Saturday, December 06, 2008

Iron Mountain Revisited

Wasn't that something of a coup last night, with the military services saying up front that the downturn in the economy is helping with re-enlistment, as hombres scurry to take advantage of government sponsored health care, skills training?

That used to be the stuff of spoofs ala Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, vicious satire in the tradition of George Orwell -- cite Prouty, who helped keep it going -- as back then, during the height of the Cold War, it sounded like some kind of admission to talk about the military as a vast socialized welfare program, like something those totalitarian Russians might try, especially if achieving world domination.

Today, people are more up front about the realities, like of course the military is a government-run wealth redistribution system, always has been. That's somewhat refreshing, to get it out in the open, helps change the debate maybe.

Given the change-oriented noises from DC, civilians are wondering what their government- sponsored jobs training program will look like, given a lot of the skills our economy needs don't involve driving humvees or cleaning a gun.

What will the bases be like (campuses?), the living accommodations? Which bridges will we get to fix? What will the training facilities look like?

Judging from magazine covers, people are hearkening back to their FDR heritage, the WPA and so on, and I agree, it'd be foolish to ignore that fertile meme pool. We should leverage its retro-ness, maybe mix in this word Dymaxion while we're at it (Fuller's brand of futurism was hot in the U.S. Marine Corps at one time, why not again?).

Of course the munitions makers like DuPont are still quasi private sector, government sponsored only in the sense of having those lucrative cost plus contracts, so by analogy there'd need to be a branching tree of corresponding civilian industries, with services similar to Halliburton's (food for the corps).

What's the land-based version of an aircraft carrier I wonder? Or might civilians have some ships too? What if the Pentagon runs out of "interesting targets" (as Rumsfeld put it) -- could that happen? Is it time to diversify the portfolio, get more people-friendly? "Misanthropy R Us" might not be the best marketing strategy. What do the focus groups say?

However, with two wars going, one of them drug-related (opium again), plus the war on "illegals" (so call it three), there's no talk of a Peace Dividend in this chapter, only a sense that the USA military could really swell as Americans look for better options, step off the going-nowhere mortgage treadmill and step in to something more comfortable. Be all that you can be. An army of one.

This trend might effectively cut in to the prison population as well (another huge profit center), by keeping young men, a few women (martial arts trained), off the streets and out of trouble, some older folks too.

Of course many in detention aren't eligible for military, paramilitary and/or civilian service -- but might more become so, with special programming? What has Congress drafted to date?

It's time to check those vast on-line repositories of intelligent brainstorming, so vital to keeping our democracy on track. One can't have a society without a vision of the future, a plan. Your taxes at work.

The upcoming civilian services will offer plenty of opportunities for new branding games. What kinds of uniforms? What kinds of gear? Why should Homeland Security have all the fun?

I'll be interested to see what the media-savvy Obama team comes up with, in terms of marketing, recruiting. What role might my Quakers play? We've been training with the new cybertools, might showcase new curriculum ideas. Honey Bunches of Oats has a bizmo on TV, so why not Quakers?

Will our federal selective service be repurposed to cover the screening process, or will universities be asked to give a hand, in exchange for some of these new contracts?

Building railroads or bridges for college credit, not just to get one's hands dirty, would be more the military model, in terms of offering lasting credentials in exchange for loyal and patriotic service.