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The Time Has Come for a Modest U.S. Military Draft

Friday, Dec. 1, 2006

This past week, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) once again dropped the "D" word into the midst of the political debate surrounding the war in Iraq. By announcing his intent to introduce legislation to reinstate the draft, Rangel once again drew attention to the fact that the United States continues to wage a long-term war with an all-volunteer force. Then, as if on queue to highlight the "burden sharing" disparity that motivated Rangel's proposal, we learned that the President's daughter was busy fighting her own battle to recover the purse she had stolen while dining in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thus, as the President continues to demand support from the American people for the war he and a compliant Congress launched almost four years ago, his "fighting aged" children remain blissfully immune from the demands of military service -- along with the other 99 percent of the American people who choose not to volunteer to wear the uniform of the nation and fight on its behalf.

Although Rangel's proposal triggered a few days of political punditry on the subject, no one seriously expects a resurrection of military conscription. But why is the idea of a draft so pernicious? Perhaps the time has come for Americans to confront this question head on. Is it consistent with the notion of genuine democracy to wage a sustained war without exposing the people to even the risk of involuntary military service? Is it morally acceptable to vote for "stay the course" candidates, or demand a humanitarian military intervention in Darfur, with full knowledge that the human cost of such policies will be displaced on others? Is it consistent with the vision of the founders of this nation to empower the chief executive with a standing armed force capable of conducting sustained military operations, when our nation no longer faces an overwhelming military threat requiring the deterrent effect of such military power? Is the national security of this nation strengthened or degraded by fostering a military culture that is increasingly segregated from society in general? These questions have been conspicuously absent from the political debate related to the Global War on Terror, and in particular the war in Iraq, but they are at the heart of any meaningful discussion of how this nation should wage war. ...

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