The New York Times was compelled by Internet rumors to publish an article about the draft last week. This, after an op-ed in The Washington Post defended the idea of resurrecting the draft. The former assistant to President Nixon offered several reasons, the last of which is quite compelling.
America needs this fund of experience to expand the pool of people likely to find their way into the corridors of power and, when they get there, to bring with them a bone-deep appreciation of the true costs of conflict. Thus might we reduce the risks of counsel from those who have never had to learn the difference between a war and a cakewalk.
But Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) felt the need to deny on Meet the Press that any plans for a draft are being made.
He countered statements by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has said current deployment rates to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea and elsewhere “will break the U.S. Army in the coming two or three years.”
Mr. Warner dismissed that notion, recalling that he was secretary of the Navy under President Nixon when the draft was abolished in 1973.
“I can tell you the all-volunteer forces worked,” he said. “We cannot bring back a draft now and make some young men and women go into uniform and not bring in a whole lot of others to do different tasks.”
Today, The Post’s E.J. Dionne asks “Whose lives, whose fortunes, whose sacred honor are now on the line for our country?”
…God forbid that Americans earning, say, more than $1 million a year be asked to pony up a little more in taxes to support a larger military at a time when, we are told over and over, the country is in the middle of a war on terrorism. Millionaires can’t be asked to sacrifice even a little bit. No, they deserve to have their taxes cut while others fight and die. And anyone who speaks up in opposition to this injustice risks being called unpatriotic by those who give up absolutely nothing themselves. Patriotism is defined as a solicitude for tidy incomes, a belief in anything Rush Limbaugh says on the radio and a demand that those in charge of the country never be held accountable for their mistakes.
The administration, of course, says there are no plans for drafting young men – and in today’s army, likely young women, too.
Seeking to blunt public speculation, the Web site of the Selective Service System carries a long notice saying in part that “both the president and secretary of defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the war on terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq.”
“Additionally,” the notice says, “the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate the draft.”
“The bottom line,” said Dan Amon, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, “is it would take an act of Congress because we could not turn it on ourselves. And there is no mood or sentiment in Congress whatsoever for the draft.”
But none of these statements is MacArthur-esque: “no need for a draft for … any likely contingency;” “no mood or sentiment.”
First of all, how are we expected to believe any statement this administration makes? They keep repeating even the lies after everyone agrees they are lies, e.g., Cheney still insisting a link exists between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Secondly, should this administration be re-elected, what’s to stop them? Thirdly, can anyone honestly believe that if another war erupts, say in Korea, that we have enough troops to fight two wars?
The decision last week to recall 5,600 reservists has fueled speculation that this “back-door” draft, as John Kerry called it, is just a prelude to a general draft. But even Kerry could be forced to bring back the draft, if we don’t get out of Iraq fast enough.
A good reason for the draft is that it, like no other action, will focus the attention of young voters. Let’s face it: Those if us who not only remember but were subject to the draft were driven, perhaps more than ideology or certainly pacifism, to protest the Vietnam War precisely because we could envision ourselves in rice paddies.
That doesn’t mean I support the draft. But if we’re to fight wars whenever this administration sees fit to “spread democracy,” the men and women we send on its behalf should be democratically selected.