank's argument at all for practical military reasons:
The perversion of the draft laws was tragic for those of us who had to lead these men in combat. The most difficult task in war is to fight close to the enemy. It takes extraordinary strength, endurance, skill and an intuitive sense of a soldier’s surroundings. Yet in my father’s war, thanks to a corrupt draft, infantry came from the lowest mental categories and were universally smaller and weaker than soldiers drafted for non-combat specialties. Thus it should surprise no one that better trained and acculturated German soldiers had a field day killing Americans with great skill in the hedgerows of Normandy. The same can be said for my Vietnam generation where the ranks of infantry units were too often filled with young men who hated the fact that they lost the lottery. They were too poor or too disadvantaged for their parents to get them deferred or into the National Guard.
Milibank's argument comes down essentially to conscription as a means of instilling material cohesion and an acceptance of the status quo, what I refer to in a 1917 context as "Plattsburg". The fit here is snug. I would add that Plattsburg merged rather seamlessly with what was referred to in the 1920s as "Americanism" or "Fordism".
Scales on the other hand assumes that the "fog" of modern moral and material cohesion that are Milibank's goal dissipates quickly once the shooting starts and middle class parents rush to get their kids in preferred positions of little danger. This could remind some of the attitude of an anti-reformist Prussian officer of 1813, exclaiming upon seeing a group of new conscripts, "And what am I to do with this rabble?" Personally I find much more to it than that. Besides viewing the army as the small professional elite of highly skilled and adaptable soldiers, it is essentially the argument that the US lacks the degree of moral cohesion necessary for national service in war, let alone for strategy which is by definition about collectives . . .
For conscription to work, the individual has to be willing to put one's own interests second, or even last, to those of the family/community/society, which of course is counter to the whole ethos of the age, which is all about maximizing individual advantage/profit. According to this pessimistic view, the majority of the citizenry in this country is simply a mass shapeless group of self-focused individuals maximizing their own aims to the exclusion of everyone else, what I would refer to as Right-wing Liberalism.
"Conservatives" would find my label perplexing, since they prefer to place all the guilt for this decline of national spirit on the "Leftists" supposedly winning the culture wars of the 1960s. They find this argument appealing, but they are confused regarding the distinct between the various types of cohesion, and forget what our recent history has done at the same time to material cohesion. Trust in state institutions is at an all time low and for good reason. There is a wide-spread view that the state works to the betterment of the few, the 1%, rather than of the people, which is obviously highly corrosive to material cohesion.
Scales's is perhaps a sound argument, but the example he gives in Normandy is of one conscript force fighting against another. The World Wars are unthinkable in fact without conscription, since as presented in Parts I and II it was the mobilization of the people through pre- and modern moral cohesion supplanted by ever growing material cohesion of the state which allowed for war to be waged on such a scale. Personally I find Scales to be a thoughtful commentator at times, who utilizes Clausewitzian strategic theory effectively as far as he goes. The problem is that he never seems to get beyond the operational and never questions whether the political purpose in Iraq for instance was attainable by military means.
Sometimes films provide us with an expression which reflects the types of social cohesion I am referring to all present together, that is pre-modern and modern moral cohesion and the sliding scale of material cohesion.
Why consider the First World War in this case? First, it was a "war of choice" decided upon by an arrogant and ambitious executive who had bi-partisan support along with a following of murky industrial/corporate/financial interests. Second, it ushered in the beginning of close government and corporate collusion which has reached its most extreme forms today. Third, it required an extensive and sustained modern propaganda campaign to "sell". Fourth, it was, unlike Korea and Vietnam, not part of a larger struggle which provided the war in question with a necessary context. It is highly improbable that either Korea or Vietnam would have attracted decisive US commitment outside the context of the Cold War. Fifth, given the time, we see a much clearer distinction between pre-modern and modern moral cohesion and material cohesion working separately and together, the moral cohesion actually providing the basis for the expansion of material cohesion at the time of the war and especially after. Sixth, and linked to the fifth, the link of conscription to the rise of material cohesion has become something of a national myth, usually left unstated. Finally, the war was a political failure in terms of its original policy purpose, but at the same time produced wide ranging negative effects which lingered on, at the least. So we see very interesting parallels in terms of our own current political relations.
While the mechanics of conscription were more or less a success during 1917-18, the political result in the end was a failure due to Woodrow Wilson's inability to manage US participation into a compromise peace. What saved the country from an even worse result was the relatively short duration of hostilities, this of course ignoring any of the direct aftermath. The country was able to leave the mess behind.
On the other hand the (unintended) "sociological" affects of the war and mobilization (including specifically conscription) are seen by many historians today as being fundamental to US development for the rest of the 20th Century. Powerful centralization of government and business institutions, emergence of a class of professional and effective managers, the establishment of a true national market and mass consumer culture were all greatly influenced or even kick-started by this shared experience. As with the Civil War and World War II twenty years later, the First World was fiscal revolution in terms of government revenues and spending. This also began the expansion of the Federal Reserve System's power. Some have even described it as the birth of "American Nationalism" since prior to this regional affinity or ethnicity were key determiners of political identity, that is modern moral cohesion . . . an ideology in turn interacting with increasing material cohesion of the state and society.
Also modern notions of American exceptionalism date from this time. Americans would only truly support the war, John Dewey (one of the great Progressive intellectuals of the time) wrote, when the Allied effort was at a higher moral level, "for our terms of democracy and civilization". The war was not so much about defending the country, but of not only consolidating Americanism at home but in spreading it abroad. It is important to remember that Wilson and his supporters saw Wilson as the standard bearer of not only Liberalism as seen by the Progressives, but of the Left in general. His hope of gaining the followers on the Left were dashed by the call of the Petrograd Soviet in May 1917 for an international Socialist conference in neutral Stockholm to end the war. Wilson who was now supporting a military solution, refused to issue the American socialist delegation passports. American labor leaders were sent to Britain and France to shore up support for "the knock-out blow", hopelessly compromising what support Wilson may have received from the Socialists. US distrust of the Russian socialists and seeing them as competitors in international support thus predates the Bolshevik revolution, and included even the Provisional Government. While the radical socialists supported revolution, so did Wilson in his attempts to ferment revolt in Germany. We see here once again the preference for violence as a political instrument so favored by US policy makers in our own time as well, but at the same time their blindness regarding the possible negative consequences . . .
Turning now to the actual history of conscription in the US during World War I, the debate regarding Universal Military Training or UMT dated from 1914. Initially it was simply seen as a way to provide men for the nation's armed forces in an emergency. Quickly though it became a political and even reform issue with UMT seen as a way of "Americanizing" large numbers of foreign born immigrants, or quelling class unrest and inspiring the nation's manhood with the concept of "service". Service was a big word in 1917. By some of the reformers, France was seen as the example to follow as they had used this institution of conscription to weld the various classes together in total support of the nation. We see here the same argument by the French radicals of 1793, that is "the army as the school of the nation". This from the Progressives who were willing to follow Woodrow Wilson into war.
The conservatives and monied interests supported UMT as well, but for different reasons. Instead of "school of the nation", it was "regimentation of the mind", promoting an acceptance of US society as it existed, the necessity of subordination of the individual to the group and proper deference to authority, the perfect antidote to the "plague" of trade unionism and unwarranted demands of those who did not understand their place in the overall system. Let's refer to this perspective as "Plattsburg" after the first Ivy League military training camp established. Here we see a striking similarity with the view of the Prussian reaction after 1815 in terms of supporting the status quo.
Initially conscription seemed all just planning. Many of those politicians who supported US entry into the war thought the US would simply supply the Allies with weapons, munitions and foodstuffs. There would be no need to ship a large army to France and there did not exist the available shipping in any case. Army General Tasker Bliss recommended that the Army be prepared at home for two full years before being sent to France. In the Spring of 1917, the war of course was not expected to last that long. By Wall Street, it was all seen as a great commercial enterprise with a massive expansion of the economy as well as new areas of production open due to the confiscation of German industrial patents (the US chemical industry essentially started during this period). US exports to Latin America and elsewhere would displace not only German, but Allied competition . . . What a splendid war it was going to be! A cakewalk even!
Political events in Russia and military events in Italy as well as on the Western Front changed the situation. The Allies were now calling for large numbers of US troops, although expecting to incorporate them into British and French formations rather then have a separate US field army. To these military concerns we have the ambition of Woodrow Wilson who needed to have a large representation of US military strength to enable him to act effectively during the planned peace negotiations. Amalgamation was a possibility, but here enters the ambition of a second American, the commander of the AEF in France, General John J. Pershing. For Pershing it was not simply that amalgamation would have left him a general without an army, but that he distrusted the British and French to use the US troops properly. His basic strategy was a massive head-on assault of the main German force on the Western Front, a great battle of annihilation; the individual infantryman with his rifle being the decisive element of battle not massed artillery which represented "attrition warfare" rather than the decisive "war of movement".
