On October 23rd I posted a piece on Blogger News entitled “Bring Back the Draft.” Its premise was that we are running out of troops to fight the war in Iraq – and possibly other types of skirmishes in North Korea and Iran. We have over-mobilized the National Guard and Reserves. These troops are lucky to have twelve months off between tours of duty. Add to this the fact that recruiters are having difficult times finding volunteers for military service. ABC-TV news even caught some Army recruiters telling high school students that the war was over, and no one was being sent overseas anymore.

Today, November 20, The Washington Post published an article stating that Charles Rangel, incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee plans to propose that the military draft be put in place again. Rangel observed that if we are going to send more troops to Iraq and have additional troops in reserve for possible other world trouble spots, it can’t be done without a draft. Even if the situation in Iraq is somehow resolved, there still remains the ongoing war against terrorism and numerous world trouble spots. Various military engagements have now been going on for more than a decade. Rangel believes that a volunteer army is inequitable, luring low income and disadvantaged individuals into the military with promises of free training, education, and enlistment bonuses.

After Vietnam, the U.S. switched to an all-volunteer military. Federal law still mandates that all men between 18 and 24 years old register with Selective Service, and this includes all male non-citizens, men with “green cards,” and undocumented aliens. The chief of the Selective Service System has proposed registering women as well, especially those with critical skills such as computer expertise and language proficiency, now in short supply. So while resurrecting the draft remains “the third rail of American politics,” some courageous government officials believe expanded registration is needed now in preparation for a possible revival of the draft.

There are two justifications for restoring the draft. The first, as stated above, is that we are running short of “boots on the ground” and that the reserves and National Guard forces have been used to the limit. Voluntary enlistments are on the decline, especially since assignment to the front lines in Iraq can mean a death sentence.

The second rationale for reinstituting the draft is that an all-volunteer military fosters discrimination by class. Many who enlist do so because they have reached a dead end in the employment field, have no way of providing health care or retirement benefits to their families, or see no prospect of advancing their technical or scholastic skills. Recruiters readily promise all of these things and more – often overstating the benefits and advantages to be gained over the individual’s current sorry state.

By contrast, what are the incentives for a privileged individual headed for law school, medical school, a degree in architecture, etc. to enlist in the military and place oneself in grave danger? Patriotism is the obvious answer. As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.” This is a very unpopular war – one that most Americans feel we should never have entered into in the first place. Experts say “stabilizing” Iraq could take as long as ten years, with some U.S. military presence required. As a result, our military personnel have been stretched to the limit with the burden of an all-volunteer military placed primarily on minorities and the disadvantaged. Rangel had the last word when he noted, “The draft will prompt political leaders to think twice before starting wars, especially if they thought kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.”

– Chase.Hamil


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