Monday, February 18, 2008

No more spinach ... and please pass the dessert!

At a church Men's Forum a few years ago — indeed, it was the "Just War Theory and Iraq" forum, held shortly before the March 2003 invasion — Elder Klaus suggested reading books by people with whom we knew we disagreed, in order to challenge our own thinking with a different perspective.

To that end, last August I finally forced myself to pick up the copy of Darrell Cole's When God Says War Is Right that I'd had around the house. A pro-this-war brother at Emmanuel Covenant arranged a bulk purchase of that title — also right around the time of the Iraq invasion — and I simply never managed to muster the wanna to take it up. But last August, I decided that I must, primarily for the benefit of this weblog.

I think I read two or three chapters, tops. (And managed a couple of corresponding posts, here and here.) But it was like slogging through a cold plate of cooked spinach. I figured it was probably good for me — but I really didn't like it. Cole's style was dry — not at all compelling. To make matters worse, I couldn't shake the suspicion that he was baptizing American militarism with the views of several early church fathers. Now, I don't really have a problem with the views of the church fathers — I'm convinced the Bible sanctions just warfare. But in the few chapters that I'd read (and in some of the peeking ahead) I got the feeling that Cole felt all of America's military engagements have been just.

Then, while I was still choking down the spinach, my lovely bride set some ice cream and hot apple pie out on the table! She'd chanced across The Coming Draft: The Crisis in Our Military and Why Selective Service Is Wrong for America, by Philip Gold, at the public library, and thought I'd probably be interested, so she brought it home for me to look over.

Gold snagged me right out of the gate, for several reasons:

• He can turn a bourgeois-witty phrase — "Conscription sucks so bad, you get hickeys on your brain just thinking about it" — and he's not afraid to use made-up words like "ponderization" and "humongouser" (as in "more humongous").

• While he most vehemently opposes conscription, Gold also "[clings] to the antediluvian belief that every American male should spend some time in uniform as a normal part of life and of citizenship." (Might he be sympathetic to a militia-based national defense?) And while he finds conscientious objection both "personally and politically abhorrent ... were the draft to resume, I would extend the right to everybody, no questions asked." Conscience first, Caesar second.

• Gold's own life actions reflect both his opposition to the draft and his convictions re. duty-based, yet voluntary, military service. While in his senior year in college in 1970, Gold received a draft notice, which he mailed back to the draft board with this note:

Dear Draft Board,

Thank you for sending me this induction notice, which I am returning to you. I have no intention of serving in the United States Army. I will never serve in the United States Army. Please stop wasting my time, your time, and the government's postage.

Sincerely yours,
Philip Gold

PS: I recently joined the Marines
Gold served in the USMC officer corps for 11 years. (Not only that, but he's Jewish, and not afraid to lay the Iraq debacle at the feet of the neoconservatives — yes, he uses the "N-word"!)

Upon attaining his Ph.D. in history at Georgetown in 1981, Gold was commissioned by the Discovery Institute "to do a book on why we need the draft back."

My crest not only fell, it hit the floor with an audible thud. ...

It wasn't what I wanted. But fifty thousand to write a book and a year as a senior fellow in a no doubt prestigious think tank held a certain appeal. And so began what turned out to be a twenty-five year ponderization of two of the strangest ideas that human beings have ever come up with.

First, that a democratic state has the right to tear its citizens away from their homes, families, and private endeavors in order to send them anywhere the government desires to suffer, fight, kill, and die.

And second, that the citizens of a democratic state have the right to refuse.
In short, Gold's stance — "respectful of the military but unimpressed by the uses to which it has been put" — is what motivated him to write The Coming Draft.

After tearing halfway through the intro of the library's copy, I decided that I simply had to order my own from Amazon. (There are currently 30 new & used available from $3.89.) "Of course," I told myself, "you still must finish the spinach before starting dessert." So I gave Diannne the library's copy to take back, and put my own copy on the shelf when it arrived a couple weeks later.

But alas, I simply lost interest in Cole's book. Other priorities, and ... well, you know.

