Wednesday, December 15, 2004

RE: Fooling and Signing up Reservists and National Guardsmen for Iraq

----- Original Message -----
From: Leonard Riedel
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 1:44 PM

RE: Fooling and Signing up Reservists and National Guardsmen for Iraq

I believe that this blog is an overstatement in which I am not sure if the target is the government or the soldier. If the government, I agree with the elitist criticism--indeed I have previously made that point as concerns other issues such as the disinterested oversight of the administration's policies by a public that is not threatened with involuntary conscription. On the other hand, with the notable exceptions of the Lyndie Englands of the world, I reject the gross assumption that the guard is filled with rubes and underclass people. Indeed the members of the guard are often former active duty military people and people who are engaged in meaningful and responsible jobs such as airline pilots in the civilian world. It was my experience that the guard members added a substantial punch to the warmaking capability of the United States. It is not at all uncommon for reserve and guard forces to win top honors in competitions with the active duty force--usually because of their more extensive experience. Most tend to be more mature and capable of the most complex tasks of the military art/science.

The core criticism you make that strikes blood is that military service contracts are being extended and fine print invoked without regard for the original intent of the recruits or United States government. I don't doubt that many enlistees are motivated by the lure of rewards--what sales job doesn't involve some sort of inducement to buy or sign? I think in the reserve components and guard the force is divided into three types of people--a group that is climbing and building a future--the chance to get a government funded education is a strong inducement. The second are people who like the military climate and like what it stands for and want to be a part of what they do. In exchange they get some interesting adventures. The third group are people who serve to retirement. They become leaders in both the military unit they represent and the community as a whole.

I think the majority of the people you refer to are those in the early stages of enlistment. I doubt they are there for the relative pittance of a weekend of guard duty's compensation. Many I suspect are there for the educational benefits and these extended tours have got them scrambling--for many of them the military and warmaking weren't high on their radar screen. The complaints about involuntary extensions to lapsed contracts seem to be a very important issue.

On the other hand--the prerogatives of the "Commander in Chief" are extraordinary. Lincoln used it to start a war and bring hundreds of thousands of people into the armies without the permission of Congress. I am on the "retired list" of commissioned officers. Although it is unlikely that I'll get a letter addressed to a 51 year old overweight diabetic, the fact remains that in exchange for the "Reduced compensation, benefits and pay" I get, the president reserves the right to take me back into military service for the "good of the country." If he would ask I'd undoubtably go voluntarily. That is how most military professionals are. It is that clause that Judge Lambert has focused on. He knows that the limits on presidential war powers are very few and those are reserved to the Congress to debate, create and impose.

Let us not use the enlistees as ping pong balls. This isn't the 1970s and the civilian and military leaders in Washington are not as Black Sabbath called them: "War Pigs." Iraq is a difficult challenge--is it a necessary component of the war on terror? Personally, I think so. The matrix of Middle East domination and intimidation had to end if there was ever to be a change or chance for a peaceful settlement. The US presence in one of the major antagonistic states in the region has changed the attitude of a lot of people--some for the good and others....

My personal opinion is that the originator of the blog needs to more carefully define that which they speak of. The denigration of those who serve changes the focus from what we should really be discussing.

Len Riedel

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