Daniel Harvey Hill was an acerbic, cantankerous general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. (And, interestingly a former college professor and future university president.) When a member of a North Carolina regiment in Hill’s command applied for transfer to the regimental band, Hill denied it with the endorsement: “Shooters needed more than tooters.”*
Apparently D.H. Hill’s spirit has been reincarnated in Russia:
With only two weeks remaining before the new year, the moment of truth on conscription has come. Even now, as police in the major cities are busy trying to prevent clashes between ethnic Russians and people from the North Caucasus, many police officers are being diverted from their primary duties to rounding up conscripts. Recruiters are feeling a lot of pressure because the law requires that the 2010 conscription be completed by Dec. 31, and they are way off on their numbers.
This may explain an early morning raid on a dormitory at the Moscow Conservatory of Music to round up about 40 flutists and clarinetists.
Somehow the thought of an army of conservatory students hardly sends shivers of fear down the spine. And can you imagine how those gentle souls will be treated in the barracks–so no doubt shivers of fear are definitely going down their spines.
This manifestation of desperation, combined with the too-ing and fro-ing over a contract army, reveals the hollowness of the Russian military. It also makes Medvedev’s and Putin’s tooting (or would that be tweeting, in the case of the former) over the expenditure of over $600 billion on new weapons over the next ten years look utterly farcical. Who, pray tell, is going to operate this vast panoply of weaponry? Somehow, clarinetists in fear for their lives, ignorant (and angry) villagers from the Caucasus, and the left-tail kids not clever enough to avoid the draft, or with such bad prospects outside the army as to make it the best option, is not the stuff out of which a modern military is made.
But just imagine the bribery possibilities that come with spending $600 billion! And all the propaganda that can be spun around shiny new weapons (never mind the lack of trained, career servicemen to use them properly). Russia: graft meets the Wizard of Oz (“pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain!”) Look at things that way, and what appears to be quite insane makes perfect sense.
* Hill’s biographers, Bridges and Gallagher titled their book “Lee’s Maverick General.” They relate another version of the story, in which the band requested a group furlough, which Hill denied with the endorsement “Shooters before tooters.”