Minority Report: Biden’s Waiver-Needed SecDef Nominee Lloyd Austin

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Opinion herein is mine alone. / ~Rayne]

I started writing this post about Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense during the first week of December; this portion of the post remains unedited after the events of January 6. I’ve left the first two-thirds unchanged to make a point.

~ ~ ~

Before I get to the meat of this post let me pose a few questions:

Can you name a Fortune 1000 CEO who is American by birth, Black, or a woman, or both?

Can you think of a Fortune 1000 CEO who is American by birth and a minority with a long, successful track record of leading a transnational corporation with more than 50,000 employees?

Can you think of an American citizen who is a minority who has led an international NGO with more than 50,000 employees?

There are fewer than 40 CEOs fitting the description leading in the corporate sector. In late 2019 the percentage of Black and/or woman CEOs was roughly 0.036%.

Corporate America is still absurdly homogeneous even after decades of women obtaining more than half the business degrees awarded in the U.S., and after affirmative action efforts by universities up to 2006.

We can be certain that the next layer of management below CEO and president looks just like this — ridiculously white and male. Major U.S. nonprofits look marginally better.

However this is the most obvious pool of candidates for Secretary of Defense under the National Security Act of 1947, from which Joe Biden should select the next SecDef.

~ ~ ~

Today’s military is deeply challenged:

The collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain in 2017 revealed serious weakening of discipline at a time when geopolitical tensions are mounting with China and Russia. Corrective action is ongoing.

The disappearance and murder of Army Spec. Vanessa Guillén in 2020 as well as the death of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales in August 2019 brought to light systemic problems at Fort Hood in Texas. Punitive measures were only just announced yesterday, resulting in firing and demotion of at least 14 leadership personnel at the base. If these failures were deep in the third largest U.S. military base on American soil, there are likely similar failures if at smaller scale at other bases.

The military has become a training ground not for our own troops but future domestic terrorists, as these examples demonstrate:

  • An active-duty Marine, Vasillios Pistolis, assaulted counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, SC in 2017. He had been a member of white supremacist group Atomwaffen and then a different unnamed extremist organization while he was in the military.
  • ProPublica found multiple active-duty military members and veterans who were members of white supremacist or nationalist extremist groups during their investigation into Pistolis post-Charlottesville.
  • This past June in Nevada, three veterans were arrested on terrorism charges. They intended to elevate protests against pandemic-related business closures into violence.
  • Three of four neo-Nazis planning to attack Black Lives Matter protesters were former Marines; the fourth was an active duty Marine serving in North Carolina when he was arrested in October along with his co-conspirators.

In response to ProPublica’s investigative reporting on Pistolis, House Rep. Keith Ellison demanded an investigation into white supremacy’s influence on the military; he also asked then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis to share “steps currently being taken to screen recruits for extremist ties.” It’s not clear what happened following Ellison’s demand.

A sizable number of domestic terror threats generated by veterans and active-duty military have roots in far right extremism associated with white supremacy, from veteran Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 to this October’s planned attack on BLM protesters. The military needs to stem the toxic influence of white supremacy with active anti-racism, including deplatforming Confederate icons. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in early December by a veto-proof majority in the House; the bill required the Defense Department to remove names of Confederate leaders and rename them in an effort to remove racists figureheads from the military.

Effectively addressing systemic lapses in military discipline and subversive influences threatening national security requires a strong grasp of U.S. military culture, let alone an appreciation for the diverse force of 1.3 million active duty personnel, of which only 57% were white in 2017:

… In 2017, women represented 16% of the overall active duty force, up from 9% in 1980 and just 1% in 1970.

The percentage of officers who are women has steadily grown since the 1970s. For example, in 1975, 5% of commissioned officers were women, and, by 2017, that share had risen to 18%.

… In 2004, 36% of active duty military were black, Hispanic, Asian or some other racial or ethnic group. Black service members made up about half of all racial and ethnic minorities at that time.

