Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life imitates a Mastercard commercial

Picketers200_2What union carpenters make in Washington, DC: $24 an hour.

What non-Union carpenters make in Washington, DC: $16 an hour.

What the carpenters union pays the homeless to walk picket lines, so the union carpenters can keep working at $24 an hour: $8 an hour.

Hypocracy of the carpenters union: Priceless.

Oh, Blackwater, keep on rollin'

Not much activity here this past month, so I will kick start.

As you've read -- at least fourteen of the seventeen killed by Blackwater were unjustified murders, according to the FBI investigation. But there is no court of jurisdiction to try any of the "contractors" in. Can't do America. Can't do Iraq.

That ain't the part that is pissing me off so much, though. I am fairly numb to Bush and his toy soldiers at this point. Or maybe, if I think about the murders I get too upset, so I think about other aspects of the situation.

Why do we have so many contractors over there in the first place? Why aren't we fighting a military war with military?

Granted, I need some data to back up these assertions and I got no data - so this is mostly a conjecture post (which I freely admit), but run with me on this for awhile.

For several years in the mid 20-aughts the military was telling us they were meeting recruiting targets. (Notice that you've not read any stories about recruiting targets the past year or two - but you were reading lots for awhile.) It sounded fishy to me back then. I realize in 2001 (late) and 2002 there were likely lots of signups to fight the Taliban. But once we went into Iraq and Americans started dying, I bet that recruitment dried up.

It is my hunch the only way the military came close to recruiting targets in 04 and 05 was by setting the targets unreasonably low. (Which is a tough thing for someone outside J1 in the miliary to evaluate. [see my footnote]) So, perhaps they hit targets in 04 and 05, but they didn't get enough soldiers into the pipeline. And since we are not reading about hitting targets in 06 and 07 (here is one story I found), my guess is they can't even hit their low targets now.

This would explain why soliders are being asked to serve second and third terms in Iraq. This would explain why terms keep getting extended.

And this would explain why the military has to outsource. It makes sense for the military to outsource whatever roles it can to private firms who can pay more and hold looser reins. And that would explain why we have so many contrators over in Iraq wrecking (reeking?) havoc.

It also suggest that, even if there were a modicum of public sentiment for going into Iran, there is not miliary force from which to do it. And, if a real (not self created) problem broke out somewhere else in the world, we would be hard pressed to react effectively.
[footnote] I dug up some very round numbers. In January 2004, there were about 500,000 in the US Army. The 2007 Washington Post article cited above said that the FY 2007 Army recruiting goal was 80,000. So, if the average length of service in the Army (figuring in casualties) is a little over six years, then they are maintaining size by hitting the 80,000 goal. Of course, this is just Army - and doesn't consider reserves. It also doesn't consider specific skills, officer count, and lots of other things. But it is a decent starting number. So, how long do you think the average service term is? Certainly some people are lifers, but don't many serve their two or four years and get out? And, even if the average term is over six years, are we rebuilding the army if we simply replentish at that rate? Could it be that the 80,000 recruiting goal does not meet needs, but a higher goal is not acheivable - so they won't set a goal they can't make?