Monday, January 19, 2015

Who Owns These "Boots on the Ground"?
     Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby announced last week that approximately 1,000 American service members would soon be deploying to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar to train "moderate" Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS.  He said that the training will begin in the early spring and that if training goes well, trainees will return to fight in Syria by the end of the year.  He added that 15,000 trained Syrian rebels will be required to reclaim parts of eastern Syria now controlled by ISIS and that about 5,000 can be trained per year.
     He did not address three points that I believe are important.  First, who will pay these "moderate" rebels during their training and upon their return to the Syrian battlefield?  Second, does this cohort of fighters represent an extra-governmental militia or is this militia part of the US military: what is its status under international law and the Geneva Conventions?  Third, is this militia subject to the Geneva Convention and is the US responsible for the militia's actions under the Geneva Conventions?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our "Not-Enough" Volunteer Military
     Air Force spokesman Ray Alves recently confirmed that Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, recently wrote to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh that "ACC believes that we are about to see a perfect storm of increased demand, accessions reductions, and outflow increases that will damage readiness and combat capability of the MQ-1/9 (Predator drone) enterprise for years to come".  Gen. Carlisle added, "I am extremely concerned".  The combination of increased demand for drone sorties, not enough "volunteers" to operate them, and an exodus of qualified operators from the service is creating a 'perfect storm" that jeopardizes one of the cornerstones of the US "global war on terrorism".
     Although it is remarkable that this military occupational specialty would be the one that raises "extreme concern" to our All-Volunteer Force given the operator's working conditions and low personal risk, the Air Force response is equally remarkable.  Col. Alves indicated that monetary bonuses (bribes) would be the most likely response.  Is ours, in fact, an All-Volunteer Force if we have to bribe someone to join it?  Is the All-Volunteer Force model fair, efficient, and sustainable? 

Friday, January 2, 2015

     In the twilight of thirteen consecutive years of war in which less than one percent of Americans have served, a number of national security luminaries have lamented the widening civil-military gap and the rise of American militarism.  Among those recently expressing these concerns are James Fallows, Dr. Andrew Bacevich, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, and Gen. Stanley McCrystal.  All of them clearly identify the risks to national security and our country's social fabric that these trends present.  The writers identify the sacrifices that of those who serve thoroughly and compassionately: suicides, multiple deployments, PTSD, homelessness, etc..  These sacrifices were aggravated by an All-Volunteer Force concept that exempts every American citizen from any obligation to protect and defend the security and liberties to which they all lay claim. 
     What concerns me about these writers is their shared rejection of military conscription as a remedy to the widening civil-military gap and rising militarism in America.  The All-Volunteer Force makes it too easy for limited liability patriots, chicken hawks, and a disengaged citizenry, none of whom have "skin in the game", to go to war.  These writers all argue that military conscription is a "political non-starter".  By buying into this argument these writers are surrendering to a discredited political elite the moral high ground in what should be an important national dialogue.  In 1783 George Washington wrote that "it may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a portion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it".