By 2017, the share of active duty military who were non-Hispanic white had fallen, while racial and ethnic minorities made up 43% – and within that group, blacks dropped from 51% in 2004 to 39% in 2017 just as the share of Hispanics rose from 25% to 36%.

Fortune 1000 corporations’ diversity among C-level executives is a joke by comparison.

~ ~ ~

To realize the principle of civilian control of the military, the National Security Act of 1947 requires the president to select and nominate a SecDef from the civilian population. Candidates may be veterans but must not have served in the military during the previous seven years before nomination.

In a liberal democracy, civilian control of the military should ensure the military serves the interests of the nation rather than the other way around. It’s also intended to avoid the rise of a state within a state, in which a military co-equal in authority to the civilian government may act in a fashion contrary to the nation it is supposed to serve.

1947 was a very different time; the nation was wholly unified, still unwinding from its war footing. It was beginning a reduction in force in a measured fashion. The U.S. had also learned considerably about the nature of fascism and autocracy during the previous decade and was extremely sensitive to threats to democracy.

Today, however, we can see fascism blooming rapidly, some encouraged by hostile entities outside the U.S., some within the U.S. arising from dissatisfaction with the status quo. Without a unifying sense of purpose, too many Americans have pulled away from democratic values seeking instead to be gratified by autocratic power.

It’s led to the nascent development of a state within a state — the rise of white supremacy as a fifth column inside our military.

And the civilians who have served as secretaries of defense over the last four years have failed to stem this toxic bloom which poses a clear and present national security threat.

With Trump, the reality TV CEO as commander-in-chief, the fifth column feels encouraged and validated.

Real CEOs and other C-level executives are simply not up to the job of extirpating the poison when it cannot see the same white supremacy at work within its ranks. In their world a fifth column represents a group ready to spin off a new startup or seek a buyer to acquire the parent corporation. That’s not democracy.

~ ~ ~

Biden nominated retired four-star general Lloyd Austin to be SecDef, though Austin only left the military in March 2016. As you can see from the 2009 photo used on the front page, Austin served during Biden’s tenure as VP under the Obama administration. Biden knows Austin.

But because Austin has only been out of the service not quite five years to date, there has been immediate rejection of Austin’s nomination on both sides of the aisle out of concern for the civilian-controlled military doctrine.

Austin requires a waiver from Congress to serve as SecDef because of the 1947 National Security Act. He should receive the waiver because he has not yet been deeply acculturated into Corporate America’s deeply racist system, and he’s still very familiar with the military as it was before Trump’s term aggravated the relationship between the executive office and active duty personnel. The inadequate response to Russia’s sponsorship of attacks on American and coalition forces in Afghanistan serves as one example.

~ ~ ~

And now the January 6 Capitol Building insurrection makes it ever more obvious there’s a deep challenge inside the Defense Department. Far too many of the participants in the rebellion were active duty military, reservists, or veterans, suggesting they may have gone into the military with the idea they were training for this moment. Or perhaps they managed to get through their military service with their pre-existing bigotry intact if not enhanced. DOD needs to do a better job of weeding these persons out of the service because they are a clear and present danger to national security as January 6 proved.

But a leader from Corporate America will not be up to the task. They have proven themselves incapable of fixing the diversity problem in their own industries. When it comes to institutional misogyny, they can’t claim a pipeline problem because women have been more than half of all bachelor’s degrees awarded each year for more than two decades. The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to whites has fallen over the last two decades while it increased among Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans. And yet representation at upper levels of America’s corporate sector has barely budged.

Nor will a leader from Corporate America understand what the options are for screening, remediating, and removing insurrectionist elements inside the military. We do not have the luxury to teach someone from the corporate world where the problems are and how to address them after coming so close to the overthrow of our government.

How many corporate leaders would be able to stop a hostile takeover of their own corporation? It’s not the same as armed insurrectionists showing up in their offices threatening to kidnap, try, and execute management, but we can’t even be certain the corporate world produces leaders who can fend off traditional takeovers.

We don’t have time for on the job training; we can’t fuck around and find out with our national security at stake.

