The government of the United States still demands that all American males between the ages of 18 and 24 register for military conscription – i.e., the Draft – even though that same government maintains that no such system of military conscription any longer exists. To enforce this Draft Registration, various penalties accrue to those young men who decline to submit. So, despite whatever the U.S. Government says to the contrary, our elected officials certainly seem intent on bringing back military conscription. They only await a suitable “opportunity.”
The intent here simply reeks of intimidation. The U.S. Government, in effect, says to the young men of America: “Even though we do not choose to conscript you now, we know where to locate you and we have every right to draft you if we should choose — and you have no right whatsoever to resist.” In recognition of this rank intimidation by our own government, I choose to call this crude threat to life and liberty “The Selective Subservience System.”
As a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. military during a period of coercive conscription, I say that under no circumstances should the youth of the United States ever allow the Draft to blight their lives and hopes for the future as it did with so many of my generation. Those who wish to start for-profit wars should themselves march away to fight them – and at their own expense. Leave the rest of us alone. We’ve done enough already. Yet we keep hearing ugly noises coming from various quarters insisting that the all-volunteer military doesn’t “represent” American society and that it makes resort to needless and pointless wars all too easy.
Well, to this I say that the same working poor who fought in Vietnam forty years ago fights today in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. So, obviously, those who designed the Selective Subservience System have managed to excuse themselves from the fighting and dying in any event, whether by conscripting the ignorant and desperately poor into military service or by “selling” this same class of persons on all the “benefits” of serving in the all-volunteer military. The unimpressed and justifiably cynical refer to this marketing and propaganda strategy as “The Poverty Draft.” Make enough Americans miserably poor and destitute and a sufficient number of them will join the U.S. military as the least bad alternative from among only awful choices.
I never thought that one positive thing ever came from America’s devastating War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), except that 18-year-old citizens could finally vote. That latent threat of massive political involvement by the young, more than anything else except grinding poverty and lack of economic opportunity, explains today’s so-called “professional” — or mercenary — military establishment. Even worse, though, if we add dogmatic religious superstition (i.e., GAWD) and belligerent nationalism (i.e., “country”) to economic deprivation, we get a “Crusader” military establishment that destroys and kills not just for a meager monthly pay check, a few meals per day, the promise of some future educational assistance, and some cheap trinkets to wear on the uniform, but for “salvation” and “glory.” What a toxic combination of every conceivable horror. The “terrible worm in his iron cocoon” has returned from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to again devastate huge swaths of the earth in the name of two monstrous abstractions covering for a simple but corrosive venality.
George Orwell explained it all quite simply: The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. … The primary aim of modern warfare … is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.
The U.S. military, despite what it says of its own “ideals” or “ethics” of “service,” exists to squander of our national resources so that these will not go towards improvement of the general American society. The U.S. military, like the vast prison system, in fact exists to keep the plutocratic oligarchy at the apex of the economic pyramid and the masses at the base of the pyramid mired in poverty and ignorance. Hence the incessant, blaring refrain of “patriotism” and “national security,” celebrated officiously by priests and kings throughout history, virtually guaranteed to terrify and subjugate the people into sullen, passive subservience.
Fortunately, only one half of one percent of the American people want anything to do with this kind of “service.” As Private Jessica Lynch explained her own situation: “I joined the army to get out of Palestine, West Virginia, where I couldn’t even get a job at Walmart.” The U.S. military had so little actual fighting to do against the Iraqi “army” that it had to invent a heroic fable around this one poor girl who got lost and shot up and eventually rescued by some Iraqi doctors. Lights! Camera! Action!
Only one thing explains why the U.S. has suffered “just” 6,000 dead in its recent decade of debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan: namely, the absence of a Draft. Had conscription existed, that total would surely have exceeded ten times as many. The cheaper the human life available to it, the more of that life the U.S. military will squander. So No Draft. Not Now. Not Tomorrow. Never. The self-styled “Best and the Brightest” (or today’s “Worst and the Dullest”) can take it from here all by themselves.
