In the second season of Downton Abbey, Thomas the footman turns into Thomas the medic and gets deployed to the front in World War I. While in the trenches, terrified with everyone else of the incoming rounds, he purposely raises a hand with a cigarette in it above his trench to draw incoming fire.
It works and wins him a trip home to England, where he gets to employ his medical talents till the end of the war in relative safety. (And he gets to continue his scheming, maneuvering ways, but that is the fun of watching the Thomas character, isn’t it?).
The U.S. and Great Britain did not enter nor fight the world wars in the same way!
My sister-in-law (in England, but aware of the history of our family both there and in Ireland) reminded me of that this morning when my Facebook page contained a discussion of the proposal that women in the U.S. register for Selective Service (the draft). The idea is that now that women have been cleared for combat for three full weeks (if they qualify and if they volunteer) it is now time to make combat mandatory for every woman, in case of a war breaking out in the future.
If you know me at all, you know that I am not in favor of that proposal. I don’t want to stand in the way of those rare women who do well with fifty pound backpacks, but I don’t think all of us should be training to that standard. We are not inferior to men. Just different. And less suited for combat, on the average.
However, there is always that idea that women get choices while men get told to “man up.” Combat is one of those areas. Selective service registration has been, too.
It goes along with the idea that a woman can choose to be a homemaker/homeschooling mom or choose to have a career, while a man who stays home to tend to the homestead or to homeschool his children will usually be made a laughingstock.
Not sure how to remedy all that. And that is not the point of this post anyhow.
But I do have a remedy for the universal draft in the U.S. Don’t do it (see article above, about the counterproposal to stand down the requirement for men to register for selective service). Don’t do it for anyone.
As my sister-in-law reminded me, a trained, professional Army does better every time. We got into the habit of manning our forces at the last minute as a war began because we were pushed into World War II unwillingly. It worked out pretty well that time so we have used it as a modus operandi ever since, taking our forces from small to large during the Korean War and the Viet Nam war by means of the draft.
Call it a money-saving gesture.
And call it foolish.
We get the Army we are willing to pay for. And if our frugality keeps us from training and paying soldiers until we need a fullscale mobilization, it is wicked to grab a bunch of civilians, turn them into soldiers overnight against their will, and send them off on a wing and a prayer to hopefully avoid death and disfigurement.
That doesn’t matter, morally, whether they are male or female. It may insult our sensibilities more when they are female, but morally it is the same issue. Forced service. Related to slavery.
Even when everyone in the ranks agrees that it was done equitably, between the rich and the not-so-rich, it is still forced service.
Our constitution provides for a strong national defense, making that a responsibility of the federal government. As we have seen since right after Viet Nam, if the military is paid well enough, you can keep it manned without a draft.
And that, my friends, is a federal government bill that should be paid because the states can’t do it on their own (nor should they).
Whatever happens with sequestration, it remains a federal responsibility . . . (if we must have fewer troops, then we will need to serve in fewer places accordingly. We can’t do everything anymore!).
Who would have thought that Thomas Barrow and my sister-in-law would combine their voices to talk me into a persistent belief in an all volunteer military??!! Thanks, Carol!