And I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of rapid deployment of military resources to aid rollout of vaccines and PPE in our response to the COVID pandemic — yet another facet of our nation’s security.

~ ~ ~

Lastly, we have to think of this period as a reset — our democracy has been threatened deeply, and the threat had nothing to do with having former military lead the Defense Department. It came from persons who included those who were radicalized in spite of their previous or current military service; it came from the top of the executive branch from someone with absolutely no respect for the military except as a means to his personal ends.

It fomented while civilians led the Defense Department.

15 former Defense Department leaders have asked Congress to offer a waiver for Austin, including former senator Chuck Hagel, former Obama chief of staff Leon Panetta, and William J. Perry, all of whom were SecDefs under previous administrations. Their letter to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee makes a sweeping opening acknowledging the unique challenges of this moment in history:

As former Republican and Democratic Secretaries of Defense, Deputy Secretaries of Defense, and Service Secretaries representing the Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, we understand the qualities necessary to lead the U.S. Department of Defense. More pertinently, we understand what it takes to lead as a civilian at the department charged with the first and most essential task of the United States government, namely, to keep Americans safe. Rarely in our history has that been a more difficult challenge. Our nation faces a pandemic that has taken a terrible toll on America and on our allies; aggressive adversaries challenging us around the globe and in cyberspace; a rising China whose interests and values often do not align with ours; and a threat from domestic terrorism that has rarely been more clear or more dangerous.

In essence, they acknowledge a civilian leader at SecDef may not be up to the job this transitional period demands, though they acknowledge the importance of civilian-led military to our democracy.

The only previous waivers granted have been for George Marshall under Eisenhower in 1950, and James Mattis in 2017 under Trump. In hindsight Mattis’ waiver may have been a mistake since the problem of white supremacy and nationalism inside the military festered under his watch as SecDef; but one might also make the case that civilian leadership following Mattis by Mark Esper did no better. Under the more recent leadership of Acting SecDef Christopher Miller, conditions worsened — we still won’t know for some time exactly what Miller’s role was in the failures to protect the Capitol.

What all three most recent SecDefs shared in common may also have led to their failure to check the internal threats: all nominated by Trump, all of them white men who may simply not grasp the ways in which systemic racism and misogyny gnaw at our defense infrastructure.

The threat racism poses to our national security is immediate, exemplified by the two National Guard members removed from inauguration duties for their ties to right-wing militia organizations, nearly all of which are sympathetic or overlap with white supremacist or nationalist entities.

The Senate may have its doubts but it should offer the waiver for Austin and approve him as SecDef given the nature of threats we face. Congress should also follow through on Rep. Ellison’s demands for an investigation into white supremacy, nationalism, and other insurrectionist threats within the military, only give it teeth by legislating this as a regular institutional obligation with mandatory reports, measurable oversight, and punitive action spelled out. Make sure that the Secretary of Defense is directly responsible for this effort.

Legislate a review of this investigation and subsequent corrective action by the congressional committees responsible for military oversight on an annual basis, with a recommendation to retain or replace the SecDef based on measurable performance.

That’s where the ultimate oversight of the military should occur and where civilians continue to restrain military power — in the halls of Congress.

43 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    The alternative to a corporate civilian is a political civilian in the mold of Les Aspin, who chaired the House Armed Services Committee, or Leon Panetta who was head of OMB, White House Chief of Staff, and CIA Director.

    You can certainly argue whether they were suited in terms of outlook and positions, but they certainly had the experience and knowledge.

    I don’t have the greatest faith in current political Dems being up for the job, unfortunately. It’s a sign of how they need to build their bench strength.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t have the greatest faith in current political Dems being up for the job

      We just seated the 117th Congress, have yet to swear in two more Democratic senators. Give it time. Our biggest challenges are pushing Schumer to run hard and not allow McConnell any slack under a so-called power sharing agreement, and finding a way to off ramp Dianne Feinstein.

      The bench strength is otherwise there if it’s allowed to run hard. We still have nearly all the women reps who were elected in 2018, more persons of color, more LGBTQ+ members, and finally control of the Senate. Give them a goddamned month or two.

