Livin' it up, American style

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Does America Need a Draft?

At first the idea seems ludicrous. The draft during the Vietnam war was very unpoplar, and America switched to an All Volunteer Army in 1973. The issue of the draft hadn't been relevant in the following decades of the Cold War. But in this post 9-11 world, the US army is finding itself stetched thin. The military was restructured after the Cold War into a force meant for fighting limited campaigns for limited ends, of limited duration, and with a defined exit strategy. The US is not prepared to fight several troop intensive battles at one time, and that has made America vulnerable and its enemies emboldened. Whether or not one agreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq, American troops are likely to be there for at least the next several years, and there's only so many times the same troops can be redeployed. In fact, many military officials have called for more troops to be sent to Iraq, saying the number there is insufficient to prevent a civil war. America has pulled troops out of South Korea to move to the Middle East, and has let NATO take over most of the operations in Afghanistan so American troops could be sent to Iraq. The recent announcement of a nuclear test by North Korea and similar nuclear rumblings by Iran show just how obvious it is to other countries that America has over extended its troops and military.

So is it time to start talking about reinstating the draft?

US House Rep Charles Rangel (D-NY) wrote a bill in 2003 to do just that. But he was concerned more with the fact that the poor and minorities are overrepresented in the military and share a disproportionate burden of the fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. He sees the draft as an important way to give middle and upper class families a personal connection to the soldiers and raise awareness of all the death and violence. As Bush was running for reelection in 2004, many people were saying that he would reinstate the draft if elected, depsite numerous denials by his administration. In October of 2004, Republicans ultilized an unusual parlimentary procedure to quickly introduce and bring Rangel's bill to a vote.. The bill failed, 402-2, but served to show that neither Republicans or Democrats wanted to bring back the draft.

It seems like such a politically unpoplar idea will not be put back into practice anytime soon. But can America afford to not have a draft? If we are going to take on the mantle of being the world's military superpower, we need to have the manpower to credibly back that claim. If North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons, and makes a troop offensive into South Korea, will we be able to support our long time ally? Will America have enough military power to stop a crazy dictator, one who we know for sure has weapons of mass destruction? Or will our enemies call our bluff, as North Korea already has.

We also need to draft to serve as America's conscience; perhaps administration officials and congressmen would have thought twice before authorizing war in Iraq if their sons and daughters were the ones who would have to do the fighting. And what will happen if there is no draft and we must go to war in another country? We've already made it clear how little importance we place in military coalitions or the United Nations. What is America going to do if there's another war?


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