If America had a sensibly scaled military establishment geared to the defense of the territorial United States, then the fifty state militias and a small cadre of full-time professionals would adequately serve the need. America doesn’t have too few soldiers. It has too many “wars.” But America does not have a sensible or responsive government. It consists largely of power-hungry sociopaths who use the U.S. military as a weapon against the very citizenry that military claims to serve and protect.
It’s way past time for some serious demobilizing of the wasteful, money-laundering military-industrial-corporate-political-media beast.
Michael Murry, a Vietnam Veteran, gargoyle sculptor and poet, occupies the Asian Desk for The Contrary Perspective.
7 thoughts on “The Selective Subservience System”
OK readers. Mike Murry makes some very strong statements here about how our political-military system is not working. Some of you must disagree. Get on your high horse and let us hear your criticisms of what Mike says. TCP is here to give voice to your contrary opinions. Go at it!
Registration for selective service, in theory, is needed in case of a national emergency. Admittedly, it’s hard to envision a foreign invasion or other attack on the U.S. that would require rapid national mobilization, but history is full of surprises.
I don’t necessarily object to selective service. What I object to is the misuse of our troops by an unwise and unjust government that doesn’t represent the true interests of the American people as enumerated in our Constitution.
Who gets to declare a “national emergency”? Who does the selecting? Who gets selected? I object to all three. If a real emergency required “defending” the country, then a sufficient number of people would step forward to defend it. If a sufficient number refused to do this “defending” — for good and numerous reasons — then either the defending doesn’t need doing (most likely the case) or the country doesn’t deserve to exist any longer and some enlightened foreign ownership might actually improve things. Certainly, the clueless crop of motherless cretins who infest our government at present make a very poor case for “democratic” self rule. As we used to say forty years ago: “No matter how you voted, you got more of Vietnam.” Same story in 2004. You could vote for “I started two needless wars” G. W. Bush or “I voted for and can manage the unnecessary wars even better” John Kerry. So, let’s hear the old refrain updated to 2014: “No matter how you voted you got more Afghanistan.”
Objecting to the misuse of our troops comes too late once the misuse has already occurred. Furthermore, the misuse of the troops (and crews) will inevitably occur should the U.S. government have any troops or crews to misuse. As former Secretary of State Madeleine so notoriously put it: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” A standing military establishment always begs for its own use because it gains political influence and vast, unaccounted-for budgets thereby — as the founders of our Republic knew and feared.
During World War II, my father wanted to join the U.S. Navy as soon as he finished high school. But at seventeen years of age, he needed his parent’s signed permission to enlist in the military. My grandmother refused to allow this as my dad’s older brother had already joined the Army. But dad had noticed grandpa’s car parked one day in front of a local American Indian lady’s house. So my dad blackmailed my grandfather into signing his enlistment papers, threatening to tell grandma about the “other woman” if he didn’t. This enraged my grandmother, and when my uncle found out about the “dirty” (in his words) American Indian woman, he told grandma anyway. So a divorce ensued. I mention this little family anecdote because when a foreign imperial military actually attacked America, you couldn’t keep young American men out of the military. Many men who couldn’t qualify for enlistment because of some physical deficiency committed suicide because they couldn’t serve.
And, of course, the Congress actually declared a “war” in 1941 and pledged “the entire resources of the nation” to see it to a successful and rapid conclusion. Congress hasn’t done that since. So no “war” or “police action” or “humanitarian intervention” fought by the United States since 1945 has had a shred of constitutional legitimacy. But since we have have this “superb” (meaning expensive) military, our amoral and completely self-serving political and military leaders will misuse it. They can’t help themselves — or won’t. So the fewer troops and crews, the less misusing of them. Simple. Never give a loaded gun to a drunken teenager.
I once read where Daniel Ellsberg objected to people calling our political and military leaders “stupid.” He chose his words somewhat carefully and said: “They’re not stupid. They’re just clever people who have lost their minds.” Some difference. But I have to go with Forrest Gump on this one: “Stupid is as stupid does.” So, given the record of rank stupidity and monumental waste chalked up by America’s political and military leaders over the past sixty years, I don’t want such unqualified people deciding what constitutes a “national emergency” or “selecting” those who will fight and die in pursuit — notice that I did not say “defense” — of it.