There was also initially the question of whether conscription would be necessary at all. Would there not be an ample number of volunteers? Theodore Roosevelt had presented himself as America's first volunteer and planned to lead at first a division and later an entire corps of US volunteers. Preference would be given to volunteers from Ivy League schools and TR even planned to have a regiment consisting solely of German-Americans and another of African-Americans, although officered by whites. The prospect of this must have horrified Wilson since the image of TR as warrior chieftain would have been exploited ruthlessly by the GOP. In the final draft legislation, volunteers were allowed into the Regular Army and Navy as well as National Guard, but not the new "National Army of the United States" which would be manned through conscription, the new administrative organization named the Selective Service System. Conscription would eventually provide 77% of the four million who served, half of that number making it to France before the Armistice.
The first step was registration of all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 30, but how to do it? Get the men to register themselves by means of a massive public relations campaign . . .
Governors, mayors, chambers of commerce, and state councils of defense joined in concerted patriotic incantation to urge young men to registration places on June 5. Wilson himself struck the keynote of this gigantic propaganda exercise when he proclaimed, somewhat disingenuously, that the draft was not really a draft at all, but a 'selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass'. But just to be sure that this mass volunteering went smoothly, the president requested 'every man, whether he is himself to be registered or not, to see to it that the name of every male person of the designated ages is written on these lists of honor.' David M. Kennedy, Over Here, p 150
Lots of small local organizations made up the movement supporting the war. These represent a wide-range of pre-modern moral cohesion nodes working together for an ideological goal, that this towards modern moral cohesion. The fact that the goal, a far off foreign war, is against many of the values of pre-modern moral cohesion is ignored, obscured, overwhelmed by the passion of the moment. It is this passion that moral cohesion generates. Consider the obvious assumption that the "elders", those men over 30 who are not personally subject to the draft will nevertheless exert influence on the younger men to "do their bit", a clear assumption regarding pre-modern moral cohesion. We also see here a very eventful exercise in extensive government propaganda mixing the themes of fear, hatred and patriotism but also with a the concern that too much emotion by the masses might be difficult to control, that is graduated material cohesion entering the mix. The June 5th registration was a success with almost 10 million men reporting with each man assessed as simply eligible or exempt. On July 20, 1917 Secretary of War Newton Baker pulled the first draft number from a huge glass bowl. Throughout the rest of that day additional numbers were pulled and telegraphed to draft boards across the country. The first draftees arrived in their training camps by September. Deferment was by occupation or having dependents, but many men felt pressured not to apply for an exemption since that would imply their unwillingness to serve. Over the course of the war conscription became more thorough and extended, the draft ages being expanded to 18 to 45 in August 1918 and various categories of those eligible for service introduced. The first IQ tests became part of the screening as well.
September 1918 saw the last big conscription push to get the estimated 13 million men under the age of 21 and over 30 registered who had suddenly become liable for call up. Thirty thousand Four-minute men gave speeches, newspapers ran large reminders, preachers gave sermons. There was coercion as well. By mid-1918 the Justice Department had instituted "slacker raids" to net any man who had not registered for the draft. These became increasingly violent with time with the last ones consisting of armed soldiers and sailors. In New Jersey alone, 13,000 men were found to have avoided registration in a series of raids. All told it is estimated that 337,000 men avoided the draft, with half receiving some sort of punishment.
Inequalities existed of course and the attitudes and prejudices of the local draft board represented the same as those present in the community at large. The increasing demands for manpower pressured local draft boards to take another look at exemptions and inevitably some were revoked.
The system was already showing signs of strain on the home front by the early Fall of 1918 and had Pershing's demand of 100 divisions by June of 1919 become a reality, we can assume that coercion would have replaced volunteerism to a large extent. As far as the military effectiveness, conscription is a mixed bag:
Pershing had wanted his men to have six months of training in the States, two months in France, and one month in a quiet sector before being exposed to battle. That standard had been roughly maintained until the accelerated troop shipments began in mid-1918. Then the rush to France sucked men ever faster through the camps, across the sea, and into the line. The average doughboy at the Meuse-Argonne had seen perhaps four months of training in camp. Many had seen but a few weeks. Some had been cycled so swiftly from induction center to the war zone that they had never handled a rifle and had to be given a quick ten-day course of instruction upon arrival in France. Over Here, pp 198-99
Conclusions from all three posts/threads:
First, what I refer to as Clausewitz's theory of political development adequately describes the development of modern conscription during the period of 1793 to the present. The various attitudes in the Prussian case of 1812-15 adequately applying to the case of the US in 1917-18 as well. The comparison of Prussia in 1815 and the US in 1917 to the US of today is more a question of contrasts.
Second, to be effective, conscription relies on specific political conditions within the community/society in question. Adequate amounts of moral cohesion and a minimal amount of material cohesion (at the onset) being required. The purpose behind the mobilization needs to be self evident to all. Propaganda only goes so far and its effects only last so long before people start doubting the official narrative. The resort to force by the state to impose conscription would only hasten the collapse of public support. The obvious state of emergency is not limited to a defensive war, but could include other types of national emergencies as well, such as economic collapse, pandemics or environmental catastrophe. In effect we are talking about great challenges facing a political community where mobilized collective action is seen as a necessary response.
Third, following the second above, states/political communities in dissolution would not be able to implement conscription effectively. Wide-spread cynicism and corruption would condemn any effort almost at the onset. A society that considered itself nothing but a group of atomized individuals all striving for personal gain and "fulfillment" would not lend itself to conscription. The state would then be required to drop the whole project or resort to force which would dissolve what material cohesion remained.
Fourth, since conscription requires a self-evident threat/danger/need as well as requiring time for its effects to be evident, it is best established before the actual crisis occurs. Prussia/Germany had an effective conscription system after 1814 due to the fact that the people recognized its need. The history of 1793-1815 was all that was necessary for this. This developed over generations and became "traditional" in terms of social action. The high level of pre-modern cohesion in the communities was transferred to the local reserve units which reflected the local population exactly, while the ideology of nationalism provided the united, "German" identity to the extent that the country was able to hold together under great pressure. This gave Germany, but not only Germany, the ability to mobilize millions quickly after August 1914. Had the US instituted conscription at the onset of the crisis, that is in 1914, this would have given the country an extra two and half years to more effectively mobilize and train their conscript army.
Fifth, while Plattsburg is linked in terms of politics to the Prussian reaction after 1815, the Progressives who supported Wilson's war are linked in the same way to the original Prussian reformers of 1813 and were also overwhelmed by the reaction which followed. As 1813 marks the highwater mark of Prussian reformism, 1914 marks the highwater mark of US Progressivism. It is interesting to consider that the actual break between Plattsburg and the Progressives (what passes for the Left in US politics) only occurred during the Vietnam War. Here we see two different and opposing modes of modern moral cohesion while both sides operated under the same material cohesion assumptions (the institutions "worked" or were "reformable"). That is the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war actually reflected a high level of both moral and material cohesion. It was rather imo about whether authority should be questioned (a very basic political question) as well as support for a costly war, which seemed to be increasingly unwinable.
Sixth, and very much related to political relations, we can organize political parties along pre-modern/modern moral and material cohesion lines. Conservatives are actually easy to recognize. They represent the complexus of pre-modern moral cohesive values present in a society, the values and traditions of the community over those of abstract entities or ideology. Progressives (whether left, right or center) represent modern moral cohesion, the ideologies of progress focused on the individual achieving self-realization within the group, society as organic, growing, prospering, or the opposite. In both cases the focus is on values. In terms of material cohesion, we have the two separate flavors of US Liberalism . . . Right-wing Liberalism (think of Ayn Rand); and Leftist Liberalism, also know as "socialist" (although it is obviously not), and whatever else all bunched into one. These are the two options in terms of material cohesion, which are held together solely by interest. It's all about the glorification of the individual, all power to the individual, the corporation as an individual, society as an endless sequence of self-enhancing opportunities. It has nothing to do with community or society as the conservatives or progressives would conceive them, since neither actually exist, outside of some vague scam to fool the suckers. For Right-wing Liberals, individuals who are unable to game their own opportunities into material success are "losers" and justly deserve their fate. For Leftist Liberals they are "victims" who deserve individual compensation. Both extremes believe that the Market provides the answers and collective action in terms of government are misguided. What government support exists goes to deserving "corporate partners" (more for the Right) or "victimized individuals" (more for the Left). With such a perspective we see how the initial spur to the Enlightenment and its focus on the individual reaches full development (or decay). Such a radical form of material cohesion instead of leading to higher levels of capacity for the society, actually leads to its dissolution and theoretically eventual collapse.
So where does this leave us? As mentioned above the situation in the US post 9/11 is one of contrasts not comparisons with what happened in the past. Given the dynamics of not only conscription, but government mobilization and of moral and material cohesion one would have expected a very different sequence of US government actions than what actually occurred. According to the US government's version of events, Al Qaida, a non-state terrorist entity acting alone orquestrated the most effective and lethal terrorist attack in history, catching US government defenses effectively with their pants down and bringing down not only the twin towers, but accomplishing an attack on the Pentagon and an additional failed attack as well. Given the obvious organizational capability of this entity, the level of the threat, a strong military response was justified, or so it seemed at the time (I was one of those arguing for exactly this in October 2001). It seemed that Al Qaida had strong support/influence in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere. Afghanistan was obviously the first target since that was where bin Laden was. Had the president called for volunteers to fill say 10 new light infantry divisions for service in the Middle East and Central Asia, what would have been the response?


