Draft After the 2000 Elections?
There may yet be a military draft in your future if youll be turning 20 in 2001, once the elections are out of the way.
In late July of this year Newsday published a Los Angeles Times dispatch reporting that, key members of Congress military committees, for the first time in a generation, are discussing revival of the draft. Asserting that not enough young people are enlisting and with the nations commitments abroad growing constantly, the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness was quoted as suggesting that, sooner or later, there may be some form of selective conscription.
before Kosovo, trial balloons were already being floated by some largely
Washington-based pundits, politicians and press, supposedly because
the military is having a hard time filling its quota of recruits. Last
September, following a House subcommittee session on military
readiness, the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted a Republican
congressman saying, There are benefits to a draft, and a
Democrat saying, theres a possibility that thats going
For too many liberals, a draft means, among other things, democratizing the military by inserting ordinary Joes into barracks, removing the distance between a professional military and civilians which, they speculate, with no evidence, is a potential danger to American democracy. (As a drafted army veteran myself, I cant recall many examples of democracy in the military.) They are also anxious to transform the military into a prep school-job center for this countrys have-nots (while their own sons matriculate at a university). Then again, there is another breed of pro-draft liberal and conservative as well: wannabe vets who escaped military service for one reason or another but now believe they missed something heroic in their lives. A draft might help fill their personal gap but would they be willing to send their own sons and grandsons?
For many conservatives, it means recapturing the mythical ethos of the Second World War and the fabled postwar pre-sixties era. In that imaginary Eden, there was no racial or religious discrimination, no equality for women, no wartime profiteers, no Joe McCarthy, nor support for a variety of despots and thugs abroad in the name of national security. And when young men were called to the colors they supposedly went willingly, eager to fulfill their patriotic obligation to fight in the Korean War.
So whats behind all this talk of another draft? Mainly, the principal problem is neither too few recruits nor a lack of military readiness. Thats the spin. The primary reason is the excessive number of warm bodies required to fulfill the nations antiquated and ineffectual 2-war strategy, namely, the ability to fight two major wars at the same time, an overreaching, grandiose design that allows the Pentagon and especially Congress greater opportunities to grab ever more money for their insatiable pork barrel projects while manipulating the public and an indifferent media into believing that they are enhancing again national security.
A few years ago, a group of retired officers and civilian specialists were asked by Congress to study the 2-war strategy. Called the National Defense Panel, its late 1997 conclusions were entirely unexpected and therefore unwelcome and thus disregarded by Congress, the Pentagon and the White House. Fighting two large wars simultaneously, the very foundation of U.S. military planning was more and more obsolete, the panel argued, and a means of justifying the current force structure. But they went much further in arguing that, rather than always responding militarily, diplomacy was the most effective tool for resolving conflicts around the world. The current approach to addressing national security engages the Department of Defense and services too often and too quickly in conflicts that might otherwise be worked out peacefully, it concluded.
Improbable as it may seem, imagine fighting two wars against, say, North Korea and China while simultaneously involved in Colombias three-decade old civil war? To carry out its self-assumed, worldwide and seemingly endless commitments, this country is going to need a steady supply of warm draftees to serve as its global gendarmes.
If and when a draft is enacted, college students will no longer be deferred past their current semester and if chosen in a lottery would be headed for basic training camp in the year they turn twenty.
A draft would cost billions and possibly give rise to unfairness, renewed social strife and discord at a time when there is absolutely, positively, no credible enemy in sight.
Murray Polner wrote No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran (Holt, Rinehart & Winston) and co-authored (with Jim OGrady) Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Lives & Times of Daniel & Philip Berrigan (Basic Books/ Westview Press).
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