Selective service (SSS) is basically a useless waste of tax payer money in today’s technology age. When you apply for a loan/credit check how long does it take for your file to be pulled up. That is because there is a national DB with the names of all 330M Americans, it links the 50 DMVs with the SSN databases. Since this DB is relational a monthly query can be executed to pull the names of those who turned 18 that month and add that list to the SSS DB. It is estimated that there are about 3.2M men in each age group of the SSS DB (double if you include women). While women do not register, they are in the national DB and many feel that they are being added by SSS to prevent a gender bias lawsuit in case there is a draft. How long would it take to interview the 3.2M (or 6.5M) in each age group to determine their draft eligibility? In 1975 (when SSS was first shut down) there were about 11,000 workers at 320 sites (local draft boards). Today there are 57 workers at one site. How long to hire 18,000 (if male only) or 37,000 if coed? What kind of enforcement issue will there be? Use jury duty? How long can a person duck not serving before someone knocks on his/her door? When the US declared war on Germany (April 1917), SSS was established. It took almost a year until the US sent a decent size army to France. The SSS and draft was established in Sept. 1940 (15 months before Pearl Harbor). It was closed in Oct. 1945 but reestablished in mid-1948, two years before Korea exploded. Unless they are going to open draft boards and hire 25,000 full-time employees, the whole SSS in a fraud as the entire DB can be recreated in three days.
As Macbeth said: “Lay on, MacDuff. And damned be he who first cries: ‘Hold! Enough!'”
As the Chinese say: “You don’t use good iron to make a nail, and you don’t use a good man to make a soldier.”
As Marine Corps General Smedley Butler said: “War is a racket.”
You want contrary? I can do contrary.
I will say this: Mike’s article is a telling reminder that the government is supposed to be subservient to us, not we to the government. For example, the president is not our “commander in chief.” He is only the commander of our military.
Government agencies are supposed to serve us. They are supposed to advance the public good. They don’t exist to perpetuate their own existence and power.
Americans in general today are far too ignorant of how our government is supposed to work, and also increasingly in a learned state of powerlessness when it comes to changing the status quo. They are also too enamored with the military and too distrustful of the potential of a properly working public administration. The result is a strange concoction of admiration for authority (especially authority in uniform) and contempt for attempts to promote social well-being (e.g. the deep distrust of “Obamacare,” even though it’s largely controlled by private insurers and corporations in the health care “industry”).
Thus most Americans are deeply skeptical of government, with the exception of the most authoritarian government structure: the military. And that doesn’t bode well for our future.
About that ostensibly “deep” skepticism on the part of Americans toward their government:
“That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate. Similarly in his/her new status as imperial citizen, the believer remains contemptuous of bureaucracy yet does not hesitate to obey the directives issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the largest and most intrusive governmental department in the history of the nation.” — Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
In fact, the U.S. military and associated “national security” appendages (many of them private global corporations) have become the U.S. Government, to all intents and purposes. Yet in a true stroke of Orwellian genius, this actual militarist government has managed to shift the opprobrium connoted by the word “government” onto just those remaining activities of government that actually benefit the civilian population. Thus Americans have learned to despise that part of government which acts in their economic interests while simultaneously worshipping those activities of corporate/military government that systematically rob and disenfranchise them. What a neat semantic trick. Cheap, too. Everything depends upon what the word “government” means; who means it; when they mean it; where they mean it; how they mean it; and why they mean it.
I, for one, recognize the U.S. military establishment, its adjunct dogs-of-war mercenaries and corporate camp followers as the worst part of American “government” and thus richly deserving of the contempt that corporate interests wish for Americans to feel towards those legitimate functions of government — like full employment, national health care and universal education — that serve the people’s true interests. For those who feel that the U.S. government can do nothing right, the U.S. military and so-called “Intelligence” agencies furnish the most glaring and obvious examples.
So, when I say “big government” I mean “big militarism.” When the rest of America means the same thing by the same words, then perhaps we can begin the rapid and thorough dismantling of the Warfare Welfare and Make-work Militarism that virtually define “government” in the United States today.