Rangel Moves Democrats in Wrong Direction

It’s one thing for Democrats to win when there is tremendous opposition to failed Republican policies. It is another thing for Democrats to remain in power when judged by their actions. Unfortunately one Democrat plans to use his chairmanship in a matter which could call into question whether the Democrats are more fit than the Republicans to govern. AP reports:

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

While this doesn’t stand a chance of getting passed, it still sends the wrong message. Those who voted out the Republicans out of opposition to the war are not going to be impressed with Rangel’s debating points. They will see it as a Democrat threatening to send more off to the war. Such questions as whether we would be at war if more felt their children were in danger of being sent might make for interesting debates for a college dorm or for a blog, but have no place in a Democratic Congress. Besides, having a draft in the 1960’s sure wasn’t enough to get us out of Vietnam very quickly.

There is a big question as to where the Democrats will attempt to take the country if given the power. With the death of the old New Deal coalition, there has been a considerable realignment, with many new Democratic voters being fiscally conservative. Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats have already spoken out against big tax increases and continued deficit spending. We will also have to see how consistent the Democrats are in supporting individual liberty.

It wasn’t only Iraq and corruption which hurt the Republicans. Their support for increased intrusion in individual’s lives, from opposing abortion rights to intervening in personal end of life decisions, has caused many who have not voted Democratic in the past to reconsider. There is little that is more intrusive in individual’s lives than conscription, especially when the Pentagon does not even feel this is necessary or desirable.

For years the Republicans have been divided by their social conservative and libertarian wings. The Democrats might be facing a comparable situation. Many of us will only support the Democrats as long as they remain a voice for restoring the liberties threatened by the Republicans. Charles Rangel threatens to move the Democrats in the wrong direction.

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18 Comments

  1. 1
    Ken Larson says:

    You make many good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

    I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

    If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armements”

    The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment,budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Adminisitrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

    How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the Sec. Def. to be – Mr. Gates- understand such complexity, particulary if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

    Answer- he can’t. Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

    From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

    This situation is unfortunate but it is ablsolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

    This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen unitil it hits a brick wall at high speed.

    We will then have to run a Volkswagon instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices.”

    You’d know more about this than me being on the inside, but I’ve read of lots of problems arising from the Bush politicos trying to ignore the career employees in various departments in favor of pushing their ideology. Besides being partially responsible for the fiasco in Iraq, it sounds like there’s been major problems at the Justice Department with the career attorneys being pushed out.

  3. 3
    homer says:

    Rangel and maybe other longserving democrats havent realized that in the public mind they arent in the opposition anymore, despite the January changeover date.

    The ‘Draft’ idea doesnt score any ‘points’ against Republicans or the President. Just makes the Democrats look like idiots.

    Hey Rangel, the next election is just 2 years away and everything you all say will bite you in the …

    As far as we are concerned you are responsible for everything now unless you make Bush veto it.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Democrats are responsible for everything in the next two years, just as Republicans were responsible for everything in the after the first two years under Clinton, and Democrats were responsible for everything under Reagan?

    Agree the draft idea is a bad one (obviously from my post) but it only makes the Democrats look like idiots if the rest go along. Most likely this idea won’t go very far.

  5. 5
    kj says:

    I think the topic pro and con re: a draft is a good idea for blog musings, BUT, maybe now isn’t the best time, just as I think talk about spending the next two years on impeachment hearings isn’t the best use of the limited time and political capital the Dems achieved with the last election.

  6. 6
    kj says:

    And I don’t support a draft for the war in Iraq. After firm decisions are made about our exit strategy, after troop have been pulled out, after the stop-loss thing is disgarded, maybe we could talk about revamping our military in the future.

    One of the side effects of having an all-volunteer army has been the loss of the collective responsibility for an American military. Instead, the misAdministration has used our military as his own private stash of troops. Way too close to the way a dictator uses a country’s troops. It’s been quite frightening to watch. Lies to justify action, stop-loss programs in place to keep people in theatre, no exist strategy before deployment of troops, precious little accountability.

    So yeah, I think we need to talk about this. But maybe not now.

  7. 7
    battlebob says:

    We had a running discussion on this on DCP late last week.
    I am for it if there are no exceptions.
    Everybody goes except those with a few mental and physical problems. If you can shoot, saddle up.
    If this passes, wars will end unless we have a thorough nationwide discussion and agreement about it.

    The reality is if this bill passes, every soccer mom will ram her minivan through the office of the nearest legislature and tear their eyeballs out.

    The unintended consequence is actions like Kosovo may not happen. We still owe humanity protection against despots because only we can. We need a worldwide dialog about the two dozen or so despots that murder their own citizens to stay in power. It is a discussion we should have had before going into Iraq.
    If we are truly our brother’s keepers then we have to do something about Darfur, Sudan and others like this. For those that we say we should only intervene if the US is affected then we should intervene because humanity is affected.

