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The Draft

Apparently the media hasn’t bothered to cover the Congress for the last three years, because, like clockwork, every year Charlie Rangel of New York puts forth a bill to re-start the draft. When I read silliness like CNN’s Top Democrat: Bring back the draft, I want to scream at the ADHD middle schools students that constitute the news media to turn off the cartoons and start paying attention to the real world.

Charlie Rangel is personally convinced that there would be fewer wars if the children and grandchildren of the people in charge stood a good chance of fighting the wars they vote for. He thinks that the sacrifice should be shared by all of society, not just the predominantly rural/urban mix in the “all-volunteer” military.

When the military is told to kill and die, while the civilians are told to shop, it’s obvious that the sacrifices are not being equitably shared by all of society.

This is a variation of argument that took place during the founding of the United States. There was a great deal of suspicion regarding a standing army. The founders were more comfortable with local militias responding in defense of the nation, rather than having a professional military. This is why the power to declare war resides in Congress, and defense funding bills may not extend beyond two years.


1 minou { 11.20.06 at 2:54 am }

Whoever wants to start a war should be the first person to physically be there and fire the ‘starting’ pistol. Bush and Blah should be seen to be sacrificing their own flesh and blood if it is something worth spilling any blood over. What about Blah’s sons being sent to the front, or one of the fronts we appear to be fighting today.

In ancient times you had champions from either side battling it out. I can just see Bush with full metal jacket out there dodging the rpgs . . . If the board of Halliburtons could just don their military uniforms and drag their butts over to the killing (oil) fields we might respect them a tad.

2 Mustang Bobby { 11.20.06 at 7:02 am }

My thinking is that if we bring back the draft it should be for all citizens of draft-age — including women — and that it should be a form of community service as well as military service, like teaching or conservation work or something that emphasizes giving back for what we’ve gotten.

3 John B. { 11.20.06 at 9:22 am }

The idea that reinstating the draft will reduce the likelihood of idiotic leaders entangling us in unjust or unwise wars is a baseless conceit. While it’s comforting for some to assume that a draft army ought to be quicker to rebel against military adventurism than what we have now — an army of mercenaries backed by a nation of self-indulgent shoppers — the historical record does not support that theory. Exhibit A: The Vietnam War (1962-1975).

The root problem isn’t who is sent to fight such wars, it’s who votes for the morons that wage them. At a fraction of the draft’s cost in lives, money, and individual freedom we could have a smarter foreign policy and sharper military if we did a better job of educating the citizenry in history (American, world, and diplomatic), U.S. government, and ethics.

4 Steve Bates { 11.20.06 at 11:25 am }

Bush has shown no inclination to restrain himself even in the face of an election that destroyed his congressional majority, and I see no reason to believe he would do so if Congress were to give him a draft with which to fight his wars. Indeed, I would not be surprised if he instituted some sort of conscription without any legal basis. The law hasn’t constrained him much in any other matter.

As to the children of powerful people and the concept of shared sacrifice, everything about the crew running the Executive right now reeks of exceptionalism, and a draft would be no different: Bush and his wealthy cronies would find ways to get their own children out of the draft, while poorer people without money for lawyers to fight their kids’ draft battles, or doctors to sign papers, or simply connections in high places to avoid the battles altogether, would be drafted and fight the wars Bush starts… just as they do now, though their path to becoming soldiers would be different.

In my seldom humble opinion, if Congress decides to reinstitute a draft, for the sake of legitimacy and the appearance of legitimacy, they must first reclaim the power to declare war. I have principled objections to a draft, but probably could be persuaded that it was a necessary approach if the wars that caused the need for a draft were legitimately declared by Congress after due debate, not started without consultation by a “unitary Executive” (read: dictator).

Our nation, acting as a whole, has a right to ask a lot of us and even of our children, under exceptional circumstances. But the decision about what circumstances justify the sacrifice should be made by the people’s representatives, not by one crazed, power-mad, self-serving man. From Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, in my lifetime the trend has been toward presidents obtaining more and more unilateral power to commit our military to combat. Until that trend is reversed, I shall continue to oppose a draft.

(That said, Rangel clearly proposes a draft every session of Congress to make a point. Point made, Charles; point made.)

5 Bryan { 11.20.06 at 12:02 pm }

I come in on the universal national service side. I think everyone should provide some sweat equity, but I’m not comfortable with just putting them in the military. I would provide benefits for the “military option” for national service, but forcing people to become “warriors” is a terrible idea. One of the reasons I enlisted was because of the draft, but it wasn’t the sole reason. If you don’t share some of the responsibility for the decision you are probably not going to be very attentive to the job, and that can get people killed.

In the real volunteer military, before Rumsfeld, you had to volunteer for the combat arms and pass a lot of testing to be accepted. These days they are pushing people through who shouldn’t be in the military, and would have been rejected during the draft.

6 Steve Bates { 11.20.06 at 9:49 pm }

I could get behind universal national service. I have more problems with forcing people into military service, in response to anything short of an all-out invasion of the U.S. (Sorry; one-time terrorist attacks that probably could have been prevented by due attention to available intelligence don’t count as all-out invasions in my book.)

One good thing about universal national service that is not necessarily military service is that people like me could have participated, people physically unqualified to be trained as soldiers. If I had been drafted and sent to Vietnam, not only would I probably have died, but other American soldiers would probably have died on my account. No one should have to bear that burden. On the other hand, I would have been both dedicated and useful in, say, antipoverty programs, or efforts to provide decent housing, or teaching inner city kids to read. Even if we can’t be soldiers, there are plenty of things that “cripples” like me can do for their country.

Universal national service is, of course, not what Bush and his handlers have in mind. They want cannon fodder; they want precisely the disabled or inadequately trained or otherwise unsuitable soldiers I referred to above. I could never support a military draft instituted by a president without congressional authorization, for the purpose of allowing that president to conduct discretionary, preemptive, invasive wars. In no way does that constitute the defense of America, and the defense of America is the primary legitimate purpose of her military.

7 Michael { 11.20.06 at 9:53 pm }

If you read Rangel’s bill (which, by the by, Bryan, he hasn’t technically introduced every year since 2003–just nearly every session of Congress), it’s got almost everything everyone here has mentioned. Requires women to serve? Check. Offers national service as an alternative to the military? Check (but not as much of a voluntary option as I would like). Offers exemptions and early-out options where needed? Check (but not as many as I would like, or for as many reasons as I would like). I offered up a few improvements at my place tonight.

8 Bryan { 11.20.06 at 11:52 pm }

As I just finished posting, Steve, Michael has a plan I could get behind. Compulsory military service should require a declaration of war and nothing else. At all other times, military service should be voluntary. It would count towards the requirement for national service, but you shouldn’t force people to kill unless you have the most dire of circumstances.

There are plenty of things that need to be done in this country, that could be done by national service, and FDR proved it. My Dad built trails and infrastructure in the national parks while in the CCC, and a lot of what he did needs fixing after 70 years.

There are too many things that aren’t getting done, that could be done by people in national service.

I keep forgetting, Michael, that Congresses are two-year time periods, but I fairly certain that Rangel rabble rouses over the his draft bill every year, as this was the first time the House leaders allowed it to come to the floor this session.