But now my family and I have a meeting with our Congressman, Trent Franks, this Thursday. We intend to ask him to work to eliminate Selective Service registration. (If nobody wants a draft, why do we still maintain the machinery of conscription?) Rep. Franks is a fellow believer, and I intend to first appeal to him with a biblical argument against the draft. But I figure I'd better read The Coming Draft as well, for prep work. (Heck, I'll probably offer to buy him a copy.)

Pass the ice cream and apple pie, please?


Jon Luker said...

You do plan to blog about your meeting with Congressman Franks, right? I'd be curious, if you get the chance, to hear of his opinion of his colleague from Texas' run for president.

Erin Solaro said...

Erin Solaro, Philip Gold's wife (and author herself), here. Thanks for the good ink on Philip's book.

Yes, we do favor a militia-style defense system, including expanding the unorganized militia to include all women who are either citizens or have declared their intention to become citizens, between 18 and 45 (upper age limit for both sexes to be raised to 60). And, of course, time to drop all remaining combat exclusions against women as what they are: detrimental to combat effectiveness and cohesion, as well as profoundly immoral (in a purely military sense of that word).

Best regards,
Erin Solaro

Al said...


I served as Cryptologic Technician in the Navy. While performing those duties, including looking at raw intelligence vis a vis Iraq, along with my pastoral duties I wrote a short paper on Just War as it relates to Iraq.

At the time my position was supporting the war and the justness of it. I have since rethought my position and come to the conclusion that the thing was a mess and mistake. Still not sure how we correct it, but there it is.

I look forward to reading your blog, now that I found it.

al sends

Al said...

Don't know if you will follow this up or not...

Your position would be that it is good for the military for women to serve the military and that the combat exclusions are detrimental to combat effectivness?

I am going to review your website to see how you arrived at that, but I think on its face the idea of 'warrior wormen' is not biblical nor does it work well. I have seen the difficulties of women in combat roles first hand. There is nothing to gain in having women in combat.

al sends

Erin Solaro said...


I speak and write as one citizen of the Republic to another: religion is a meaningless ingredient.

As for all the rest, my summa on the whole issue is "The Woman Soldier: Biology, Equality, and the Common Defense," a speech I gave at West Point back last Spring.

Bottom line up front: No women in combat means only, no women in combat for purposes of killing the enemy. But plenty of women in combat for purposes of being killed by the enemy. You wanna make that choice, in exchange for better peactime living conditions, no sweat. Lots of guys do. But to force someone else to make that choice, then to lie to her about it, is utterly repugnant.

Erin Solaro

Al said...

Thanks Erin,

In the Republic we all have our gods...

Women in combat means more women killed in a war. A civilization that treats its women in this manner is on the decline. It is an egalitarian faux pas to think that simply because women can do something that they should.

The fruit of such thinking is a declining birthrate and the death of a culture.

al sends

Erin Solaro said...


We all have our gods, but no one's gods are citizens.

Humans are, and inherent in citizenship is participation in the common defense as part of the community to be defended.

As for the declining birthrate: whenever women have the ability to control our fertility, on the aggregate, we do. The declining birthrate has far more to do with women having real economic, social and biological choices than with women's participation in combat.

Since time out of mind until, in this country (still throughout much of the rest of the world), about 1960, women died in huge, terrifying numbers in childbearing and later of delayed complications. This biological vulnerability to men, which men do not have to women, imposed a binding moral obligation upon men: those who risked their lives bringing life into the world should not also have to risk their lives defending those lives if there was any other rational choice.

Well and good, so long as you leave open the option for individuals to make the irrational choices that suit their souls. But the corollary to that binding obligation was that the deaths in childbirth of so very many women at, if you will, the hands of their men also led to some very warped ideas about the worth and abilities of women and men. Necessary to maintain one's sanity in the face of such horror, but warped nonetheless.

Before you pursue further the them of biology, please read two essays I have written: Into Time: women and the Profession of Arms, and The Woman Soldier: Biology, Equality, and the Common Defense. You can find them both at You need to take biology a bit more seriously than you do.

Erin Solaro

Frank said...

