Monday, September 08, 2008

Why Not McCain?- 4

It has become common wisdom that the United States military has been stretched too thin by the Bush Administration, attributable in part to fighting two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) simultaneously. There are two ways to increase the size of the armed forces sufficiently. One is to offer adequate incentives.

On January 4, 2007 Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007. As described in May, 2008 by,

Webb’s bill costs an estimated $52 billion, a number that can grow in out years as more take advantage of the benefits. It would provide to service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan up to 36 months of benefits — equivalent to four academic years — to pay for tuition, books and fees as well as a $1,000 per month living stipend for qualified veterans.

Attached to a supplemental appropriations bill, the measure was signed into law by President Bush on June 30, 2008. Along the way, however, bill opponent John McCain, attempting to derail the proposal introduced a measure which was less generous and likely would have provided less of an incentive for young people to join the military.

The other way to build up the size of the armed forces is by a draft. And so it was that on August 15, 2008 at a town hall meeting in Las Cruces, New Mexico John McCain was told of the following by a woman in attendance (video here):

My son is an officer in the Air Force, I'm a vet., and I was raised in a military family. And I think it's a sorry state of affairs. When we have illegal aliens; having a medic-aid card that can access specialists, top physicians, the best of medical, and our vets can't even get to a doctor. And these are the people that we tied yellow ribbons for and Bush patted on the back. If we don't re-enact the draft, I don't think we'll have anyone to chase Bin Laden to the gates of Hell.

And Senator McCain responded by first saying:

Ma'am let me say that I don't disagree with anything you have said, and thank you.

McCain then went into a lengthy statement expressing concern about the inadequate medical treatment received by veterans, and later that day Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic argued that the Arizona Senator previously explained opposition to a draft in response to a question at a town hall meeting earlier this year. However, McCain in September, 2007 suggested the possibility of a draft, as he did in companion statements of June, 2006 and July, 2008.

And McCain has boasted of his willingness to "follow binLaden to the gates of hell." Then an individual tells him that isn't possible without a draft. And he immediately says "I don't disagree with anything you have said." There are only two possibilities: either the Repub presidential nominee supports a draft or he opposes aggressive efforts to capture Osama binLaden.

Obama clearly wants to strengthen the military without instituting a draft. And in a major foreign policy speech on May 19, 2008 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he reiterated a point he had made several times before:

If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot.

If John McCain truly knows his mind about such critical issues, he's not letting on.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I don't understand all this paranoia about McCain instituting a draft because

1. it's political suicide and he'd never get the support to do it
2. it's unnecessary, especially given we will begin drawing down troops in Iraq
3. it's based on a response to a comment by a soldier's mother about the burden her son and the volunteers face where he said he agreed with her. Should he have said "that's crazy. i would never support a draft to get bin laden." I don't think so. It seems that he was agreeing about the burden and doing the smart political thing of sympathizing with her. He has never said no draft ever because you never take that option off the table.

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