A McCain Presidency Guarantees a Military Draft?

Paul Abrams

John McCain tells us that he is not a very good economist. It brings to mind the old joke that the definition of an economist is someone who is good with numbers but did not have the personality to be an accountant.

Prepare for a campaign during which McCain will prove to everyone that, as the poor economist he admits to being, he is not good with numbers, and he certainly will not be held accountable.

But McCain is not joking when he talks about his war policy. He wants to continue the Iraq War. He pledges to increase the US commitment to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell (and, by the way, he knows how to catch him, he just has not told George Bush). He also speaks of other wars.

George Bush says to listen to the generals. Well, the Army Chief of Staff General George Casey tells us that our military is way overstretched, and that tours-of-duty will have to become shortened. [When asked prior to the invasion in ’03 whether he was worried about overextending the military, our seerless President said: “the military will not be overextended,” and the reporter failed to ask him how he knew that]. General (ret) Barry McCaffrey has said that we are so lowering recruitment standards just to keep our numbers up that he is concerned for the long-term quality of the military.

Where is the money going to come from to pay for it all? Daddy at least got the Saudis to pay for most of the first Gulf War. George W. has not received a devalued dime from them. Having succeeded in bankrupting the country by turning a $5 trillion projected surplus into a $3 trillion deficit, an astonishing $8 trillion turnaround, borrowing like bandits from the social security trust fund just as the boomers are about to retire in droves, what devalued currency is McCain going to use to pay for all of this?

Listen for these McCain answers: he will be “confident” that Americans will be patriotic enough to answer the call to duty and volunteer in sufficient numbers for the military (but, curiously, not confident that the wealthiest Americans are patriotic enough to pay higher taxes to support his wars — odd, isn’t it?) Does McCain believe that, now that they can no longer exhibit a higher patriotism by helping their dad become president, the Romney sons will now volunteer? Or, Jenna’s financee? Or, perhaps, Jenna herself? We do need to give McCain credit, his own sons, like Jim Webb’s, are volunteering.

But, unlike the squeamish White House reporter who was afraid of not getting called upon again and thus accepted Bush’s bald assertion on overextending the military without a followup, we ought to be entitled to ask McCain two questions: upon what recent evidence is his confidence based? And, if he is wrong, what is going to do?

He has 4 choices. He can call for a draft. He can wind down the Iraq War, and deploy some, but not all the forces to Afghanistan. He can get sufficient volunteers. He can get allies to add troops.

Well, people are just not volunteering in sufficient numbers. The allies are pulling, not adding, troops. So, he is down to a draft or winding down the war. He said he will not do the latter. What’s left?

He will not tell you this, but here is the answer: he will have to call for a military draft, period. The military would prefer not to do it, draftees are more difficult to train and form into cohesive fighting forces. But, there is no other way to fight all his wars, at the level he wishes to fight them. No, McCain is not joking about his war policies. He just will not tell the truth about the implications. He will, of course, deny vigorously when challenged that they require a military draft.

But, that’s what simple addition compels. Today’s second-graders, who will 10 years hence be called by McCain’s draft, could teach him that.