      • bmaz says:

        Warnock and Ossoff are certified. If they are not sworn in today, they will be tomorrow or Thursday morning at the latest.

          • Spencer Dawkins says:

            Not just replying to BMAZ – that’s the end of the comment thread when I read it.

            In my understanding, the winning strategy to offramping either Feinstein or Pelosi would be to run a better Democrat in the primary (unless we would prefer the GOP running MUCH better Republicans, but I’m assuming that nobody here wants offroading badly enough to go there).

            Is that the vision?

            I’m way more sympathetic about offramping Feinstein – the Graham embrace after ramrodding Barrett through (in a week) was just over the top. I know senators are collegial, but she could have waited for another day to hug and make up. So I don’t disagree one bit.

            Pelosi was just (again) elected Speaker of the House. If she’d lost, that might have made primarying her in 2022 easier. What’s the plan here?

            I’m not trying to be difficult here. I just don’t understand what people expect/hope to happen next.

            • Rayne says:

              Feinstein is 87 years old and manifesting cognitive problems. Her term isn’t up until 2025 and she’s already filed for re-election. Sorry, somebody close to her needs to encourage her to retire and she should be removed from committees until she steps down. This should happen while there’s a Dem governor and president.

              Pelosi is 80 and as you said, just re-elected. She seems to have a better grasp on how short her viability is; I wouldn’t be surprised if this was her last term. Off ramping her is primarying her with a better candidate.

              California’s Democrats need to do the legwork here — these are their representatives.

              EDIT: Californians (only! not other states’ constituents) should flex their muscles with this task first —

              • Molly Pitcher says:

                There are a LOT of Dems in California very eager to replace Feinstein. Among the top of the list are Gavin Newsom, but the virus has thrown him off his schedule. I have the impression that he doesn’t want to leave the office of the Governor while everything is in chaos, because I think his ultimate desired office is the White House. He wants to lead the state out of this mess and be able to point to that in a Presidential campaign. Shockingly, it was just announced this week that we have somehow managed to end the year with a surplus in the state coffers, when everyone thought the giant surplus from pre-pandemic was going to be whittled away in 2020. If things turn around financially across the country, later this year, I would not rule out a run for her seat by Newsom.

                I think that once things have settled down this year, say May or June, Dems with wallets will encourage Feinstein to rest on her laurels.

                Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles and Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose lust after both the governorship and the Senate.

                I would like to see Katie Porter move up from the House to the Senate, and since Newsom just appointed a man to Harris’s seat, I think she would have the support of a LOT of women in the state.

                I have heard talk about Adam Schiff, but I think he would not have the money behind him that Gavin Newsom would have.

                From the right there will almost assuredly be a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon the former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party, and National Committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California. She is a POISONOUS Trump supporter/apologist who regularly is a guest on Fox. She sees herself as the better Southeast Asian version of Kamala Harris. Imagine Nikki Haley without the charm.

                • Rayne says:

                  I would love to see Katie Porter primary Feinstein; I think she could raise the money, goodness knows Team Warren Democrats would get her back. The question is who to fill her shoes in her district who can win over a Republican opponent? This is what CA Dems need to work on ASAP, get the pipeline established and ready.

                  • Rugger9 says:

                    Porter is my choice as well, and since her House district is in R+ territory she needs to have a better demographic to stay in government.

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              If Schumer and Pelosi really want to show leadership, no one will have to primary Feinstein. They will convince her to resign/retire, preferably the former; we need never know how it came about. It can look like her graceful last act on the public stage.

      • BobCon says:

        That’s different from having someone ready right now, though.

        There is very much a problem in Congress with committees and subcommittees atrophying and leadership offices taking over authority and expertise that used to reside with chairs and ranking members.

        Letting members run hard isn’t how Schumer and Pelosi organize their caucuses, unfortunately.

