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Comments by YACCS
Friday, December 10, 2004

The policy void


We must do better


Why do I go to such trouble to correct obvious errors in fact like praising colonial history and slavery wasn't so bad?

Because the uncorrected record is valid. If you don't correct the record, people will believe it.

Josh Marshall wrote something today which rings all too true:

I also agree with Peter that Democrats have a basic and non-cosmetic problem with national security policy. I wrote a number of articles about this in 2002 and had a hand in a couple of others. The problem is not principally dovishness but rather --- as Peter notes --- that Democrats are by and large simply not sufficiently interested in national security policy, as such. This is at least as much a problem in the Democratic operative world as it is at the grassroots. As I’ve written before, lack of interest in national security policy leads to lack of knowledge. And lack of knowledge leads to tactical and mutable political decisions on national security --- which is both bad on principle but also feeds public perceptions that Democrats aren’t serious about the issue and that they’re not trustworthy guardians of the national security in dangerous times
.

This is why I consider history so important. Liberals have an icky reaction to any discussion of the military. Now, no credible historian would take Max Boot seriously. Even a casual study of the colonial era would show that Boot's theories are at best, half-baked and at worst, overtly racist. The idea that colonies can be held short of genocide can be easily disproven.

Now, I don't think Josh has much of a grasp on the subject either. Because if he did, he wouldn't have supported the Iraq war or not seen the cataclysm which is coming. And frankly his plea to understand the DLC is rather pathetic, and a symptom of rhe same sort of myopia which he accuses others of using Peter Beinhart's words. The DLC doesn't take the military any more seriously than anyone else.

I think the real issue is that the Dems don't have an alternate vision of what the military should do. Iraq clearly isn't it. But where are the Democratic voices on reforming the military. Rumsfeld's plans will lead to disaster. This plan to transform the military into an even lighter version is obviously poorly guided. A reliance on air power and armor is not working in the prototype of our future wars. Iraq, Sudan, Zimbabwe, all once and future hotspots and controlling them isn't about tanks and air support, but men on the ground.

There needs to be clear Democratic voices pointing out that Max Boot and Victor Davis Hanson are revisionists ignoring basic facts of history. Niall Ferguson is just an out and out liar. These people are dominating a policy discussion with lies and radically stupid suggestions. In Boot's world, the Iraqis aren't the most lavishly equipped guerrillas in history, but wogs who need a firm hand. Ferguson wants to strip the ghettos even further for more men for his colonial adventures.

There are credible historians who could refute Boot in an hour, and they are far from liberals, but they aren't fat off of think tank money either. Defense isn't a dirty word and Bush's methods are going to lead to a Vietnam-like collapse. Someone has to pose an alternate vision, one of multi-state cooperation and better weapons and training. Unarmored Humvees are a disgrace, but hardly unknown to the US Army. The gasoline powered Sherman was a death trap nicknamed the Ronson.

We're lucky we don't have a draftee Army in Iraq, because if we had, they'd be fragging battalion officers by the day. But the collapse is spreading. We're back with the lying, quietly growing numbers of desertions and refusal to report, the Army being dragged into court, now we're drafting idiots.

Project 100,000 [P/100000] and the ASVAB Misnorming:

Though the Military Services do not regard their role as that of a social welfare agency or relish the image as an employer of last resort, the DoD has, on 2 occasions in the past 25 years, witnessed a large influx of L/A (and thus generally disadvantaged) youth. The 1st infusion was scheduled as part of "P/100000," while the 2d resulted from an inadvertent error in the scoring of the enlistment screening test.

In response to Pres Lyndon B Johnson's "War on Poverty," and concomitant with the escalating manpower requirements for the VWar, SecDefense Robert S Mcnamara successfully launched P/100000 in 1966 despite earlier Service opposition and congressional reluctance. The stated primary goal was to provide a means of upward mobility for the economically and educationally disadvantaged by admitting 100,000 (40,000 in the 1st year) L/A and medically remedial men into the military annually (Mcnamara, 1966).

Consequently, apt standards were relaxed (but not eliminated) and military service opportunities were opened to those previously deemed ineligible on the basis of apt. (1) The New Standards Men (NSM), as the participants were called, consisted of men scoring in AFQT CatIV.