  1. I'm just starting through your post, seydlitz, but a quick comment here: what in holy hell was Scales smoking and how can I get some?

    As you point out, the German divisions in Normandy weren't bursting with fanatical Hitler Jugend; it was effectively one conscript army against the other. The slaughter in the hedgerows had a hell of a lot to do with how well the terrain favors the defender, a hell of a lot to do with the relative superiority of German tactical training compared to the U.S. equivalent, and a hell of a lot to do with the experience that many German NCOs and officers had acquired the hard way as opposed to their U.S. counterparts, no few of whom were pretty green.

    Conscription had nothing to do with it.

    I'm willing to give Scales a break since you say his argument has merit, but from here it looks and smells a whole lot like equine byproduct.

  2. Many German forces in the Normandy battle were from quasi-stationary infantry divisions; poorly equipped and overage-manned divisions lacking the usual quantity of motor vehicles:
    716th, 243rd, 711th and 709th infantry divisions. One of these was raised in 1943, two were raised as static divisions in 1941 and one was initially raised as 15th wave division (everything post-4th wave was at least partially crap) in 1941.

    The anglophone accounts about high quality German forces in Normandy focus on the mobile reserves, apparently in an attempt to explain the meagre progress made by the Allies.
    Likewise, Germanophone accounts rarely highlight that 35-45 y.o. infantry was facing the Allies mostly with captured weapons because (a) few would believe it and (b) it's showing the ugly side of the Wehrmacht. The ugly, low quality, side had been the majority of the Wehrmacht throughout its existence, of course.

  3. Just got home from two days off island, it's almost midnight, but I had to stop by the Pub. Scales' words are just plain "horse-pucky", as the good Colonel Potter would say. First off, alluding to his father in wrongfully demeaning the infantry troops in Normandy is interesting, as his father served in the Pacific. Then alluding to first hand knowledge of alleged poor performance of Viet Nam Era conscripts is a stretch for an Artillery Officer.

    But his flagrant misrepresentations do not end there. First off, the presence of low mental category infantrymen in both wars had nothing to do with conscription per se. In WWII, by the time of Normandy, the US had reached the limits of available able bodied males. Thus, George Marshall's well documented "90 Division Gamble". Now, since we studied this at great length at the Naval War College, one would think that the Commandant of the Army War College would be familiar with it as well. Does MG Scales not understand that the USAAF needed higher mental category technical specialists, as well as many element of the Army Service Corps? Sadly, the duties of rifleman have never been documented to require great math, English and technical skills, so other MOS's got first pick. Does the AVF not use higher mental category recruits more commonly in the technical services than the Infantry? Definitely the Army must, as it enlists the highest percentage of sub CAT-IIIA troops.

    The troops put ashore at Normandy acquitted themselves well, considering that for many, it was their "baptism of fire".

    As to the presence of CAT IV's in Vietnam, MG Scales probably was too busy punching his ticket to notice "Project 100,000". This was a directive from Robert MacNamara himself to recruit a MINIMUM of 100,000 lowest mental category troops per year as his contribution to "The War on Poverty". Yup, one and only time in history that low mental and physical category accessions goals were minimums. In every other period, maximums have been set. Military recruiters scrambled into the most likely poverty stricken neighborhoods, finding men who had been previously barred from service due to low mental or physical scores to meet Mac's mandate. It is worthy of note that recruiters enlisted 54% of the Project 100,000, with the Selective Service identifying the other 46% for the military to choose from. Project 100,000 was not in response to a shortage of fully qualified males in the draft age population, but in spite of no shortage. There is no question that the accessions goals could have been met without resorting to massive numbers of mandatory CAT IV's. In short, the "problem" of which Scales alludes to have first hand knowledge was effectively an aberration and totally independent of conscription.

    Rant over. Time to hit the sack, as I ain't as young as I used to be. Tomorrow is another day, and I will continue reading seydlitz's post and gather my thoughts and resources.

  4. P.S. Forgot to link a reference to "Project 100,000". TRY THIS

  5. Al-

    Scales is quotable since there is no one else I can quote . . . who can represent how we got from 9/11 to where we are now from a strategic theory perspective . . . Scales is a Clausewitzian, and in terms of organizing an operational military force . . . but that's not really what we're talking about.
    We're talking about conscription on this my last post of three dedicated to my oldest daughter . . .

  6. One fairly critical factor in the "moral cohesion" of 1917 was the amalgam of German miscalculations and British signal intelligence and leverage that can be lumped under the general heading of the "Zimmerman Telegram". Basically the German foreign office had some notions of trying to pull Mexico (and possibly Japan) into some sort of alliance of convenience against the U.S. if unrestricted submarine warfare brought the U.S. in to the Allied camp. The British intercepted the draft of this plan and, when the time was ripe, leaked it to U.S. sources who, in turn, published it.

    The U.S. public - which up to that point had been fairly indifferent to whatever shenagains those damn furriners were up to (and there was a pretty hefty German-American population at the time that really WAS still pretty German...) - was incensed. The damn sausage-gobblers inciting beaners and slopes to invade our land (or, at least, the parts we'd stolen from said beaners earlier...) and (probably) ravage our women (since thats what those dusky types all wanted, right)? Intolerable!

    So it didn't take nearly as much propaganda as it should have. The German Foreign Minister, the dope, 'fessed up, and the actual point of the plan being a WAR plan (i.e., not something designed as a Pearl-Harbor-attack but a politico-military response to a U.S. declaration of war) was conveniently glossed over...

    Sort of like all those WMDs in Iraq after 9/11..?

  7. Had the president called for volunteers to fill say 10 new light infantry divisions for service in the Middle East and Central Asia, what would have been the response?

    Probably enthusiastic amongst the general public. But - as you have pointed out earlier and elsewhere, seydlitz - the whole point of the reactionary radicals that the Bushies formed the vanguard for was to prove that the Vietnam Syndrome was dead and that the VOLAR could win this Splendid Little War with one hand behind its back.

    Remember what happened to Eric Shinseki when he had the temerity to suggest that those ten divisions might be useful in occupying parts of the Middle East..?

    That, in turn, ties back to your concept of the Right Wing Liberal (or, perhaps a better term would be just "Radical Conservative") as seeing U.S. society as a Hobbesean war of individuals all striving for supremacy. Why would such people want to try and weld the unwashed masses together? Wouldn't that simply suggest to these proles (probably colored, probably even "liberal", some of them...) that they had a crucial part to play in the national debate? Or even in the conversation about who and where we should be attacking?

    No, no; that's why we had this wonderful little professional military, after all. Let the proles go shopping for America and not worry their pretty little heads about politics so the Responsible Adults could make all those Hard Decisions...

  8. Sorry, seydlitz, but Scales is a bullshit artist with a mouth full of samples. In his Gettysberg analogy, he is making false representations of enormous magnitude. But they do sound great, don't they? A SSG in Afghanistan commands a battlefield of the same enormity as a corps commander at Gettysberg! An SSG can now make "strategic decisions"? Sorry, but he clearly disqualifies himself as a source of fact or data, or even one who can credibly interpret same. And, with preposterous statements as just mentioned, I'm not sure his credentials as a "Clausewitzian strategist" are sound.

    Now back to reading what is otherwise your usual outstanding work.

  9. I'd like to interject a thought here, based on a concept a retired federal judge share with us at a "dinner lecture" at CGSC, attended by 30 students taking an elective course in "mobilization".

    The judge offered that the maintenance of any form of military capability was, of itself, and by definition, "mobilization". In order to properly "shape the discussion" a theorist or practitioner should therefore on speak in degree or level of "mobilization". Some levels of "mobilization" can be met with volunteerism, some levels of mobilization require governmental direction or "intervention" to supplement volunteerism. That applies to both personnel accessions and equipment and supplies.

    What is difficult to predict is the quantum nature of mobilization and the changing accession and procurement techniques necessary to achieve higher levels of mobilization, as there will be economic social and political friction/forces hashed into the mix, and thus the task is not in any way linear as mobilization levels increase. In fact, since these economic, social and political forces/frictions are not, by any means, static, the task at hand for the planner can vary considerably over time, even at a constant level of "mobilization".

  10. FD Chief-

    Like the Zimmermann Telegram comment. It fits well.


    Scales never really gets beyond the operational and his strategic assumptions rest on something he labels as "World War IV" which identifies at least some of his political assumptions. His paper on "Clausewitz and World War IV" describes what he sees as the current evolved "nature" of war along with the type of military needed to fight successfully in it. I don't agree with his analysis, but I can understand how he got to where he is, since we speak the "same language" so to speak.

    You may find this interesting . . .

  11. Al-

    "a theorist or practitioner should therefore on speak in degree or level of "mobilization". Some levels of "mobilization" can be met with volunteerism, some levels of mobilization require governmental direction or "intervention" to supplement volunteerism. "

    Interesting, but I see this a bit differently. Volunteerism reflects the passion element of mobilization, of moral cohesion, whereas conscription reflects the rational element of mobilization applied through material cohesion by the state. You might meet the numbers through volunteerism, but are these actually the people you wish to throw into the trenches? When they could better serve as specialists or officers . . . The US concept of 1917 reflected the mistakes made by both the Germans and British in channeling too many of their most enthusiastic and talented manpower into line infantry formations as privates when they could have much better served the cause in the long term as officers or specialists . . .

  12. seydlitz-

    If one carefully reads through Scales' writing over the years, there is one clear thread - he regularly and routinely contradicts himself in his attempt to paint himself as a grand sage. You can find him taking one side or the other on a number of force quality issues, based on the shifting tides of "official lines". Pat Lang called Scales on this six years ago:

    MG Robert Scales has been a military analyst for Fox News, and was a counselor to Rumsfeld. He helped create the situation that he complains of now. He should go and hide somewhere and not walk abroad among the living. pl

    If one carefully picks apart Scales' career and public utterances, there is a very strong smell of a died in the wool "careerist".

    Your quality analysis deserves better sources.

    First and foremost, I am not writing in support of a return to the draft, but trying to look at it with objectivity. One cannot compare the efficacy draft at different points in history, as it was conducted in different social and threat environments. The demonization of the draft during Viet Nam has been, in many aspects, ideology over fact. Mutts like Scales, who in one breath champion the troops in Viet Nam "who never lost a tactical engagement" to demean the failures at the national policy level, then casitgate the draft as bringing nothing but poor protoplasm into WWII and Viet Nam to support the AVF is the poster child for a non-factual basis to promoting assumptions and speculation. In the world of Robert Scales and his ilk, it's always "the other guy's fault".

    Sorry, seydlitz, but you and Scales do not "speak the same language". You are fluent in the language, and he is simply working at pronouncing a phonetic representation of it. Any of us here can pronounce "kah-lee-sper- ah" and sound like we are speaking Greek. But when Scales ascribes "strategic consequences" to the day to day decisions of an SSG, or claims that an SSG will regularly and routinely be the sole authority to targeting "2000 bombs", he's dealing in total fabrication, not just reading a phonetic script. He is clearly a master of "junk science".

