Suspicion must always fall on those who attempt to silence their opponents.
Ian Buckley
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

October 21, 2004

Fear of Draft Affecting Election

by Jim Lobe

With the presidential election coming down to the wire, the possibility of a revived military draft is looming as a potentially decisive factor in the outcome.

While President George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans vehemently reject any suggestion that a draft, which was eliminated by former President Richard Nixon during the last years of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, is on the way, indications that it may have to be renewed are growing and, with Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry's help, forcing their way into the campaign.

The issue is clearly having an impact on younger voters between 18 and 29, who would naturally be the most vulnerable to any new draft. That demographic group, which was already the most pro-Kerry in the general voting population before the latest rumors and reports, is also considered the most unpredictable.

Younger voters historically have abstained from voting in greater proportions than other age groups, but, aided by special campaigns such as the star-studded Rock the Vote effort, and the recent Vote for Change tour led by superstar Bruce Springsteen, that may not hold true this year. Both campaigns have cited the military draft as reasons to come out to vote.

As noted by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is beginning to panic over the issue. Last week, it sent a threatening letter to Rock the Vote complaining bitterly about its use of the draft question to turn out young voters.

It came just a week after the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives hastily brought up a two-year-old Democratic proposal to reinstate the draft in order to defeat it overwhelmingly, hopefully to put the issue to rest. But because the vote was essentially meaningless in legal terms, it did not have that effect.

"This urban myth regarding the draft has been thoroughly debunked," the RNC letter to Rock the Vote said, citing Bush's continuing declarations that the "all-volunteer Army is working."

That, of course, may be his opinion, but, as noted by more than one columnist, the president has also insisted that the war in Iraq is going just fine and that the massive fiscal deficits he has piled up in his three and a half years in office can be cut in half over the next few years.

In fact, the evidence that the military is overstretched and needs significantly more manpower is growing virtually by the day.

Kerry has argued for weeks that the military has become so overstretched that the administration has resorted to a "backdoor draft" in the form of involuntary extensions of tours of duty for both career soldiers and reservists, measures that have caused rising discontent among them and their families and have reportedly contributed to declining re-enlistment rates.

Indeed, the National Guard reported just a few days ago that enlistments fell some 10 percent short of their 2004 goal.

Suggestions that a draft may once again be in the cards were boosted significantly late last month when the Defense Science Board, a panel of mainly right-wing and Republican national-security advisers to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, concluded, "inadequate total numbers" of troops mean that the United States "cannot sustain our current and projected global stabilization commitments."

It noted that, given current plans and commitments, Washington is likely to be engaged in significant military interventions involving some stabilization function every other year, on average.

The board further found that Rumsfeld's plans for reorganizing the Army to create more combat brigades – which he has assured Congress should solve the manpower problem – were "important, but partial, steps toward enhanced stabilization operations."

The report, which the administration tried to keep under wraps, appeared to confirm the already widespread notion that U.S. forces, particularly the Army and Marines, were stretched too thin to be sustainable.

This conclusion has been bolstered as well by the growing consensus, particularly within the military, that the administration made a major strategic error by underestimating the number of troops needed for the mission in Iraq – a judgment that goes to the heart of Rumsfeld's views about military "transformation."

A major Army survey taken last spring and released this week also found that reservists and members of the National Guard were increasingly unhappy with their "military way of life," and that their readiness to go to war had "significantly declined" over the past year – a finding that put in greater context last week's refusal by one 19-man reserve unit to obey orders to carry out a dangerous supply mission in Iraq's so-called "Sunni Triangle."

That incident, which drew major attention from the U.S. press – with major newspapers editorializing at length about the overextended state of the military – has clearly added to the impression that something needs to be done.

In recent days, several newspapers have also published investigative articles that have raised serious questions regarding the repeated assurances by Rumsfeld and Bush that they have sent all of the troops that military commanders on the ground in Iraq requested.

Echoing former Army chief, Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was summarily retired for estimating the number of troops needed to stabilize post-invasion Iraq at "several hundred thousand," unnamed brass have recently been telling reporters that they also warned of the need for more troops, but were either ignored or intimidated into silence by their superiors.

The Times reported Monday that the Selective Service, which is charged with overseeing the military draft, began updating its contingency plans for the draft of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers in the event of a national emergency just last summer.

In reacting to the report, Pentagon Spokesman Larry Di Rita repeated the Bush-Rumsfeld mantra that, despite the plans, "it is the policy of this administration to oppose a military draft for any purpose whatsoever."

All of these reports, however, have contributed to the widespread impression that the military is indeed overstretched and that something will have to be done.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have been lobbying hard for adding as many as 40,000 troops to the Army, a proposal the administration has fiercely resisted, particularly because it once again puts in question Rumsfeld's ideas about military "transformation," which calls for doing more with far fewer troops.

Kerry, who also opposes the draft, has proposed increasing the size of the Army and of doubling the number of Special Operations Forces (SOF) while, at the same time, abandoning Bush's doctrine of "preemptive" war against countries that do not pose an imminent threat to the United States.

It is that strategic doctrine, as well as the notion that the U.S. military, rather than NATO or the United Nations, should act as the ultimate guarantor of global stability, that, in Kerry's view, is imposing impossible burdens on the armed forces.

A new, more modest, and more multilateral strategic approach, in his view, would put all of the current concerns and speculation about a military draft to rest.

Meanwhile, Bush's conviction that preemption and unilateralism are the only way to ensure U.S. security in the 21st century could well provoke a strong turnout by younger voters to preempt a military draft and turn him out of office.

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
  • More Archives

    Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2017 Antiwar.com