Just recently, a group of recognized authorities on foreign policy and national security met in Washington, D.C. to make recommendations on the deteriorating circumstances in Iraq. The majority sentiment was that things are bad and getting worse.
President Bush has acknowledged that the U.S. does indeed face a set of unpalatable options in Iraq. He has also decided not to release the findings of this blue panel group until after the November elections, for obvious reasons. We already know that Bush despises the “cut and run” mentality and that for him, retreat is out of the question. The status quo isnâ€™t working and in fact casualties are on the increase.
So the obvious answer is to continue the war, possibly with more of an all-out effort involving more mobilization of U.S. troops. But where are these troops to come from? We have already over-mobilized the National Guard and the Reserves. Troops are lucky to have twelve months off between tours of duty before they are rotated back to the front lines. For some, another tour of duty in a combat zone translates into a death sentence. Recruitment efforts to enlarge the Army and Marines are foundering, despite record incentives in terms of enlistment and reenlistment bonuses. The cost of waging the Iraq war is now estimated to be $380,000 a minute.
This brings us to the one clear and obvious solution: bring back the draft.
Before this proposal is drowned out by the caterwauling of anti-draft supporters, it may surprise them to learn that resurrecting the military draft has recently been proposed and is under consideration by the powers that be. “It will never happen,” you say. “It is the third rail of American politics – only a fool would go near this radioactive issue.”
However, two U.S. senators and a U.S. representative have introduced a bill that would reinstate the draft. Their bills would also eliminate deferments for college students. The chief of the Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the draft and requiring those registering to tell the government if they have any special computer or language skills, especially Arabic and Afghan dialects. Age intervals would extend from 18 to 34 (up from 25). A spokesman for the Pentagon, Dan Amon, said that while no action has been taken on these proposals, they provide “food for thought.”
Since Vietnam, the U.S. has switched to an all-volunteer service. But federal law still requires all men between 18 and 24 years old to register with Selective Service. This includes all male non-citizens, men with “green cards,” and undocumented aliens. This list of names of men would be used to call these individuals to active duty in case of a national emergency that required a quick increase in size of U.S. Armed Forces.
Since the Middle East crisis began, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit volunteers for military service. If there is any doubt that the military has a great and growing need for bodies, consider this: U.S. troops are deployed in 140 countries. Reservists and National Guardsmen are becoming increasingly disillusioned by having their tours of duty extended and intervals between tours shortened. Recruiters have admitted that the pool of eligible enlistees is shrinking and that meeting monthly quota is a constant challenge.
So what happens if there is a showdown with North Korea, Iran, or some other rogue country that threatens U.S. security and stability? Many military leaders, both active and retired, have sounded the alarm that such a crisis would leave the United States vulnerable and incapable of a proper response. We simply cannot have a “crisis de jour” with an army of conscripts who had no choice but to show up for basic training. The obligation to serve in the military may be an inconvenience, but it should be an inconvenience to all Americans capable of sharing the sacrifice and of bearing the burden of fighting and dying for oneâ€™s country.