  13. P.S. - I respect and have had many of my opinions shaped by your intellectual arguments, seydlitz. Robert Scales not so, in any manner.

  14. " Had the president called for volunteers to fill say 10 new light infantry divisions for service in the Middle East and Central Asia, what would have been the response? "

    Initially, when the consequences of volunteering were abstract, he might just have gotten sufficient volunteers. If the operational and strategic leadership been sound, he might have wrapped it up. (Very tenuous "might"). However, if the operation was not successful within 4 years (as in no further serious hostilities), he would probably be hard pressed to replace the people whose enlistments were expiring, and faced 2005 in spades in trying to sustain the enlarged force.

    As you stated, " The purpose behind the mobilization needs to be self evident to all. Propaganda only goes so far and its effects only last so long before people start doubting the official narrative.", but I would offer that it needs to be more than "self evident", but congruent with the populations perceptions of justified on a self sacrificial cost/ benefit basis. If the population, in any significant proportion, sees no real benefit, either personal or societal, it's hard to justify even the most minor of costs.

    Americans probably have not taken to the streets, a la Viet Nam, over Iraq and Afghanistan because the perceived costs are minimal. Have you ever considered that the ability to glorify "the other guy", who is bearing all the burden can fuel a patriotic feeling - a strong perceived benefit, at little personal cost?

    "Them's fellow Merkins doing all that amazing Warrior Stuff. I support them, and that's what makes Merica and all Merkins great."

    Don't know about a moral or material cohesion, but there is a social identification with the "valor" of the troops on a grand and vicarious basis with no risk whatsoever. Not sure what proportion of the population is that extreme in their view, but there is no question that the GWB administration pushed that line, and Obama has no choice but to continue it. As long as a significant portion of the population does not rise against the endeavor, it can go on for a long time, and it has, as we are exhibiting a sort of amoral cohesion.

  15. There is no discussion (yet) on the implications of the technological discontinuity imposed by thermonuclear weapons on conscription. WWI and WWII nations went to full national mobilization in their war efforts.

    However today, it is clear that if any halfway serious country expends their full efforts in a war, much of the planet will be damaged and everybody will be losers.

    Since no reasonable strategy would have a goal of leaving a few human survivors chipping flint and hardening spears, it imposes an "upper limit" on our actual strategic ambitions.

    And once you acknowledge this limit, the question becomes, does the limit affect the utility of conscription (since full blown national war against a peer becomes untenable). Indeed, does conscription make a nuclear war more or less likely?

  16. Ael-

    I would suggest, that conscription, while at its root is simply a method of accessions, carries significant political overtones at the least, and hard core political ramifications at the greatest. Conscription is a "valuable tool" when its sole purpose is accessions as in the model I offered elsewhere - to motivate enlistments without regard to any real or perceived threat, and to pick up the slack as necessary. This is irrespective of the level of mobilization that public policy determines, and by "mobilization", I mean the judge's definition I mentioned above - the very existence of military forces is "mobilization", as military forces exist for military reasons, which is conflict oriented by definition.

    The use of nuclear weapons has no direct troop level requirement. It's an act of desperation employed when conventional forces are not perceived to be sufficient to accomplish the political objective. A nation with a small, volunteer military can be just as desperate as one that is "fully mobilized".

    We caused the death of about half as many Iraqi civilians with 200,000 conventional troops as we did to Japan with two nukes. Just took a bit more time to do it. But they are all still dead.

  17. I disagree that one can look at conscription as "simply a method of accessions". As you say, there are many overtones and ramifications.

    Furthermore there are many ways to populate your military when it is relatively small. Conscription is typically employed when the state has a perceived need for a (relatively) large military (and is in fact, the only way to maintain a large military after some years of adversity. Take for example the Canadian conscription crisis.

    Nuclear weapons have reduced the utility of (absolutely) large military forces (because countries with thermonuclear weapons are effectively unconquerable.

    This clearly impacts the utility of conscription.

  18. Ael-

    Nice comments. In response, first I would say that you seem to be arguing that conscription made no sense after the advent of nuclear weapons, but we have had a good bit of conscription since 1945 . . .

    There have also been a whole series of conventional wars since that time, but no nuclear wars . . .

    Conscription was in place during the entire Cold War for most of the NATO countries with the exception of the US (after 1973) and Canada and it seemed to work relatively well. Then of course there was the Warsaw Pact that had conscription as well . . .

    In this regard, consider this . . .

    Conscription is also present in both North and South Korea . . .

    Say that today India and Pakistan mobilized - both are nuclear powers - are you arguing that conscription would fail?

  19. Here's another practical aspect to consider.

    The U.S. Army currently has a single OSUT post for infantry; Ft. Benning, GA. The Infantry BCT/AIT run by the 198th Brigade (the former ITB) has five battalions each of 6 companies. Each company runs about 220 joes through about 3 cycles of BCT/AIT a year.

    So do the math: 220 x 3 x 6 x 5 or about a total of 20,000 trained infantrymen per year.

    Assume that each of the light infantry divisions has about 400 grunts per battalion, three battalions per brigade and three brigades; about 3,600 grunts per division, say 4,000 when you throw in all the odds and sods in the divisional troops.

    So it'd take two years to train up all these guys - at the rate and in the numbers we're doing it now.

    Obviously, that's not how you'd actually do this; you'd reopen the Infantry schools at Ft. Lewis, WA and new ones at Ft. Campbell, KY, say.'s another thing; we don't have the mobilization assets anymore.

    When I was under the hat I belonged to a Reserve Training Division (104th Division USAR); our mobilization missions was to do just that - re-open FLWA as an infantry One-Stop, run three of four cycles of joes through and then depart for the combat theatre as cadre.

    Since I left the AR a hell of a lot of these infantry training divisions have quietly been redesignated as ROTC training support units, AR training evaluation units...everything BUT infantry OSUT. I don't know for sure, but I'll bet that there is no more than a handful of Reserve training units available that could transition quickly into actually running training for this mission.

    And then you come to another question; where do you get the cadre from?

    One of the biggest problems with conscription in WW2 was that combat losses were, as they tend to be, worst in the infantry and especially bad in the rifle platoons. Platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, and squad leaders tend to die, or get maimed, pretty quickly. The U.S. Army's solution was to cannibalize outfits like heavy AAA artillery or, more often, strip the sergeants and lieutenants out of the conscript divisions training up CONUS and backsquad the divisions that got robbed. Story I've read is that one of the reasons the 106th Division was such a mess in the Ardennes in 1944 is that it had it's cadre stripped out not once but TWICE.


    So...bottom line is, the current U.S. Army appears to have been intentionally set up to make such a sudden and rapid accession of volunteers (or draftees) as difficult and unwieldy as possible...

  20. My argument that the military usefulness of conscription has faded since WWII. In the past, more soldiers always meant more power. Today, destructiveness scales way past the point where another soldier with a rifle can make any measurable difference.

    Therefore, whether conscription carries its own weight largely depends on other, largely political matters. For example, look at the Swiss. Conscription makes good sense for them as a political statement (both externally and internally). They also have foresworn nuclear weapons (also as a political statement).

    Having a large reserve (as a result of universal military service) also makes mobilization a weighty political statement. But, I am not sure that it is all that useful from a military strategic point of view. Take for example the two Koreas. What military benefits do both of them get from conscription? In a purely conventional fight, South Korea would clean up pretty quick (although likely at a heavy price in civilian casualties). The North Koreans know this, hence the nuclear weapons.

    A similar argument can be made for Pakistan and India. The benefits of conscription (to them) are political, not military.

    As to Chief's point about training infrastructure goes, it seems that the military boss types have also concluded that there is no benefit to being ready for mass mobilization. I think the British military came to this conclusion somewhat earlier (late 50's when they decided to taper off the National Service)

  21. Nice trio of posts Seydlitz, I learned a lot from them. A few thoughts:

    First it seems that most or all of us don't subscribe to the popular notion that a return to conscription would result in greater national cohesion - it seems pretty clear that causality runs the other way.

    Second is the effect of geography. The US had the luxury, thanks to two big oceans, to take its time to build an Army prior to WWI. The Europeans have never really had that luxury and thus their default readiness level and their ability to mobilize had to happen quicker.

    Third, with respect to your closing question, I think there would have been a positive emotional response (9/11 did increase volunteers substantially), but then questions of practicality would set in and soon the debate would become moot as the Taliban were quickly routed.

    Fourth, contrary to popular opinion and conventional wisdom, I think conscription in the US would increase our chances for wars of choice. Politicians already overuse the military to solve foreign policy problems - it seems the last thing you want to do is give them more tools to increase their ability to militarize foreign policy. Without conscription, for example, there would have been no Vietnam war. Policymakers in the 1960's, with an AVF, would not abandon the Fulda Gap in order to test the domino theory - they would have been forced to deal with the issue of Vietnam through other means. Contrast that with the past 15 years. Iraq and Afghanistan showed the limits of the AVF and strained it to the breaking point. Conscription would have provided many more forces for the so-called "surges" and maybe even enough for another war in Iran. In short, I think conscription is not a good method to limiting American militarism - quite the opposite.

    Finally, my own view is that conscription is a legitimate tool, but one that should only be used for reasons of military necessity. The social engineering theory of conscription espoused by Milbank and many others should get tossed in the trash.

    In my perfect world I would extend selective service to women, move the bulk of the Army and Air Force to the reserve component and make the Navy/Marine Corps the day-to-day expeditionary force protecting US interests abroad. Any big war would be fought by the reserve component backed up, if necessary, by conscription.

