September 07, 2007


Miss Ladybug writes a nice post explaining her take on an article about why we need the draft. She does a good job of explaining her side. I have one thing to add about this part in the original article:

Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While America’s bravest are in the military, America’s brightest are not. Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and I’ll bet that in six months they could render IED’s about as effective as a “Just Say No” campaign at a Grateful Dead show.

First of all, my husband just whooped MIT's butt at that Fast Money MBA Challenge, and he went to a state school and chose to be in the Army. So I'm thinking he could do just as well at "patrols on the highways" as Ivy Leaguers could. Hell, he would do better since he wants to be there instead of being forced to be there; I don't care how smart you were at school, if you don't have the drive and desire to apply your brain power to a problem, you ain't gonna fix it either.

But secondly, and here's my real contribution, smarter doesn't always make you a better soldier. My husband likes to tell one anecdote: The guy in their company with the highest ASVAB score, so presumably the smartest soldier, was the one my husband had to put in jail in Iraq. The best soldier they had, the one everyone wanted to work with, was the old gangbanger.

There are plenty of smart people in the military; I'd rather talk to Jack Army about the Middle East than anyone at Caltech. But book smarts isn't always what the Army needs, especially if it's been forced to be there. Somehow I get a little giggle imagining this Marine corporal trying to organize a squad of drafted Ivy Leaguers. I'm not sure it'd go as swimmingly as he thinks it would.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:07 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 point well-taken; well put.

Posted by: prophet at September 07, 2007 04:24 AM (Yagmr)

2 I have to agree. As a retired Infantryman I always found the enlisted braniacs as being the most difficult soldiers. The guys who may not have been the brightest, but understood why they were in the Army, and had a good does of stick-to-itivness where always the best soldiers. The only thing the draft does is give you an unmotivated soldier who doesn't want to be there, and will endanger his comrades with his attitude.

Posted by: James at September 07, 2007 07:03 AM (DxgIR)

3 I'm sure there are a lot of smart people in the Army, and I bet that a lot of creative solutions have been developed in the field. But not all problems are susceptible for field solutions--for some things, you need laboratories and factories. In WWII, for example, a soldier on the scene came up with the device for clearing the hedgerows of Normandy. But when it came to shooting down V-1 cruise missiles, it required the work of a Bell Labs scientist (based, interestingly, on an idea that came to him in a dream) and the collective output of several manufacturing plants. The deficiency we have right now is neither brainpower in the front lines, nor brainpower back home--it is, rather, effective coordination to bring our industrial and technological power to bear on the problem. I have long felt that we need to have a Director of Industrial Mobilization to help establish priorities and cut through red tape. This individual should ideally be a respected retired executive who is afraid of nothing and nobody. Here's an interesting post about GI ingenuity, both in the present war and WWII.

Posted by: david foster at September 07, 2007 11:51 AM (gguM0)

4 That does irritate me - the "smart" thing. I'm not sure how to politely discuss it, because my immediate inference was that it means the people in the military are dumb. Or, at least, not as smart as they could be. Of course, I could be sensitive about that, seeing has how my husband is pretty durn smart himself, smart enough to have fluency in two languages which do not share an alphabet. And a few other things, too. I don't agree with a draft, because I don't want to return to the Vietnam era of soldiering. However, I do get very frustrated that so many do so little, and so few do so much.

Posted by: airforcewife at September 07, 2007 12:50 PM (emgKQ)

5 What do I know about the Middle East? Now, if you want to discuss... uh... what do I know?

Posted by: JACK ARMY at September 10, 2007 02:18 AM (cxPqT)

6 This is a very old subject. When Halberstam wrote The Best and The Brightest, it was a poke in the eye of the intellectualoids. As Sam Rayburn quipped at the time, I'd feel a whole lot better if one of them had run for county sheriff once. WFB hit the same not when he observed that he'd rather be governed by the first 1500 names in the Boston telephone directory, than the faculty of Harvard, because the intellectualoids vote for utopianism, and the hunt for perfecting mankind in the 20th century has led us from the death camps, to the gulags, to the killing fields, and one might say, to the desert. Finally, Leo delivers a great Howard Hughes line in The Aviator, "I've had those ivy league pricks looking down their noses at me all my life."

Posted by: Casca at September 10, 2007 06:13 AM (xGZ+b)

7 Reading your post and these comments, what am I supposed to think as a proud Ivy League (Columbia U) graduate and a proud (enlisted Army) veteran? I say that half-kiddingly. You know as well as anyone that today's soldiers must wear many different hats and our victory in the Long War demands that they achieve far more than the traditional soldiers' tasks, which in and of themselves, already require plenty of brains. In the Long War, they have to be peace-builders, too, which requires that they take on everything else. I oppose the premise that the only way to get Ivy Leaguers to serve is the draft. Sadly, not just anti-military activists, but also too many military supporters promote that notion. We should be finding ways to constructively overcome the prejudices of the civil-military divide. I ask that you take care to avoid adding credence to the notion that being an Ivy Leaguer and serving in the military is an either/or proposition. Doing so only adds to the gaps in our society in a time when our nation needs unity of society and purpose. Indeed, there is a substantial number of Ivy Leaguers, at least at Columbia University, who have served before attending college or will serve upon graduation. (EG, google the "U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University" and the "Hamilton Society", Columbia's cadets and officer candidates campus group.) Our military needs more people - bottom-line - in this arduous, complex war. Our presently serving soldiers need the help, and the talent, smarts, and potential on Ivy League campuses are undeniable. Just as Ivy Leaguers once were successfully recruited into war-time efforts like the OSS without being forced, we should be finding better ways today to recruit Ivy Leaguers to invest their abilities into the special challenges of this war. The idea is for Ivy Leaguers to be force multipliers, to work alongside their fellow Americans, like your husband and all our other exceptional troops, not displace them.

Posted by: Eric Chen at September 11, 2007 07:48 PM (JlyXZ)

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