  8. 8
    kj says:

    Surprisingly, for me anyway, I am in agreement with Battlebob. The system we have now isn’t working. Wars are waged with little forethought, planning or endgame. Administrations are able to use the all-volunteer service like their own private military. The same people are being deployed over and over again. The stop-loss program is completely unfair. The anti-war movement is broke as well. There isn’t a level of public outcry over stop-loss or the war in Iraq that is making much of a dent in the misAdministration’s decisions. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore were too easily colored as leftwingnuts. Hunger strikes that didn’t gain national attention. Demonstrations that are too few in number to gain much more than a headline and a story. It’s not a movement. There was more movement (international as well) to the anti-war faction in 2002-2003, before we even went into Iraq. Our citizens aren’t collectively accountable or responsible for our military. The biggest boost to the Vietnam protesters was the draft. It could be your kid, your brother, who drew a low number. Now, it’s “those other guys, the ones who signed up, they took the money and made their bed so they’re being called back, not my problem.” There is no collective outcry that’s coming close to making the evening news. There isn’t even much of an outcry that we’re not seeing pictures of coffins coming home. Heads are buried in the sand, still. And this war as now gone on as long as WWII.

    Our military model is broken. We have to find another model. Hopefully one that isn’t so regressive.

    Signed,
    Peacenik thinking hard about a mandatory draft

  9. 9
    kj says:

    Look around where you live. Does it look like a country that is at war? Unless you live near a base, probably not. There are no war bond signs. No nightly news reports. No evidence at all that we’re losing men and women and the good will of the world, much less the fact that we’ve destroyed a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

    There no collective anguish. That’s partly because BushInc has done a masterful job of shutting down accountings, but think about it. If they can do this now, they (or the next administration) can keep us in a state of perpectual warfare and do it without most of us being aware of how horribly destructive (too nice a term, really) the wars are.

  10. 10
    battlebob says:

    There are Peace Corps options for both domestic and international issues for those that are not capable of combat.
    The point is we have less then 1% of our population doing the fighting. If it is worth fighting for, it is worth everyone suffering in some way.
    Therefore, if Congress votes to go to war, their kids are first in line to get a weapon and the first over the berm.

    There were three main issues with VN
    1 – The tour of duty was for one year and not for the duration. If it is worth fighting for, it is worth fighting until the objective is reached.
    2 – Anybody know what today’s objective is for Iraq? Is it the domino theory again?
    3 – There were too many deferments. When you graduate from high school or when you turn 18 after dropping out, you officially become a target. Work out the Conscientious Objective waivers and what kind of service can be served. However, if there is fighting then you are a warrior until the fighting stops.

    Those that stay behind pay a war tax to fund the endeavor. Decide up front what it will be and adjust as situations change.
    Alternate service is longer then the time the soldiers are fighting. Determine if it is double the time or one more year then fighting. However, those that do not fight are affected longer then those that do fight.

    The idea is not to glorify war but to make the sacrifices so horrible that we will fight wars when we must and only after a national discussion.

    This is probably so difficult that no one will go. Does that mean we have fewer wars?

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    My objection to the draft is primarily on ethical grounds, so to the degree there is validity to some of the arguments above it wouldn’t influence my view. Even if we put aside the ehtics, the pragmatic arguments for the draft are not entirely convincing.

    Yes, the system is broken, but it is broken at the level of the Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense. While the military has misuesed, it hasn’t reached anywereh near the level of being a private army for Bush. We may disagree with his decisions, we may object to the manner in which he lied the country into war, and we may object to some acts of misconduct (such as treatment of prisoners) but these were all done as part of the US miltary, not a private stash of troops. He did it dishonestly, but at least he did go to Congress before going to war. He’s not using the military to round up political opponents or to carve out a section of the country for his personal rule.

    The main difference between Vietnam and now isn’t conscription but the level of casualties. While the casualties suffered in Iraq are tragic, they represent a tiny number compared to Vietnam. The draft didn’t stop Vietnam (or if it did, it took many years). If it was drafted troope who were dying, it would take years before the number of deaths reached the level to recreate Vietnam type protests. The supposed war on terror also gave Bush cover for a while as a portion of the country mistakingly saw the war as necessary.

    While we don’t have Vietnam style protests, ultimately the people did protest by voting out the Republicans. Sure it took too long, but it take time to overcome the level of government propaganda we have seen. I doubt if a draft would have made this occur any quicker.

    The model is broken, but some aspects can be fixed short of a draft. Bush had to resort to overuse of the National Guard, and resort to calling back many people, especially as recruitment dropped due to opposition to the war. Perhaps we should consider limitations to make it difficult for these measures to be used by a President. Of course there would be technical difficulties as we wouldn’t want to limit choices in case of a real need for military action, but hopefully if there was a real need recruitment would also increase.