  22. Andy-

    In my "perfect world" a nation would not have to use the structuring of their military to control or restrain their leaders. That's typically what every debate about the armed forces ultimately devolves to. "We can't trust those bastards with such and such a force, so we have to shackle them." A sad commentary, to be frank. We are not looking for "a perfect world", but accepting human stupidity, and building artificial safeguards to attempt to immunize ourselves from ourselves. Now that I think about it, by definition, we are saying that our society is its own "autoimmune disease", and rather than search for a cure, we drum up forms of symptomatic relief! Never thought my cynicism could be so profound.

    Having been in the collective training business, I would agree that a significant portion of the Air Force could easily be shifted to Reserve status. They are not "higher echelon" maneuver forces. A fair portion of Army combat support and combat service support could be shifted to the Reserve as well, which was done, in part, as an element of the "Abrams Plan". These assets do not require the level of "collective operational ability" as do maneuver forces to be combat ready, although the actually readiness still requires some training in a doctrinal force structure to be able to interact. But many of their technical skills do not require a higher level of collective experience and are employed by an "operational command" that maneuvers the total force.

    No one to date has been able to field maneuver forces above the battalion level that were operationally ready in under 6-9 months, and that's at the brigade, not divisional level. Thus, any "big war" would be have to be able to allow a year or more before divisions could be employed with a modest expectation of success.

    In the Vespa community, we have a saying,

    "When talking about performance tuning, there are three factors: Low Cost, Reliability, Increased Performance. You can only select two of the three."

    To date, no one has proven that wrong.

    Similarly, there are some choices in maintaining a military force:

    Low (social and fiscal) Cost, Readiness, Total Combat Power and Sustainability.

    You can't have all four. The choices that are made is what's called "Public Policy". Making the public erroneously think they can (or do) have three or even four is called "Politics".

    Also keep in mind that in the US system of "Public Policy", no policy decision has a guaranteed life of more than 2 years. We can diddle with the force structure significantly faster than we can make it ready, capable and sustainable, both in human and in materiel terms. That's life in the good ole US of A.

    The professional military person's job is to speak the unvarnished truth and live with and execute the lawful orders issued in the the aftermath of distortions and/or the Vox Populi. And execute those orders with all his ability. However, the unvarnished truth doesn't necessarily change, it is just, very often, simply not the Constitutionally lawful choice. Neither the Constitution nor our Oath of Office requires or guarantees optimal orders, just lawful ones. Anyone who "believes" otherwise is a fool.

    Lastly, note that I have only addressed the sanity, or lack thereof, of our people and their leaders. The only technical reason to have a military in the first place is to deal with the actions arising from the sanity, or lack thereof, of other peoples.

    1. During the the 1850ies a Swiss officer, who had actually left Prussia in 1848, wrote a good discussion paper for Swiss politicians and promoted a militia system. And while I think he may have changed his opinion about a draft system a little bit after 1871, his basic arguments are IMHO timeless:

      The three parameter you have are

      1) quality of the soldiers
      2) available funds
      3) fairness of the selection process

      It is almost impossible to get all three right, you choose two and adjust the third.

      The Prussian approach after 1813, from a practical POV until 1914, was to use a highly unfair selection process in order to provide a quite high quality of the individual soldier with the limited economic means available.

      In the second half of the 20th century, esp. after 1989, we saw an higher emphasis on a combination of "fair" draft with limited funds, i.e. we paid a price in form of low quality.


  23. seydlitz-

    In effect we are talking about great challenges facing a political community where mobilized collective action is seen as a necessary response.

    Going back to the retired judge, who, I failed to mention, worked at some high level in manpower planning during WWII as one of FDRs "dollar per year executives", it all depends upon the operative definition of "mobilization". If any standing military force is considered, as the judge proposed, "mobilization", then it is just the level of the overall society's responsibility in response to threats, both real and projected, that is involved with a non-discriminatory system of conscription. If conscripts were to be a defined 40% of the accessions, for example, regardless of the size of the force, then each sector of society would be making the same relative "sacrifice" of involuntary service in peace and war.

    However, we have arbitrarily defined conscription as an "emergency measure", and thus open to individuals or groups to define when the necessary level of "emergency" is at hand. And, if the “collective action” required steps on a given group’s toes, then the situation is easily defined as not being “that much of an emergency”, and it’s up to the military to reduce standards or work harder to bring in the necessary manpower – as if the military was some external, independent entity. In short, the very definition used for “mobilization” skews the political and sociological playing field. Thus, the question becomes not just, “Do we need to mobilize more?”, but rather, “Do we need to use conscripts?”, or “How can we avoid using conscripts?” In consequence, the focus changes from a technical analysis of the most effective response to a “threat” to the politics of the means.

    Make no mistake, I firmly believe a society has the God given right to choose to lose or surrender as much as they have a “right” to conduct morally just military operations to a “successful conclusion”. Where I have concerns is when the “consent to be governed” that determines whether to “win or lose” is executed in a manner that lays the burden of an individual’s or selected interest groups’ desired outcome on someone else. For 22 of my 35 years of service, that’s effectively how I was treated. Fortunately, I liked what I did, but in 2005, at least in terms of the Army, there were insufficient qualified people who liked what the Army (as well as the Guard and Reserve) did for the pay being offered, and hundreds of millions more were spent as standards were lowered. And virtually no one took to the street to alter national policy, as was the case in the 1960's, when manpower goals were still being met. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

  24. Al,

    Just to clarify, my idea to move the bulk of Army and Air Force capability to the reserve component is not about restraining policymakers. In my judgement, we simply don't need a large standing force, especially as our commitments around the world (Europe and Korea primarily) no longer require such forces to meet our treaty and mutual defense obligations.

    A year to fully mobilize sounds about right to me (the air component would be faster, obviously, in my reserve unit we can, at least in theory, deploy in 72 hours) and it seems to me that would be preferable to a large, expensive ready force and starting from scratch with conscripts.I think this idea would require some major changes to the reserve component, however.

    With respect to a "non-discriminatory system of conscription" I don't think such an animal ever existed (certainly not in the US), and I think any system today is likely to be very discriminatory. So I don't think that each sector of society would, in reality, make the same level of sacrifice.

    Finally, I simply don't see a national need for such a conscription system as we don't face any existential threats that require such a system, even if we assume that is something that's compatible with our current society.

  25. Just thinking out loud here, but I wonder how much the effect of the loss of social "moral cohesion" has on this whole business?

    For all that I don't want to try and look at the 20th Century with rose-tinted glasses, I think that there was more of what for lack of a better word I'll call noblesse oblige" in the social worldview of the U.S. The elites were expected to provide public service in return for their privileges, and that often came in the form of military service.

    Since then this ethic has, I suspect, completely disappeared. The current attitude across the spectrum of U.S. society seems to be at the same time an exaggerated adulation of the military and servicepeople coupled with a complete lack of actual enthusiasm for military service outside of the blue-collar kids who make up the bulk of the volunteers.

    I honestly have no idea if this change in public opinion plays a role in this or, if it dies, what role. But it does seem to have occurred, and I have to think it does play some part.

  26. Chief-

    I think the "change" is complex, but definitely does include a loss of a sense of social responsibility on the part of the "upper crust". Speaking of which, one of the biggest laughs the wife and I ever enjoyed was at a tea with Prince Phillip, who described the "New Upper Crust" as a "bunch of little crumbs bound together by a lot of dough".

    If Saddam Hussein was truly an existential threat to the US, then why weren't the modern day equivalents of the Roosevelt, Rockefeller, etc offspring rushing to at least officer service? How many "dollar a year" executives (as was quite common in WWII) served full time to assist in coordinating the war effort? Has this change led the "masses" to subliminally think that military service, however heroic, is lower class employment? Funny that we castigate Viet Nam era higher socio-economic class draft deferment users, when they are even less represented in the AVF - even in peace time.

    Which leads me to offer Al's Theory of Conservation of Patriotism. Patriotism is a finite resource, and thus here is only a limited amount of patriotism available in a society. Since the AVF has used the vast majority by being dedicated "Warriors", there just isn't much to go around for the rest of us, even of we wanted to have more. Thus, a kid born into a wealthy family is really disadvantaged, as those damn AVF guys took all the patriotism supply from him before he was even born.

  27. Andy-

    Thanks . . . been looking forward to your response.

    FD Chief-

    I think "Fordism" more or less covers what you're described . . . but then I've been reading Gramsci . . .


    I think it self-evident that in what we are talking about is that the need justifies the means . . . or rather enough to allow the whole system to work more or less . . . in a socially coherent way . . . thus once instituted given the proper historical context . . . it would continue . . . the fact that we couldn't even hope to spark it at this point in time is another matter . . .

    Patriotism only becomes a "finite resource" once a political community no longer has the capacity to generation moral cohesion . . . at which point we would be facing social collapse, from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective . . . just saying . . . . so . . .

    Tread very lightly, one would not wish to upset the inertia . . .

  28. Chief,

    I think you're right about elites, but I don't think it's confined to elites. There is some research on generational differences and this one from the AARP from 2004 provides a fairly good overview of the differences between the GI, Silent and Boomer generations. Not especially the analysis on Boomers on page 10:

    This isn't an area I've researched recently, but my sense is that my generation (Gen-X) and Gen Y and the millennial are, at least, continuing this trend.


    "If Saddam Hussein was truly an existential threat to the US, then why weren't the modern day equivalents of the Roosevelt, Rockefeller, etc offspring rushing to at least officer service?"

    In my view, WWII is probably not a good comparison - as far as wars and mobilization goes, it's more the exception rather than the rule. I would not expect the sort of reaction you describe for any war that doesn't rise to the scope and scale of that war.

  29. Be careful not to over-generalize "elites".

    Prince Harry went to the mat over serving in Afghanistan.

    That had to be good for "moral cohesion".

