Posted: July 4, 2008
by Ken Bode
Dear Sen. McCain:
For your Fourth of July speech, here are my Modest Proposals for how
we might quickly replenish our military manpower in preparation for a
long war in Iraq (and perhaps another war in Iran), without resorting
to a draft.
The Pentagon estimates the Army needs to expand by 30,000 to 50,000
troops. Repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and shorter
breaks between deployments have taken a serious psychological toll on
existing troops, and despite adding thousands of recruiters, the Army
has chronic problems meeting its recruitment goals. The Iraq war is
increasingly unpopular, and if you are to stick to your guns about
staying until we win, you must come up with a policy that convinces
the public it is militarily feasible.
Two available pools of recruits promise quick results.
First, you should announce today that you would offer legal,
green-card immigrants a fast track to citizenship in return for
overseas military service. Many would serve willingly to achieve the
cherished goal of citizenship. No huge change of policy is involved.
The Army is quietly doing this already. According to military
statistics, 4,600 immigrants in uniform became citizens in 2005.
Announce today that as commander in chief you would order the
Pentagon to deploy military recruiters overseas, open recruiting
stations in Mexico City, Managua, all over Central America. We
desperately need Arabic speakers for current and future wars, so
recruiters should go to friendly nations in the Middle East. More
Arabs in American uniforms would help solve the culture clash our
soldiers now experience in Iraq.
During the Revolutionary War, German and French citizens were
recruited. In the Civil War, 20 percent of Union soldiers were
immigrants. Many Irish went directly from the boats to the recruiting stations.
The second solution might take more moxie on your part, but it would
yield quicker results. You should announce the creation of a
specialized force made up of divisions drawn from the 2.3 million
inmates serving in federal and state prisons. This force would be
modeled on the French Foreign Legion, which has served that country
for centuries and is deployed in Afghanistan today.
In the prisons, military recruiters would have a huge pool of
potential recruits along with access to accurate criminal, medical
and psychological records. As they do today, the Pentagon would set
the proper standards. You are not proposing to open the doors on
Death Row. Those selected would have a chance to start their lives
over if they serve five years with honor and fidelity. Following the
French model, the prisoners would be recruited into the American
Foreign Legion and would never serve on U.S. soil.
Once again, this expands a little on existing policy. In 2004, the
Pentagon commissioned a "Moral Waiver Study," designed to better
define relationships between "pre-Service behavior and subsequent
Service success." Based on this study, recruits with records of
aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter and making
terrorist threats rose 54 percent. We are already recruiting misfits,
felons and applicants with gang tattoos.
There also is historical precedent for this idea. For generations
judges in America have offered convicted criminals the option of jail
or the Army. Remember "Born in the USA," Bruce Springsteen's song
about the Vietnam War?
"Got in a little hometown jam/ So they put a rifle in my hands/
Sent me off to a foreign land/ To go and kill the yellow man."
These Modest Proposals for your Fourth of July address would show you
to be a compassionate but innovative and decisive commander in chief.
They also would provide a fast dose of military manpower if you
decide to invade Iran.
Bode is the former national political correspondent for NBC News and
a former political analyst for CNN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.