Erin, please feel free to provide links to pertinent resources, such as the speech you gave at West Point, "The Woman Soldier: Biology, Equality, and the Common Defense." I have lots of irons in the fire (not least of which is finishing The Coming Draft!), but I will try to read that one myself.

In a nutshell, it seems that you are arguing for both the need and the ethical propriety of having women serve in combat units (in particular), not merely in the military (in general).

For now, suffice to say that that position runs contrary to a biblically-informed ethic, to which I strive to hold.

I also think it runs contrary to the mere physiological nature of the human animal, but since God made us male and female, we shouldn't be surprised that His creation would reflect -- or otherwise involve is the better word? -- His ethical values in its nature.

I'll be back later to unpack my thoughts on that, but please feel free to check back often and grab a rebound. I appreciate the third point of your "Aretean approach" to public discussion of the issues:

"Talk to people like they were people. ... [S]peak to people engagingly, and with respect. Both aspects matter. Engage them. Respect them. ... [Require and] rewards serious attention."

I do not intend this blog to be an "evangelical Christian echo chamber" (where only those who share my presuppositions are welcome), and thus, I sincerely look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

Erin Solaro said...


As citizens, we can only argue with each other when we share the same set of facts. Creation stories, no matter whose, are not facts and cannot be used to drive policy. Nor have I ever understood how a biblically-informed ethic militates against women in combat. You can certainly make the case that no one should be in combat, i.e., total or promiscuous pacifism. You can also, as many soldiers often have, grieve for the nature of war and what it does to people on all sides of all demographics. You are certainly free to make these decisions for yourself. You are not free to make them for entire groups of people.

I also have enormous quibbles with anyone who invokes "nature" and "human nature" to support a specific political agenda.

I have been a professional dog trainer, I am a horsewoman, and I lift weights. What I know about the biological differences between males and females of several species is based upon both academic research and practical experience across several species. Sometimes in situations that could have cost me my life or my limbs.

You can summarize this knowledge thus: anyone who thinks that estrogen is some kind of niceness and weakness hormone is...umm, deluded. That's a human belief that is simply not supported by how females of the species I know best behave. Including the human. However, humans do have strong social constraints upon the expression of overt aggression by females. Covert aggression is extremely common and damaging amongst human females, whether towards each other or towards males. You can find this and more information in the speeches on my website (I confess to not being terribly capable of posting links with HTML tags.) And I go into this in real depth in Women in the Line of Fire.

As for ethics, they refer to more specific codes. I'm more interested in morality: the basics of how humans and animals interact, with members of each other and of other species as expressed in terms of power: who can, and is allowed, to do what to whom with what consequences. In the military and larger civic context, this takes the context of balancing risk for risk, rights for rights, responsibilities and priviledges with responsibilites and priviledges.

Without a fundamental balance in hard terms (bodies and money, not some mythical inluence) there is no morality.

Erin Solaro

Erin Solaro said...


You mentioned you were a crypto technician.

My husband was a Marine intelligence officer (MOS 0202) who also held a communications MOS (2502). By definition, intelligence is a finished product and there is no "raw intell." Unless you had an assigned additional duty handling this material, it would be extremely inappropriate (at the very least) for a crypto tech to be poking around in these things. (Again, unless specifically assigned.)

Erin Solaro

Frank said...


I'm working on a response to your recent comments re. women in combat. I'm almost done, but I think it may take just a bit longer.

In the meantime, though, here's a real simple way to provide a link to any web page — from one novice blogger to another!

1) Convert the "url" (i.e., the web address) that you want to share into a "Tiny url" at Shortening your original url will virtually guarantee that the whole thing fits on one line.

2) Once you've generated your Tiny url, simply paste it (the Tiny url) into the blog comment you're writing. (I'd suggest putting a line space above and below to make it stand out better.)

EXAMPLE: The url for The Coming Draft at is:

That's 92 characters, which can make it tough for some of your PC users to copy-and-paste into their browsers!

But when I run it thru, it comes out as:

Which is only 25 characters, making it much easier to handle. (There's no need to make it a "clickable" — or "hot" — link ... readers can simply cut-and-paste the url into their browser.)

Try it out on your own blog sometime .... it's super easy.