More than 320,000 L/A men entered the military under P/100000 with promises that they could avail themselves of traditional and remedial skill training while serving their country. The majority of New Standards Men served in the Army (66%), with the proportions in the other Services ranging from 10% in the Air Force to 12% in the Navy and Marines. Most P/100000 participants were assigned to combat jobs or to "soft skill" areas not requiring extensive technical training, such as Food Service, Supply, Wire Communications, Motor Transport, and Automotive Repair.

P/100000's role in remediating the knowledge and skill deficits of the underprivileged was designed to be less direct than other federally funded civilian manpower programs of the time. The military was to transform the lives of America's poor through its normal rigorous training and socialization (with perhaps somewhat more of its training recycling and some "extra help"). McNamara had originally recommended to Congress in 1965 a smaller but more direct program--the Special Training and Enlistment Program (STEP). He solicited federal funds for more pervasive remedial training of L/A men up-front, before basic, skill, or on-the-job training.

When STEP was rejected by Congress, the better timed and more palatable P/100000 was offered in its stead. In keeping with the experimental nature of this rehabilitative effort, participants' military performance indexes were collected, monitored, and compared to control groups. Plans were also discussed to follow their social progress beyond the military. Despite positive endorsements of the relative military performance of New Standards Men by official DoD channels, this social program was terminated in 12-71 when the manpower needs for the war in So'east Asia abated and DoD could no longer require the Services to accept quotas of L/A personnel.

The 2d "unscheduled" wave of L/A accessions occurred not in time of war but between 1-76 and 9-80 (Sellman and Valentine, 1981). Rather than being motivated by Presidents Ford or Carter or their appointed Defense Secretaries, this was an unintended by-product of a miscalibration of the ASVAB. When new forms of the ASVAB were developed for DoD-wide use in 1976 there were undetected flaws in the method used to determine appropriate percentile scores in reference to the normative population. These errors particularly inflated scores in the lower ability range. Thus, many recruits thought to be of average apt were, in reality, below average or CatIV's. If the test had been calibrated correctly, many of these individuals would not have qualified for enlistment and thus they were subsequently designated as "Potentially Ineligibles" (Greenberg, 1980) (2) By the time the errors were detected and verified, and new correctly normed and more technically sound forms of the ASVAB were introduced in 10-80, over 300,000 Potentially Ineligibles had entered the military. Because the misnorming episode was what can be called a natural experiment, its participants were not "branded" upon entry. However, there are anecdotal accounts that field commanders were complaining about a quality decline long before the Pentagon's manpower analysts and psychometricians discovered the misnorming.


What really happened was that the rear areas had bad drug problems and some of these men were shifted into combat units. Several participants in the My Lai massacre were drafted under Project 100,000.

But there is a follow-on effect, which leads to poorly trained officers. Now, you can promote some from the ranks, but when so many are leaving and you don't have a draft to entice people to get commissions, you wind up with Rusty Calleys. Calley, who led his platoon into My Lai, was a miserable officer who shouldn't have been commissioned. But he was because they needed the officers in the manuvers battalions.

The problem is that a draft can't solve this immediately, if at all. Because even in the unlikely event a draft passed Congress and even rumors of it will cause parents of teenagers to go batshit, the best and the brightest will not be in line units catching bullets. The testing will shunt them into either commissions or staff jobs, after the infantry battalions are rounded out.

The problem is that Dems are letting the GOP define our options on military policy without creating one of our own, and calling for allies to join us in Iraq is not a vision. We can't just let these people define what the military does because it's obvious they don't have a clue. It's a debate we desperately need to join and haven't yet.

The problem with the DLC/Beinhart view of this subject is that they accept Republican dogma on everything from the war on terror to the Army in Iraq and they're dead wrong on both. They don't have an independent vision. No one does at the moment.

And people have forgotten it was people like Jim Fallows and Gary Hart who played a large role in shaping the modern military by asking hard questions. But now, you have two factions, the no faction and the Vichy faction and neither are enough to define a new view of military policy.

posted by Steve @ 2:34:00 AM

2:34:00 AM

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