Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is a Harvard Prof Calling for a Reinstatement of the Draft?

Linda J. Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, is out with a comment regarding the costs of war since 9-11. Her analysis of the costs is correct:

The most economically costly decision post 9/11 was not whether to attack Iraq and Afghanistan, but how to pay for the ensuing conflicts and the related increases in defense and homeland security. War costs always linger well after the last shot has been fired. But this is especially true of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts. The $1.6 trillion or so already spent has been financed wholly through borrowing. Add to this a further $800 billion in defense increases that are not directly war-related and hundreds of billions in new homeland security measures. The resulting debt accounts for well over one-quarter of the increase in US national debt since 2001.

Financing wars and defense-build ups in this way is an historical aberration.
This is all correct, but what is disturbing is where she goes from here. Note, her comment on the all-volunteer being a part of the financial problem:
The policies that were adopted after 9/11, including the decision to wage two wars with a small all-volunteer force, to rely on a large supplement of private contractors, and to pay for the entire campaign through debt, are still reverberating through our society. The vast economic costs may ultimately be dwarfed by the social costs of the wars, which are evident in the epidemics of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder among returning military veterans. But this much is certain: the attempt to get both guns and butter for free is an important factor in the financial mess. The fallout of this mistake will continue to burden the US economy for decades to come.
She doesn't come outright and say it, but her clear implication is that the costs would be better handled with a draft, rather than a volunteer force and paid contractors, which, according to her, are policy decisions that "are still reverberating through our society."

U.S. empire expansion and foreign military adventures are, alone, a bad idea, but a draft would only make military adventures cheaper for the government, while at the same time adding unmeasurable costs to those drafted.

It's not completely clear where Blimes is going with her commentary, but if the hidden message is that a draft is more cost effective, this is one dangerous line of thinking. It is analysis that only the costs to government, while at the same time ignoring the costs to the individuals drafted.


  1. What she hasn't factored in is the costs of footdragging, low level munity and 'fragging'. If you have a all volunteer force they accept the rewards are worth the risk, draftees, by definition don't and won't be as gung ho.

  2. It would be easy for her to say, since she wouldn't be on the receiving end of a draft notice.

  3. Bring on the draft!!!
    In the Vietnam days, the only thing that got college punks out on the streets was the fear of the draft.
    Put some fear in those pansy-ass college boys today and maybe the left will actually look like a live movement and we'll get some anti-war action in Amerikkka.

  4. All you need to do to get anti-war action is elect a Republican.

  5. If we take that perspective, then could we also say the rising cost of food is a result of our all-volunteer agricultural sector, and that the best way to offset those is to start conscripting farm workers?