I think it's highly unlikely that the Bush administration will try to bring the draft back, regardless of how the November elections turn out, largely for fear that whatever support for the Iraq war still exists would drop out of the bottom. Still, the pros and cons of resuming a national military conscription is worthy of attention in the national debate because adoption or rejection of such a policy could have a major effect on America's role in the Next World Order.
No less of a war hawk than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that, "The last thing we need is a draft." This is the one point on national defense policy--perhaps the only one--on which I agree with Donald Rumsfeld.
For better or worse, armed conflict has become a high tech undertaking. Hopefully, for America at least, the days of fighting wars by putting a rifle in the hands of any kid who can fog a mirror are gone forever. Moreover, not everyone is suited for military service. That doesn't mean folks who don't fit the armed service mold are slackers, sissies, unpatriotic, or any other epithet we may be tempted to label them with. It just means their natural aptitudes lie outside the loose set of talents that make for squared-away G.I. Janes and Josephs. I had fairly significant management and leadership experience in the military, and can state without fear of credible contradiction that supervisory personnel in all branches of the service would far rather work with volunteers than conscripts. Sure, a lot of dysfunctional personalities and attitudes slip through the cracks of the recruiting process, but in the main, you'd rather be around people who asked to wear a uniform than around folks who didn't.
For all the talk about American now being engaged in a "global," "generational" or "world" war, we're really involved in no such thing. The "war on terror" is no more of a war than are the war on drugs or the war on poverty. It's an ongoing problem that will require vigilant law enforcement and diplomatic, economic, and information measures. Our conflict in Iraq is an aberration--i.e., "mistake"--based on the delusional neoconservative notion that military force can achieve any and all U.S. national objectives.
America's Navy and Air Force aren't hurting at present for sufficient manpower or new recruits. Our personnel challenges are limited to our land power services, the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps. The only reason we'd need a draft to supplement these branches would be so we could fight more wars like the one we're currently fighting in Iraq. And the most important lesson we've (hopefully) learned from the Iraq War is that we don't want or need to fight any more wars like it. Why should we? Did we spend most of the 20th century establishing ourselves as the leading world power so we could get bogged down in dirty little wars with third rate ones in the 21st?
Of late, young Mister Bush has been fond of saying, "We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously."
As with most of Bush's scripted rhetoric, both of these assertions are false.
What Abraham Lincoln said in 1838 is as true now as it was then:
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
Not the Chinese nor the Russians nor Iran nor North Korea nor al Qaeda nor anyone else can raise an army or an amphibious assault fleet large enough to cross the Atlantic or Pacific and invade and occupy the United States. No one will ever be able to do that. They won't even try to develop the capability because it is unachievable.
The only military threat the U.S. is vulnerable to is the delivery of WMD, most notably a nuclear warhead, on American soil by means of an intercontinental ballistic missile. But we managed to deter that threat for more than 50 years of Cold War with the Soviets, and we can easily deter the same sort of threat from "rogue" nuclear states like North Korea in much the same manner. On last Sunday's Meet the Press, Senator Joe Biden perfectly articulated the proper diplomatic stance to take toward North Korea or any other nation that threatens to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile.
You do something like that, we will annihilate you.
There's no need for a military draft to back that promise. We'll always have plenty of qualified volunteers to man our missile silos. Compared to being an infantryman, being a nuclear missileer in an air conditioned silo is pretty skate duty.
As to the threat of covert terrorists, international or "home grown," well, America has always been under that cloud too. A military draft won't solve the problem.
Glamour Girls and Universal Conscription
Even if you could make a legitimate argument for the efficacy of a new military draft, you'll never convince me that we can construct a system that will improve on the class inequities of Vietnam era conscription. Rifle toters won't be sons of corporate CEOs. The Bush twins of our age will serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard, and latter day Dick Cheneys will have "better things to do."
What of the "national service draft" that will require all able Americans between the ages of, say, 18 and 25 to serve in some capacity, military or peaceful, in government service? Riddle me this: what the hell are we going to do with all those kids, and how the hell are we going to pay for it?
What's more, such a requirement would amount to mandatory indentured servitude to the government as a condition of citizenship. How would that square with the admonition in the Declaration of Independence about "inalienable rights?"
So yes, the notion of a draft is well worth discussing, but no, it's a very, very, very bad idea. It won't make America better or safer or stronger. It will just make Americans vassals of the government, which is 180 degrees out from the way things are supposed to be in this country. While serving one's country--by being a responsible and productive citizen--and serving one's government are not necessarily mutually exclusive pursuits, they're two very separate things. The very notion of "national service" itself is a tenuous concept at best.
Just consider Dick Cheney, who's spent his life serving himself in the name of his government and country.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.