According to the Pentagon the war in Iraq might take ten years. The Surge isn't stopping sectarian violence or the breakup of Iraq. The government, such as it is, is falling apart, and our glorious allies the Iraqi security forces can't fight on their own. At least they can't fight on their own as cohesive units. They do a bang-up job as members of various militias and gangs.
The President has outsourced his Constitutional responsibilities to General Petraeus. I've spent a long time looking at the Constitution and just can't find a description of the office and duties of "War Czar". But now that the good general is sounding less than optimistic about declaring victory he's being silenced.
We're rattling our saber at Iran and have declared that units in their military are terrorist organizations. The rhetoric coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue sounds suspiciously like it did before the invasion of Iraq.
The only problem with this wonderful adventure is that we're running out of troops. The National Guard and Reserves have been used like the only cheap hooker in town when the Fleet is in. Our servicemen and women have been in the field longer and with less downtime than the whole of World War II. The Army and Marines are having real trouble meeting recruiting targets and keeping officers. To fill the hole we've got over 125,000 "private contractors" doing the jobs that soldiers used to do.
[Just a note on these "contractors". The Geneva Convention is very specific about what constitutes armed forces. It is equally clear about mercenaries. It even describes guerrillas, militias and the civilian population. Blackwater and Dyncorp fit none of these categories. They are textbook-perfect examples of "unlawful combatants". They have no rights under the Laws of War. If they have guns, they are fair game. And I don't shed a single tear when one of them is killed, maimed or captured and disappears forever. If they were wearing the Uniform it would be different. As it is? Screw 'em. They deserve whatever happens.]
How can we continue the adventure? I can only see a few possibilities. We can rotate Guard and Reserves in faster. We can cut downtime between deployments or increase the length of rotations. These aren't going to work. Our Armed Forces are already seriously fatigued. Training and readiness are suffering. The latest compromise in Congress promised them fifteen months on and a year off which the DoD itself doesn't consider sufficient to maintain the quality of the military.
Or we could suddenly discover a whole bunch of new recruits.
That doesn't seem likely. The recruiters have stopped scraping the bottom of the barrel and have commenced to kicking the bottom out of the sucker to see what might be crawling around underneath. Active gang-bangers, drug users, an unprecedented fraction who score in the lowest cohort on aptitude tests and even severe autistics are already getting in. In the last few weeks the Pentagon has mentioned the possibility of a draft a couple times. Quietly. And they've always immediately denied it. But I can't see how else they are going to deliver enough meat to the grinder. Otherwise the insurgents, the Shiite militias, Iran and everyone else in the Administration's sights is going to say "Yeah? You and what Army?"
So I'm foursquare 100 percent in favor of a draft. It will have to be a special draft. It will have to be a draft which unites the country in a spirit of shared sacrifice instead of dividing it like the Vietnam years.
I propose the Carthage Draft.
There's some controversy about the ancient Phoenicians. Some people say they regularly practiced human sacrifice. Some say it was blood libel by their Roman enemies. In any case they had a custom. In times of grave danger they would publicly sacrifice children to their gods by burning them to death in a hollow brass statue. Here's the important part. These weren't orphans or the children of the poor. They weren't slaves. They were the favorite little boys and girls of the rich and noble. All of the families had to pony up in front of each other.
Here in 21st Century America those who rule do not suffer the same as those who serve. Hawkish Senators don't have children in the line of fire. The powerfully connected get to join the Air National Guard and go AWOL or get half a dozen deferments because they have "other priorities". It breeds resentment from the Lower Orders and removes the cost from those who reap the benefit. The only way they will stop making war is when it just isn't fun anymore.
So let them pay. Let them pay in a coin which can not be covered with money or political pressure. Let them pay with something that costs the same whether you are rich or poor. Let them show how much they support the war by paying with the lives of their own children.
Every Congressman, every Senator, everyone in the Executive Branch above a certain level and everyone in the Cheney Branch gets to contribute. Hell, let's go all out and include the wealthiest 1% of families and the board members of the Fortune 500. All of them contribute a child. By preference it should be a son or daughter. If there isn't one a grandchild, a niece or nephew, a younger sibling or a spouse will do. The chosen will be in for the duration. There will be no deferments, no exemptions, none of that. If they suddenly discover that they're gay then "unit cohesion" will just have to suffer for the good of the country. They go in as buck privates destined for frontline units with really dangerous specialties like Rifleman or Cavalry Scout. There won't be opportunities to get out of danger by going to special training, Officer Candidate School or one of the Academies. They're in the thick of it as long as it lasts. The ones who are disabled or killed get replaced by someone else in the family.
So the rich and powerful can have their wars. The President can surge all he wants, but Jenna or Barbara will be dodging bullets. The Democrats can rubber stamp everything - they do anyway. But they won't be able to "triangulate" on their wives and husbands when their only child comes back in a box. Halliburton really will have to trade blood for oil. But their own flesh and blood will be included. They can have all the war they want. But they'll have to endure whatever their families throw at them. They'll have to suffer the same sleepless nights and cry at the same funerals as the Little People. And they'll have to convince themselves and their loved ones that it was worth it every day for the rest of their lives.