    If we want to get more of a sense of collective involvement, here’s another idea. Make the involvement for wealthy Republicans financiial rather than taking it out on their kids thru the draft. Outlaw Bush’s practice of paying for war off the books, and require a pay as you go system. (Again there would have to be limits. Deficit spending was totally reasonable during WW II). If the Repubicans had to pay a war surtax, as opposed to enjoying the Bush tax cuts, perhaps they’d think twice about the war.

  12. 12
    BB says:

    McCain wants to send in more troops. Where will these troops be comming from? This is not Star Wars where you can clone an Army. The military is running out of troops. There are troops that are on their third and fourth Iraq tour, now, that is a Wrong Direction. The Draft that Mr Rangel is well overdue. The Politicians and others like to use the phrase: America is at War. They should say some Americans are at War. The majority of Americans are going about living their lives getting ready to celebrate the Holiday Season with love one and close friends. Such hypocrisy.

  13. 13
    battlebob says:

    Ron,
    There are issues where the ground troops are worn down to nothing. If we send more troops, they have to come from somewhere.
    In addition, the same troops are being sent over and over again.
    This is immoral and inhuman. The more combat you face, the greater the odds something bad will happen. The risk and the danger need to be spread out.

    The only time violence can be used is if peaceful methods will not yield the desired objectives. This mean we have to have agreement on what the objectives are.
    In my opinion, Kosovo and Somalia were valid objectives where peaceful means did not stop the murder or the starving.

    The financial issues can be addressed by a war tax on everyone who is not in the service. We did this in WWII. As most actions will be small scale, they should be a pay-as-you-go. Each action is different and exceptions must be made.
    I think the issue with Iraq is not only the casualties but also the validity of us being there.
    Having a draft forces the debate because all are physically (or their kids) and financially affected.
    No one gets a free ride.

    I keep hearing louder and louder drums beating about Iran. The issue of blithely sending our troops to die as if they are used toilet paper must be stopped.

    Let’s face it. Any bill Rangle sends up will not make it past the House…would not make it through the Senate…would be vetoed by Bush…the veto would be sustained…would be ridiculed by the press …and should be debated to stop the abuse of our troops and force participation by the rest of the country.

  14. 14
    battlebob says:

    As far as the draft stopping VN…
    Two issues:
    1 – Those of us who were demonstrating did not sustain it long enough. I quit my involvement in 1971. I got married and stopped being an agitator and got on with my life. Career advancement beckoned. I sold the soldiers out for a paycheck and a life which they didn’t have. I regret that to this day. That option should not exist if we have soldiers in combat.
    2 – There were too many deferrments. If you went to college or got married and later if you had a child you were given a deferrment. Two many people were not affected.

  15. 15
    battlebob says:

    About the abuse of the National Guard

    The 2007 Defense Authorization Act and the “Reform” of the Insurrection Act of 1807
    Usurpation of Power (below the financial plea)

    http://www.counterpunch.org/smith11202006.html

    How the National Guard is abused!
    [snip]
    The 2007 Defense Authorization Act
    The Senate version of this bill (H.R.5122) went to conference with a section intended to strengthen the independence of the National Guard by raising its bureaucratic profile, requiring the Pentagon to provide more and better equipment, and emphasizing its role in responding to domestic disasters. When the Senate-House conference ended, the legislation not only had been stripped entirely of these proposals, in their place were revisions “making it easier to usurp the Governors’ control and making it more likely that the President will take control of the Guard and the active military operating in the states,” according to Senator Leahy. Why? Because, as noted before, the National Guard (militia) when operating under state control can be used to augment law enforcement, thus removing the need for federal troops. But if a president invokes the Insurrection Act with its tie to “rebellion,” he can override state objections and authority and use federal forces or federalized forces (National Guard) for purposes of “enforcing the laws of the United States.”

  16. 16
    battlebob says:

    What affect did the ’60’s anti-war protests have?
    How about causing LBJ not to run in 1968?
    The demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic convention were about the war.
    We did force the direction to change. Too bad we couldn’t stop the dieing.
    I think we gave up the fight.

    Nixon was living on his own planet like Bush is today.

  17. 17
    battlebob says:

    Obama speaks.

    Sen. Obama: Iraq withdrawal should begin in 2007

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/20/obama.iraq/index.html

    [snip]
    “There have been too many speeches. There have been too many excuses. There have been too many flag-draped coffins, and there have been too many heartbroken families.”

  18. 18
    kj says:

    Ron,

    I overstated the “private army of Bush,” absolutely yes. The rest of my concerns still stand. I keep thinking this war with Iran nonsense talk will peter out, but that’s naive on my part. I want to think of something that will engage every citizen in this country in a fundamental way before we (under this misAdministration) take war into another country. For that, and all the above, I’m willing to entertain the thought of a mandatory draft with exceptions for combat duty. At least, a discussion, although it is certainly a hot topic, which is completely understandable.

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