        Pat Schroeder was a legitimate candidate for DOD posts based on her time in the Armed Services Committee. She had a ton of expertise just as an active back bencher, then as a subcommittee chair, in arms control and strategic weapons development, and had the benefit of serving during a time when House leadership was much more open to competing factions operating below them.

        The current leadership prefers a much more centralized model of legislating, and it’s been bad for the longterm capacity of the institution. I don’t think anyone thinks much, if anything, of Adam Smith, for example.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I was amused to see Chuck Todd weigh in with his typical bothsidesism demand that Biden’s administration would be a “failure” if the 100 million doses are not delivered in the first 100 days. Naturally, Chuckles ignores the rank incompetence of DJT’s preparations for distribution (tossing it into the states’ laps) because as near as I can tell DJT is old news to Todd.

        Todd needs to be fired by NBC ASAP.

        • Rayne says:

          Chuck Fucking-useless-sack-of-dog-turds Todd needs to be replaced. His remark was little more than disinformation and an ethical failure on his part when he could and should have been asking if the Trump administration had sabotaged the U.S. claim on 100 million doses since the states have only administered a little over 30 million doses so far. Where are the rest? Were they derailed like PPE orders were? Were they stolen and sold on the black market? Were they destroyed? Where are they? But Useless Turd Todd can only demand Biden overhaul what Trump left and produce better inside a fraction of the time Trump had.

          He’s next, his incompetence will not serve this country’s needs for real information it can use.

          • Geoguy says:

            “Chuck Fucking-useless-sack-of-dog-turds Todd…” Thanks for that, it made my day. Spouse is 1A for the vaccine and it took weeks to get the appointment and it includes a 150 mile round trip.

            • bmaz says:

              Once you get there, my guess is you will find it all better than you think. Hope it is a decently fun drive, and remember you likely need to go back to the same place for your second dose.

              That said, seems to be a tad underperforming in many places right now. Ugh.

  2. Raven Eye says:

    Three Pentagon assignments caught my eye as indicators of his understanding of how that building works with respect to the service perspectives (Army Vice Chief of Staff), operations (J-3), and interservice coordination (Director of the Joint staff, which is one of the those intense “many spinning plates” jobs).

  3. Silly but True says:

    Look to 1949 and Truman’s appointment of Louis Johnson as SecDef as the catalyst for executing integration in US Armed Forces. He immediately began with the training divisions first; stop the bleeding, and start all incoming with the right habits.. He also then began selling the benefits to leadership to enlist them in crusade. And very quickly, the real problem: the obstinate but large middle was squeezed into compliance or weeded out..

    • Stacey says:

      The military in general is approaching the point at which more and more of its internal inconsistencies are becoming exposed. To list ONLY a few, I think it’s fair to state that the resonance that joining the military has with young people growing up in our society today is not at all what it was for the generations that lionized military service because it was seen as a less complicated personal decision than anyone thinks of it as today. Iraq and Afghanistan are not your grandfather’s military conflicts, let’s say.

      Now, it’s young peoples only economic way out of many rural regions of our country, which overlap with cultural values that are honestly more likely to lead to people twisting their patriotism into these nationalist shapes, than not. Young people in urban areas seeing themselves with many more choices in their life don’t seem to be attracted to that life. Signing yourself up for canon fodder duty after GWBush’s adventures in the middle east shattered those illusions. And now Trump gave those young people nightmares of how that could end that they hadn’t even thought of yet!

      The long slog that still exists for women in the military to have anything like a safe work environment isn’t getting significantly easier. And honestly, over-hearing my reservist husband’s mandatory sexual harassment training videos, would leave one with no amazement about that fact!

      Being a racially integrated organization looks one way on paper, and vastly improves upon their corporate counter parts, but I’m guessing that the experience the black Capital Police officers are now openly discussing is more similar to black service members than we want to admit.

