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Defending the Homeland

Friday, 22 September 2006 12:00 AM

What are the odds that the United States will use nuclear weapons within the next few years?

"Getting better all the time," say the authors of two new books. And while the notion currently sounds implausible, it¹s hard to refute logic.

Philip Gold and Erin Solaro are known to your Medicine Men. Gold's new book, "The Coming Draft: The Crisis in Our Military and Why Selective Service Is Wrong for America" (Random House/Presidio) starts out with what everyone knows. We've wrecked our Army in Iraq; even after it recovers, it will still be far too small. He worries that after the next disaster, or the disaster after that, there will be a mad push to restore some form of compulsory service. This, he feels, would be both militarily ineffective and politically disastrous.

According to Gold, the American people must make a fundamental choice. Do we remain passive consumers of defense, accepting whatever the government does and whatever wars they get us into? Or do we re-engage as citizens, exercising our responsibility and right to provide for the common defense?

Gold favors the latter. But to do so, we must return to the Founders' understanding that citizen obligation does not provide the federal government with a blank check on the bodies and lives of the people. We must have strong active and reserve forces, available for any contingency. But why could people not join units, whether active or reserve, that can't leave the country, except upon declaration of war – a "reserve within a reserve"?

The National Guard is hideously overtaxed. Why not revive and expand the independent state militias that were established during the world wars because the Guard was overseas? Twenty-four states still have them. Why not create all kinds of specialized units for border control and disaster relief, citizens operating voluntarily under proper supervision? Why not open up all kinds of opportunities for individuals with critical skills?

We must return to the notion that participating in the common defense in various ways is a normal part of citizenship over a lifetime, not something the government provides. The Pentagon will consider it impractical. But Gold asks, "When did the Pentagon ever worry about what was practical? And who's working for whom?"

Our second author, Erin Solaro, was embedded with combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to study the performance of American servicewomen and how they worked with their male comrades. Her new book, "Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know about Women in the Military" (Avalon/Seal Press) starts with the fact that since 9/11 over 150,000 American women have gone to war as volunteer professionals.

Thousands have seen combat. All the disasters that opponents of women in the military predicted have not happened: no significant combat failures due to their presence, no female combat refusals, no mass breakdowns of unit discipline and cohesion, no epidemics of promiscuity, rape and pregnancy.

Women have shown that they can hack it and that when they do, the men accept them. According to Solaro, all remaining restrictions on women in combat should be dropped, as a matter of military necessity and of right – the right of women to be full citizens, sharing as equals in the common defense.

Which brings us to the nukes.

If we get into a conventional war with Iran or North Korea, or anywhere else, we have no – repeat, no – significant good-to-go strategic reserve left. We'll be utterly dependent on air power to do another Desert Storm: Knock out the bad guys fast and cheaply. But it may not be that easy anymore. Our planes are aging. Our fleet is shrinking. Replacements are hideously expensive.

And the Russians and Chinese (and others) have been selling a lot of advanced anti-aircraft systems of late. If an air offensive bogs down, or becomes too costly to sustain, and our ground forces get into trouble, we will face a grim alternative. Accept defeat or use nuclear weapons, on the battlefield or against targets containing lots of civilians.

Gold wonders:

"Can you imagine the global impact of dropping nukes again on Asians, or on Muslims? Can you imagine the impact of five thousand American POWs being paraded through the streets of Teheran?"

Adds Solaro:

"If we use nukes, they'll retaliate by bringing the war here. That'll get the American people involved. And what if the Russians or Chinese decide to throw their weight around a little? That could start World War III for real." And that's the link between these two new books and nukes. Whatever you think of Iraq or the war, unless we as a people get serious about our own defense, the unthinkable will, soon enough, become the inevitable. Perhaps it already has.

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What are the odds that the United States will use nuclear weapons within the next few years? "Getting better all the time," say the authors of two new books. And while the notion currently sounds implausible, it¹s hard to refute logic. Philip Gold and Erin Solaro are...
Defending,the,Homeland
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2006-00-22
Friday, 22 September 2006 12:00 AM
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