    (unless it was all just kabuki theatre, but I suspect not)

  30. Ael,

    I think it was genuine. He mates certainly seem to think so.

  31. Andy-

    Actually, many of the "elites" went against the tide and joined the fray well before Pearl Harbor, when FDR was having great difficulties mobilizing just industrial support for England. The "dollar a year" executives, who gave up significant private sector incomes to serve in mobilization planning and coordination, started coming on board in 1939, for example, when the focus was materiel support for England, France, etc. The sons of various elites were already serving officers well before the war began. Three of FDR's four sons were on active duty before the end of 1940, and the fourth by Aug 1941. There was no end of "elites" who remained in the Reserve following WWI and returned to service in WWII well before Pearl Harbor. Think Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Wild Bill Donovan....

    Having been raised in an upper middle to high income suburban town in NY, I can attest to the prevailing notion that those of us who were college bound would indeed enroll in ROTC for our obligatory tour as an officer. 60% of my class served in either the Active or Reserve Component, and that was before the Viet Nam buildup.

    Far too many false assumptions about the Draft floating around, many of which are fueled by folks like Scales, who are simply glorifying the party line to share the glow.


    I would note I was speaking of American "elites", and I am sure Chief was as well.

    sedlitz- my "Patriot Theory" was totally tongue in cheek.

  32. Al,

    I'm not sure what you disagree with.

  33. Andy- Not disagreeing, as such, but elucidating. The "elites" were voluntarily in the military in disproportionately higher numbers before the US actually "mobilized" against what would become a perceived existential thread than they have been since the end of the draft. They were in the military in higher numbers during Korea, as well, and while many found ways to evade Viet Nam service, those that served still are proportionally greater than in post draft years. Today, the AVF Army is seriously short of Reserve Lieutenants, and Captains, even after lowering requirements and making significant numbers of "direct commissions" from blue collar RC enlisted ranks. ROTC is not filling the ranks, as it did during the conscription years.

    Actually, seydlitz was quite wise selecting WWI as the basis for evaluating the various aspects of conscription. It was a war of "general mobilization", and the personnel side worked fairly well, with a willing manpower pool about twice the accessions requirements. Industrial mobilization not quite so, for if you look at the weapons employed by the AEF, most were of European manufacture. For example, American Aero Squadrons flew British and French aircraft. For all intents and purposes, WWI was a "foreign entanglement". Wilson did employ some significant coercive legal force towards the population and industry as part of the overall war effort.

    WWII becomes more of a problem to evaluate, as we hit upon the "quality" limits of the available labor pool, and two resulting steps were taken. It was a war of full manpower and industrial mobilization. Personnel standards were lowered, and then force structure was limited. WWII was pretty much a war of "national defense". Coercive force was also applied to the population and industry.

    Mobilization for Korea was "low-partial" mobilization. Accession standards were maintained and personnel goals were readily met. The only "coercive force" was enforcement of the Selective Service Act.

    Viet Nam was a "medium-partial mobilization. Accession standards were lowered, not due to the available manpower, but as part of "Project 100,000". Thus the "quality" of the force was skewed downward intentionally. Again, the only "coercive force" was enforcement of the Selective Act and, one could.opine, the mandatory accession of a large minimum number of CAT-V troops.

    The three significant AVF wars have all been basically "non to low-partial". Accession standards (AC and RC) were lowered to meet accessions goals based upon a less and less willing qualified population. Accession goals for commissioned officers (especially Army RC) have continuously not been met since 2003.

    So, how do you compare all those apples and handgrenades in terms of "quality of the force" or impact of conscription on the force?

  34. Andy-

    Not sure an RC maneuver division can be "mobilized" and then deployed in a year, as that has never really been done. WWII NG divisions did not enter combat in under two years, but then, there were no combat operations to enter at an earlier date. By the time many of these divisions shipped overseas, the personnel rolls hardly resembled that of M-Day. In Korea, the period between M-Day and arrival in Korea was also about 2 years, but the data on final personnel composition is not as easy to find.

    Could these deployments have been faster? Really hard to tell, as there was no "pressure" for it. However, in both wars, significant numbers of conscripts and non NG enlistees/officers were required to bring the divisions up to strength and readiness standards. The NG divisions "worked" because they had access to a broad pool of personnel from both within the divisions and outside, and from within the NG and outside. Each NG division was part of a collective NG, RA and conscript organism.

    Now, back to collective training. I would offer, from experience, that the magnitude and complexity of the task in manning, equipping and training maneuver forces from the squad level up to Division, increases at least geometrically, if not exponentially with each increasing echelon. You can't begin to successfully train a company until all its platoons are proficient, and so on. To the battalion level, it is primarily learning to move, shoot and communicate, a relatively focused skill set. At the brigade level, DS supporting fires, first echelon maintenance and logistics enter the equation. At the division level, add the full spectrum of divisional combat support, combat service support and the like, across a broad swath of areas - aviation, direct support maintenance, logistics, medical, engineer, signal, intel, etc, etc. To be proficient, a DIV HQ, DIV ARTY and Support Command need a lot of time in hands on employment and support of its subordinate maneuver brigades. NG divisions have never had the opportunity to even scratch the surface of the necessary experience. Thus, the historical lag between M-Day and operational readiness. I have evaluated some NG Division HQs manned with pretty sharp people struggle to effectively command and control a single brigade at Annual Training.

    With the :bulk of the Army Divisions in the RC, they would have all the mobilization handicaps of divisions since WWI, plus the additional MAJOR handicap of not having access to the RA experience pool. Chief has posted in the past of how his state had to cannibalize non-mobilizing Guard units to staff units that were mobilized. And that's at the Brigade level or lower.

    The NG "works". However it "works" because it is part of a "Total Force" of AC and RC. Without an AC, we are looking at a completely different set of readiness facts and assumptions.

    Lastly, I fully agree that conscription, or in that matter, military service itself, should not be a tool of "social engineering". IMHO, Project 100,000 was just slightly less abhorrent than the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

    However, I do hold that the military exists only to protect the society's collective well being. The larger societal question if if those who are being protected have any personal obligation or liability in the provision of that protection. At present, at least in the US, while they say it's an important obligation (the AARP Survey), by their actions they do not.

    ARRP Survey:

    Do you feel the following is a very important obligation, a somewhat important obligation, or not an
    obligation that a citizen owes to the country?

    Serving in the military is "very Important"
    Age 40-57 - 62%
    Age 58- 70- 74%
    Age 71+ - 71%

    But then, all of these people are past the age of liability to live up to their answers.

    Interesting survey, Andy. Many thanks for bringing it to out attention.

  35. For a very interesting look at force generation stumbles, The analysis of the "cadre" 106th Division is a very worthwhile read.

  36. And, a look at how successful the AVF has been in terms of Army Reserve officer ranks. Several papers to choose from


    It ain't all milk and honey

  37. Al,

    I understand about the elites from 75 years ago, but society, not just elites, is fundamentally different today. While we certainly can and should look at that history, I think the those historical lessons are of limited utility simply because our circumstances and society are so much different. In short, there is no political support for conscription even if we needed it, which we don't....unless we plan to keep fighting long land wars in Asia.

    Note that I'm not against conscription per se, and I think it is a good tool should it become necessary. For me, however, the value of conscription is about military necessity and IMO our military manpower requirements will go down in the future, not up.

    We do not need a substantial active land force at home to defend the territory of United States, so it seems to the question is what kind of force do we need for overseas duty? Our standing requirements dropped dramatically and probably will continue to drop, so that leaves us with contingencies. What we need depends on our assumptions and how much risk we're willing to take.

    Along those lines, with respect to moving the Army and Air Force to the reserve component, I think there would need to be significant reforms in how the reserves are managed to make that happen. The reserve component is still organized as a strategic reserve even though it's been managed as an operational reserve force for many years. I think this mismatch is at the root of a lot of the reserve component's problems.

    More than that, I think the entire defense bureaucracy needs a good scrubbing - we are still organized on the late 1940's industrial model with 70 years of incremental change piled on top. As a DoD civilian who works for a reserve unit, I deal with the structural and organizational issues everyday.

    Unfortunately, "good government" and government reform, like so much else, has fallen out of fashion (unless it's rearranging pucks on an org chart) and it's another problem that our elites are not remotely interested in addressing....

  38. BTW, interesting article on the Army's return to garrison life:

  39. Looking at the concept of political "elite" in regards to conscription in the US, I think the (de)evolution of any moral/material cohesion since 1917 of this group/attitude is significant.

    Plattsburg represents much more than simply mobilization since the well-to-do at the time paid their own expenses for the basic military officer training they received. Consider that Prescott Bush, typifying what is meant by "Plattsburg" and GWB's grandfather, volunteered for the Conn. National Guard in 1916 and served as an artillery captain in the AEF at the Meuse-Argonne. It is difficult to see much or any connection between Prescott Bush's attitude towards service and the country, let alone the elite he represented, and the attitude/antics of GWB in the Texas State Air Guard or his attempting to pass himself off as a semi-literate redneck . . .

    Plattsburg is of course not limited to conscription as I mentioned above and I link it as well with "Fordism" which was essentially the US corporate response to the Bolshevik challenge. Fordism had a distinct social element promoting "family values" and sobriety. Keep the workers happy and they wouldn't join the unions was part of the basic message. This or more widely, Stakeholder Capitalism (as William Pfaff has referred to it) was dominate from the 1930s to the 1970s . . . when it was replaced by the slash, burn, scam and cash in variety prevalent in the US today . . .

  40. My point about Prince Harry was not a British vs American thing.

    I was merely trying to illustrate that there is a lot of internal variability within what is normally termed "elites" and that the analysis degrades when you lump them all into a single pot called "Elites".