      At the end of the day, my point is this: The fact that an organization exists which asks young people to put themselves at the mercy of the unchallengeable whims of a president who may or may not be sane, honest, or remotely concerned about America’s values, future, or interest to do with them what he pleases is a hard sell. And since Trump is hardly the first president that fits that bill, I trust that’s not even controversial to say. Then you have a very high percentage of young men growing up on Call of Duty adrenaline rushes and you give THOSE guys a chance to join an organization that gives them permission to live that life and paints it with patriotism and pablum so they can become door kickers in some foreign land where in order to kill the enemy they are taught to dehumanize them, and I’m not really sure what we expect to get other than what we have.

      I’m not IN THE LEAST disagreeing with anything Rayne said in her post. I totally agree with all of it and support Biden’s choice for many of those same reasons. I only want to add a few flavors of the depth of the problems we want him or anyone else to solve with our active military.

  4. ptayb says:

    “1947 was a very different time; the nation was wholly unified, still unwinding from its war footing.”

    Maybe white america was wholly unified but I doubt that the returning African-American GIs shared that sentiment as they made their way home to the Jim Crow south.

    • Rugger9 says:

      One of the side issues is that the thugs are also the most noisily gung-ho types in the service. In most cases, that pre-existing self motivation tends to be encouraged and rewarded by the brass. SecDef Austin will have a lot of work to do while keeping the services in sharp form.

      That, and get rid of the Space Force.

  5. arbusto says:

    Slightly OT: Are service members convicted of a civilian crime subject to courts martial under UCMJ for same plus AWOL?

  6. Epicurus says:

    “…Congress should also follow through on Rep. Ellison’s demands for an investigation into white supremacy, nationalism, and other insurrectionist threats within the military, only give it teeth by legislating this as a regular institutional obligation with mandatory reports, measurable oversight, and punitive action spelled out. Make sure that the Secretary of Defense is directly responsible for this effort.

    Legislate a review of this investigation and subsequent corrective action by the congressional committees responsible for military oversight on an annual basis, with a recommendation to retain or replace the SecDef based on measurable performance.

    That’s where the ultimate oversight of the military should occur and where civilians continue to restrain military power — in the halls of Congress.”

    John LeCarre used to say via his books if anyone wants to kill an investigation, send it to a committee and have them issue reports. The above is pretty much like suggesting the following for wiping out sexual behavior in a high school – mandatory reports, measurable oversight for a situation that can’t have oversight, punitive action for the Principal. All the while sexual behavior will continue on unabated because the core problem, if that is what is defined as the problem, is a function of the students. It is the same in the military. West Point just had a cheating situation and the Superintendent and his COS aren’t kicking anyone out. They have to take re-education classes. Why bother with an honor code? The problem lies in the society that provides soldiers and sailors for the military and carefully teaches them, as Hammerstein might say, to hate. I don’t have a general societal answer for that just like I wouldn’t have an answer in the sexual situation above. I don’t think anyone has an answer short term. No SecDef is going to snap her or his fingers and, poof, solves the problem.

    Asking civilians to restrain military power is a bit much. Has anyone looked at the budget lately?

  7. Ken_L says:

    I generally agree with the argument but it’s a bad practise to have legislation which Congress begins to ignore as a matter of routine. The expression ‘granting a waiver’ implies that the law envisages exceptions to the rule. It doesn’t. Rather than a ‘waiver’, Congress has to pass a new law stating that the general law doesn’t apply to a named individual.

    The reasons for the general law are sound. They apply to Austin just as they applied to Mattis. Rayne has argued persuasively that there are other considerations which outweigh those reasons. The correct course should be to repeal the general law, not to let it fall into disrepute by authorizing frequent exceptions. The 1947 law was an attempt to limit the constitutional discretion of future presidents and Senates, which is in principle a dodgy thing to do. Get rid of it.

  8. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    If you haven’t seen this, just a small example of how crazy things have gotten. This woman was still employed (albeit, decommissioned and on her way out) at Fort Bragg, an anti-vaxxer and attended the rally portion of the attempted coup/insurrection (she claims that she and her pals left after the rally and did not go to the Capitol).
    Not to mention, the Nattering Nabobs of Nepotism are still being allowed to gaslight about the “stolen” 2016 election and the “fake” Mueller “witchhunt.” We aren’t nearly out of the woods yet. .