    Here is something else to think about: People live up to (and down to) expectations. They try hard to fit into social norms. Promoters of national cohesion exploit this behaviour by establishing nationalistic actions as socially accepted (and even desired) behaviour.

    A couple of centuries ago, it was relatively rare to have people actively involved in monkeying with social norms. (there was the church, some nationalist revolutionaries and a few merchants.

    Today, we are constantly bombarded by all sorts of efforts to modify our social expectations. Marketing science has gotten very sophisticated and much effort is spent in psychological experiments to determine what works and does not work.

    How does living in an ocean of advertising impact our cohesion as a society? Certainly, the Iraq war was marketed very successfully, at least in the early stages. However, the marketing could not be maintained.

    I wonder if conscription could be sustainably marketed over the long haul, especially with so many other voices clamouring for attention.

  41. Conscription, whether it was "successful" or not is a dead issue until the US faces a real threat/mission that volunteerism cannot adequately respond to.

    As to increased reliance on the RC, in the ground forces arena there are three less than encouraging trends.

    1)The various state's National Guard per capita strength is far from equal. For example Alabama has 276 Guardsmen/100K population, Georgia has 140/100k and New York 83/100k. The allocation of troop units (and thus strength) has been made based on ability to fill units with volunteers, and that varies greatly across the country and totally depended on local trends on support. The RC can only draw from a relatively local population.

    2) The Guard and Reserve have had to lower standards to maintain strength, while studies in the 90's showed that unit readiness was directly related to quality of troops.

    3) Even with relaxed standards for accessions and professional military education requirements, the Army Reserve has not been able to fill their LT, CPT and MAJ billets.

    Will moving more of the force structure to the RC exacerbate these problems? After all, we are talking about "starting from scratch" to activate more RC structure.

    It's a complex issue, and we really haven't done a sterling job of it so far, and are totally dependent upon volunteerism to get the job done.

  42. Seydlitz's "Plattsburg" is the sort of thing I was talking about, and rather than a pure one-off sort of thing that occurred as a response to the mass mobilization of WW2 it was pretty much the given in the U.S. prior to (I'm guessing) about the Sixties.

    About that time the social elite stopped being a "social elite"; that is, the well-bred white people from the nice side of town (who, up to that point, had provided the U.S. version of the English "gentry"; justices of the peace, county commissioners, magistrates in peacetime, colonels and majors and captains in war) lost the automatic social acceptance as leaders. They didn't actually lose their political or social influence, just their accepted and traditional place in the social pyramid.

    That loss worked both ways, I think; without the automatic expectation of leadership the automatic assumption of the responsibilities of becoming leaders went bye-bye.

    The social upheaval ended up, bizarrely, throwing up a "greed is good" sort of "elite"; based purely on wealth. And, since all you needed to be in the 1% was money, you'd be a fool to risk your wealth getting shot in some pointless little fucking colonial war leading the sons of the 47%...

    Again, not sure of this; just my personal suspicion and head-scratching...

  43. Ael: Here is something else to think about: People live up to (and down to) expectations. They try hard to fit into social norms. Promoters of national cohesion exploit this behaviour by establishing nationalistic actions as socially accepted (and even desired) behaviour.

    In my more cynical moments, I think the "national norm" concerning military service is to let the other guy do it, especially amongst the higher socio-economic population. Our colleges and universities have not been producing sufficient volunteers to meet new Lieutenant needs of an Active and Reserve Army of continually decreasing size for about 15 years, to include several years of poor civilian employment opportunities.

    So, yes, something is going on in the US, and it doesn;t appear to be favorable to military recruitment.

  44. And here's another thing to think about while we're talking about this.

    I don't know what's happening in other places, but in Oregon both the Guard and Reserve are disappearing from the civilian population areas.

    Here's just an example. When I was in the USAR I drilled at a reserve center in North Portland. It was home station to two USAR units; a battalion of 104th Division (Training) and a ribbon bridge company. Both units have been moved, the 104th to California, the ribbon bridge to Ft. Lewis. The reserve center is currently empty.

    The USAR had another unit in Multnomah Village; that unit has been moved in with another unit in Lake Oswego and the reserve center sold to Verizon Wireless.

    Meanwhile my old Guard artillery unit has folded one battery and centralized the other two with the HHSB way the hell out in Forest Grove.

    The WAARNG mech FA battalion that was stationed at Vancouver Barracks has been moved up to FLWA, the USAR hospital has, as well, and every time the BRAC meets Vancouver Barracks is proposed for closure.

    So what I'm saying is that a LOT of these little companies and batteries in the Guard and Reserve are disappearing from the communities that they used to be a part of. Yes, I understand that its more efficient for them to drill at Ft. Lewis, or all at one big armory or reserve center rather than dozens of little ones. But the cumulative effect is to further remove the regular day-to-day interactions of the reservists and guardsmen from the civilians around them...

  45. More on Plattsburg . . .

  46. seydlitz-

    Plattsburg is indicative of a very different cultural norm. At that same time Capt. William Moffett, Commander of Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, was able to form an Aviator Training Program and subsequent Aviation Machinist Mates School, at no expense to the government! He simply approached wealthy Chicagoans, such as William Wrigley, Jr, who provided an aircraft or two, paid the instructors, operating expense, etc and encouraged their offspring to participate in pilot training that would lead Moffett to commission them in the Naval Air Reserve. Once a squadron of pilots were trained, Moffet established, again without Navy funding, the Aviation Machinist Mates School, using the donated aircraft and civilian mechanics.

    But that was a different time, and the military not only had a different image, but was not claiming it was the "best trained, most powerful force in the world", without the need for everyone to participate. Upon thinking of Ael's "marketing" comments, perhaps the military's zeal to prove they could be successful with the AVF contributed to the diminution of general involvement?

  47. Chief-

    There are several student papers from the Army War College addressing the issues you mention about the ORARNG. The general response of DOD/NGB to training centers moving further and further away from the population has been to throw more money to it. Enlistment bonuses in the Army RC have averaged higher than the AC, and soldiers live more than a certain distance from the reserve center are provided "room and board" in kind or cash.

    However, the billeting and meals do not compensate for the time spent in traveling long distances to drills and administrative or training prep chores, and as some studies have shown, LTs and CPTs are dropping out of the Army RC because the time demands of their unit, as well as required military education are excessive at that point in the development of their civilian careers and demands of family life. A Reservist's physical and/or mental involvement in his Reserve assignment is not confined to 0800 Saturday to 1700 the next Sunday once per month. And making training centers more removed from the individual has extended those hours for many to immediately following work on Friday through well after dinner time on Sunday to accommodate the long drive involved.

    However, these are simply impacts of trying to reign in the significantly increased personnel costs of a smaller and smaller AVF. Consolidated training centers provide economies of scale. Using military bases for Reserve Centers provides access to existing billeting and mess facilities. Unfortunately, decisions such as these come from cost accountants, not sociologists.

    There is another aspect of the old time ubiquitous "Armory". It was not just some place were people disappeared to attend drills. It was a social center for the surrounding community. It was where a multitude of non-military community organizations met and often the site for parties, dances and celebrations. Back in my day, colleges in NYC would have their larger social events in the huge halls of the 7th and 69th Regiment Armories. The Navy and Marine Corps Training Center in New Rochelle, NY also provided facilities for non-military use in the southeast corner of Westchester County. As teens, we went to dances, wrestling matches, concerts and fairs at "The Armory". "The Armory's" design and facilities often reflected the socio-economic fabric of the surrounding populace. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were received at a gala at the 7th Regiment Armory in NYC in 1957, for example. And that Armory was well equipped for the task. When I visited relatives in other parts of the country, "The Armory" served the same iconic function. Across the country, "The Armory" was a part of the fabric of every day life, in many ways, erasing the boundary between things military and things civilian. Those days and many of those Armories are long gone and the military is moving further and further away from society, or society is moving further and further away from the military. I am not sage enough to claim knowledge of what cause and effect relationships are at play, but the correlation is clear as day. However, I doubt that we have the remotest chance of an action similar to the late 1800's directive of the NY State government that every county build Armories sufficient to support their local militia formations.

  48. Al-

    Very much like the way the thread has developed . . .

    Plattsburg is quite different, but the same country, even the same elite more or less, waging war in pursuit of specific - if murky - political purposes . . . The background to both conflicts share some similarities, but then the contrasts really start to stand out . . . conscription supplies a very useful lens in order to distinguish the types of military seen as necessary both in 1917 and in 2001. It is also interesting to consider the close similarities in attitudes towards conscription between Prussia in 1813 and the US in 1917.

    I'll supply my own conclusions with a postscript maybe around the end of the week.

    A view from George Orwell (1939) . . .

  49. A little interesting diversion to manpower management. After Pearl Harbor conscription terms of service were "For the duration plus 6 months", or effectively indefinite, and volunteers enlisted for the contractual length or "duration plus six", whichever was greater.

    As a byproduct of the Air Corps' requirement for a high proportion of higher mental level accessions to handle the higher technical level of their maintenance and operations tasks, the Ground Forces, who also had billets requiring higher mental category accessions came up with an even more specialized notion, The Army Technical Specialists Program, which is mentioned in the paper about the 106th Div linked above. This was going to be the Army's enlisted technical "creme de la creme", and several thousand soldiers, volunteer and conscript were entered into it. One such soldier was a fellow I knew, who, in late 1942, at age 18 enlisted, tested high and was sent of to be an ATSP "Master Ordnance Technician".

    Now, the story is best told by Nick, himself, a 5 ft 6 inch, exuberant, quick witted, first generation Lebanese-American from Jersey City, NJ. But I will give it a go.

    No one was more surprised than Nick when he was told he was selected to attend one of the Army's most technically challenging programs. He did quite well in high school, but he was raised to think that such was simply what he was required to do, and after the War, he was hoping to go to college, if he had the financial ability. He was a bit disappointed that he would spend two years in training before he could kill some bad guys, and even more so doing it indirectly, rather than in the more glorious manner shown in recruiting posters and movies, but his mom had told him to "be obedient", and off he went.