  9. Hika says:

    Haven’t finished reading yet, but wanted to clarify some numbers:
    From quoted piece: “… In 2004, 36% of active duty military were black, Hispanic, Asian or some other racial or ethnic group. Black service members made up about half of all racial and ethnic minorities at that time.
    By 2017, the share of active duty military who were non-Hispanic white had fallen, while racial and ethnic minorities made up 43% – and within that group, blacks dropped from 51% in 2004 to 39% in 2017 just as the share of Hispanics rose from 25% to 36%.” end quote.
    OK – so in 2004, blacks were “about half” of 36%, that is about 18% of total active service. In 2017, blacks were 39% of 43%, which is close on 17%, so the proportion of blacks among active service is little different to what it was.
    The big change is in Hispanics, going from 25% of 36% = 9% in 2004 up to 36% of 43% = 15.5% in 2017. The increase in proportion of Hispanics is +6.5% of total which is over 70% increase on the 2004 proportion.
    Now, the converse set: White, non-Hispanic has gone from 64% (100%-36%) down to 57% (100%-43%).i.e. down by 7%. Thus, the “replacement” of white non-Hispanics in active service has been largely by the increase in Hispanics.
    Is this not consistent with broader demographic trends in the USA?

  10. earthworm says:

    Rayne, Thank you for the good essay!

    I know, I know — Everything is complex, not black and white.
    My manifesto would be, nevertheless:
    Bring back draft/create a program of national service.
    “Forever wars”? send to Dustbin of History!
    Spend nation’s patrimony first on our people, our problems, i.e., health, education and skills, for our next generations.
    Model democracy at home (replace disingenuous sloganeering, “Bringing Democracy to Iraq.”)

    My view is this military problem has been longtime brewing, starting with the devastating American wars of choice, Vietnam, and exponentially worsening under Bush/Cheney’s Afghanistan+Iraq, with bigoted militant Christians in upper command.
    (Not to mention transferring nation’s wealth into pockets of MIC, fully prepped to buy political offices and maintain grip on status quo.)
    There has never been a valid rationale for Vietnam, the ‘domino theory’ and other specious arguments notwithstanding. And we know about the politics of oil.
    IMO the decision to eliminate the draft was a disaster, and I am fundamentally pacifist and antiwar! Convert it into national service.

    For US, these wars of choice have paralleled what happened to ex-Soviet Union after their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan.
    Now it is our turn.
    Debt. Implosion. Hunger. Allure of strong-men. There’s too much venality and desperation in the so-called richest, most powerful nation on earth for it to remain so, without monumental remedial action.
    Someone such as Austin with a balanced view of what’s possible and necessary may be one of the most important American cabinet appointments.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I would say that the draft is unworkable as a practical matter without a full-scale war going. From the military view, volunteers generally perform better than ones who don’t want to be there and will resist in the various ways that enlisted troops do.

      However, the shared service idea which the draft did impose (everyone is liable, at least until the rich gamed the system with bone spurs and the like) would help to reinforce that we share the obligation to serve in some capacity. That is worth pursuing.

      • madwand says:

        Vietnam destroyed the armed forces, especially the army. The MVA Modern Volunteer Army rescued it, for a time. Commanders started feeling good about themselves around the time of the Gulf War. Then Afghanistan and the disaster called Iraqi Freedom where we are still involved today. Vietnam taught insurgents they could win over time against a modern army if they only hung in there which is what they did. Marshall said the American people would only tolerate a war for so long, 7 years being the max, we have far exceeded that with our mideast forays, and it’s no longer tenable, there is no final, measurable victory from a grand strategy perspective, and most Americans have tuned out. One reason the MVA has turned into an insular military, isolated from the general population it serves.

        Those who in the nineties thought that the implosion of the Soviet Union left the US in a position of absolute strength with the will and firepower to do whatever we wanted and shape the world in our image, were dead wrong. Today that is obvious, with an ascendant China willing to first challenge the US economically, and perhaps militarily in the future.

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