    Now, at the time Nick told me the story, he was a successful graduate chemist, so he had a civilian educational experience from which to describe his Army training. He said it was the equivalent of a "Bachelors and Masters Plus" in the theory, fabrication, calibration, trouble shooting and repair of anything that launched a deadly object at the enemy. "I became a one man depot level of knowledge and hands-on skill for virtually every projectile firing weapon in the Army. I haven't been so smart about any one thing since".

    Nick graduated in Fall 1944 as a T-SSGT and was sent to the European Theater. I don't remember which Division he was sent to, but as he said, the last thing they needed in terms of a replacement was a one man depot level master ordnance man. So he ended up in DIV Arty as a fire direction NCO, a skill he had to gain on the job, which, thanks to a good mentor and his native ability, he did.

    As the 106th Div paper noted, this was the fate of many ATSP grads, but at least in Nick's case, not as an under trained for the job, front line grunt.

  50. seydlitz-

    I would still offer that the sea change in attitude between Plattsburg and today towards military service and conscription received a boost from public policy makers in politically responding to the general objections towards the Viet Nam War which gave rise to our being, amongst other things, "baby killers" in the public discourse. It was a great enough societal "significant emotional experience" to have a major impact on values in a variety of ways. Similar to how the Great Depression reshaped American values.

    I wonder if the resulting change in values is, in part, that the Plattsburg "generation" valued military service, while today's population simply idolizes it. Participatory versus vicarious, and it will only get more vicarious with xBox, smart phones and iPads capturing a major portion of the society's "interactive" attention. E.M. Forster told a chilling and prescient tale of such dependency in 1909. One of my favorites.

  51. Here's another aspect that may play into this; the almost simultaneous change in the nature of the wars the U.S. has fought since 1952 and the nature of the way that most Western kids are being brought up to think about Western history.

    Since Korea the Atlantic powers - and I include the northern Europeans here, too - have fought mostly "little wars" and many of those wars have been for lack of a better word straight-out, old-fashioned Imperial wog-bashing. The closest any of them came to a "real" war (in the sense that most of the first-world participant residents thought of as "real war" seen through their WW2-memory-hole) was the Second Gulf War in '91 - which, of course, turned out to be just a little more mechanized wog-bashing.

    The simple fact is that the polities and organizations that the U.S. and the NATO powers have been fighting have been at best some pretty run-down Second World nations and at worst little more than tribes with flags or raggedy-assed jihadis.

    At the same time pretty much every Westerner outside the Cheney household has been brought up without the old-fashioned enjoyment of "Western Conquest". I know my kids get taught the contradictions of the European wog-bashing that produced the U.S., Mexico, etc. as well as the wider issues of Western invasions of various parts of Asia and Africa that have produced the complex issues there.

    There's not much "glory" seen in bashing wogs anymore - again, outside of the usual suspects. It's seen pretty much as baby-killing on an adult scale, not much better than working in a slaughterhouse or clubbing feral dogs for a living.

    Nasty, brutal, - you can get killed doing it - but not really a fair fight. Nothing "glorious" or "honorable" about it; it's just too one-sided to celebrate.

    When you look at it that way there's more "honor" in defeating the top-level opponents in your XBOX game; at least they come at you with equal or better technical and tactical wherewithal!

    Jim at RAW every so often talks about how we (U.S. society "we") no longer bother with individual heroism from these little wars; nobody outside of a small self-selected group knows or cares who is decorated. Medal of Honor winners are practically anonymous outside the services themselves.

    And I think that ties into this. I think that the general public - for all it idolizes servicepeople in the abstract - has the sense that this is the Seattle Seahawks playing West Jipip High School. The guys from the big industrial nations are just punching the clock, just putting in another day at work killing wogs like slaughtering beef cattle or clubbing feral dogs.

  52. Al and Chief,

    That's a good overview of some of the issues facing the reserve component and they are just a few of the areas that need reform in order to make the RC sustainable long-term, particularly a larger RC force.

    Back to the original post for a minute, I neglected to point out the ongoing theme in the post is thematically similar to many other posts and comments. I still have this one bookmarked:

    ...which has one has one of my favorite Seydlitz quotes in the comments:

    "The second set concerns specific American problems which are closely tied with changes in American society and especially imo with the collapse of both Liberalism/Progressivism and Conservativism as political ideologies. From the "Left", a lot of the good intentions of mass education or more broadly, the Square, New and Fair "Deals" as well as the "Great Society" coupled with modern notions of "progress" have eroded traditional authority - be it parents, churches, teachers and communities, and replaced it with . . . well nothing really. The state as in bureaucratic control, be it education or social services or whatever, has been unable to fill the void.

    The less said about what has become of Conservativism in America the better. Any practical view of politics or of state responsibility has been sunk in a morass of corruption, self-interest, racism and blind ideology which sees the state as simply the steel fist of the elite to enforce their version of "order" or as a milk cow for their narrow interests."

    Elsewhere Seydlitz mentions American society as a "mass of atomized and propagandized pulp" which I think is an accurate description.

    So, seen in that context, the problems Al describes regarding society's view toward military service (as contrasted with earlier generations) is a symptom of this larger problem. It can't be fixed, as Dana Milbank and so many others suggest, through conscription or compulsory national service. As I said before, these people have the causality backwards and their ideas are little more than wishful thinking.

  53. Andy-

    I tend to agree that the societal issues cannot be "fixed", as people do not change until they face a compelling reason to do so. The general tendency is that societies, as do people, do what they perceive "works". The sociologically confounding factor is determining the definition of "works".

    The "demise of the Armory" would make a great sociological study. BTW, some of the grandest of them, such as the 7th Regiment Armory in NYC, were constructed totally with private funds and were not only architecturally exquisite, but functionally so as well. And, whether "grand" or not, as I said above, "The Armory" was ubiquitous and a joint military-community venture. While discussing this series of threads with my wife, she agreed that “The Armory” was a significant element of her home town of Spokane, WA.

    Whether or not The Armory as a local societal institution could have survived is impossible to determine. The number crunching of BRAC determined that the "cost/benefit ratio" of the ubiquitous Armories was inefficient, so consolidation began, and of course, the larger troop populations to support per Armory influenced location, typically placing them more and more remote from the general population. All that was required to maintain strength was to offset the economic costs of longer distances to drill periods was money, in the form of higher pay, mileage to drills being a tax deduction, paid “Admin drills” and "Living in Kind" facilities (billets and mess). Some of the "human costs" of Reservists being further removed from their unit was offset by higher levels of full time manning, but this was defined as a "readiness" issue. Thus, a more and more insular Reserve Component could be justified in terms of “cost efficiency”. We cannot quantify the loss of that "hometown identity and bonding" that was a long standing element of "The Armory”, no less personnel costs of leaders not being able to “swing by” on the way home from work to attend to simple matters, thus leaving them frustrated and overloaded. After all, the Air and Naval Reserve Components (albeit significantly smaller) had successfully used “consolidated” training centers quite well, although they tended to be quite convenient to urban populations. What was important was that numbers could be generated to say the insular RC training center “works”, as personnel costs are accounted for independent of operating costs, and social costs are not able to be expressed on a balance sheet. And, the non-military, sociological roles of The Armory were now housed elsewhere, or in the now locally owned former armory building, and thus completely absent from the ledgers.

    To be continued

  54. Cont........

    Am I saying BRAC was wrong? No, but the "intangible" impacts of BRAC on Army RC recruiting and retention, for example, were not part of the formulas used. Similarly, the sociological impact of The Armory marching off into oblivion was never discussed. They are just buildings, after all, and at least for me, their status as social institutions didn’t fully register until they began to disappear. The Armory was as much a given as the local high school. Civilian economic impacts of closing, and mitigation/recovery plans received the higher level attention. Ask anyone over the age of 60 about “The Armory” and all that went on there, and you will hear tales of social function nowhere addressed in BRAC studies..

    Nor am I suggesting that the BRAC should have viewed this from a “social engineering” standpoint. I will, however, suggest that BRAC’s handling of The Armory resulted in an unintended form of social engineering, via the rapid and wide spread deconstruction of a somewhat significant element of social structure.

    Overall, we have 1) done a lousy job of separating causes from effects, 2) failed to realize that some effects can become unanticipated downstream causes, 3) focused more on "answers" without rigorously identifying the appropriate questions, 4) assumed that numbers are the answers to all questions.

    Exactly why American society began to reject military service as a civil responsibility can be debated ad nauseum. However, in an effort to avoid inconveniencing those who held such beliefs, including increasing "efficiency", I would offer that the military and national policy makers unwittingly went out of their way to reinforce the notion that an insular, volunteer, non-representative military "works".

    As you noted, “Along those lines, with respect to moving the Army and Air Force to the reserve component, I think there would need to be significant reforms in how the reserves are managed to make that happen.” Even more profound an issue, IMHO, would be the magnitude of the task of getting the civilian population to accept the massive encroachment on land now in their domain to accommodate such a shift, as I doubt the current “insular” Reserve training center approach could support this structure shift for the Army side of the house, even with massive financial incentives. We don’t build Armories in “silk stocking neighborhoods” any more, nor do we even recruit from those neighborhoods. Further, since “The Armory’s” retreat into history’s dust bin, new brick and mortar facilities arose to house the sociological functions that were performed by them, so they have no social “need” to return. It will be pure and simple exercise in NIMBY.

  55. Andy-

    You're anticipating part of my conclusion well . . .

    In my view Plattsburg's really the key perspective which adequately explains everything else . . . "demise of the armory" included . . .

  56. Ran across this today, which is pretty interesting: