Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | December 31, 2002

Reinstitue the draft

NY Rep. Charles Rangel has a brilliaint op/ed in the NYT calling for the return of the draft. Here's the nut graf:

[A]s a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice. Throughout much of our history, Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally.

That's why I will ask Congress next week to consider and support legislation I will introduce to resume the military draft.

I would argue for the German model (circa 1989 -- it may have changed since I lived there) -- 2 years for military service, 3 years for alternative civil service. Perhaps create a new Peace Corps-type organization called the Peacekeeping and Rebuilding Corps that would free the military from those decidedly non-military tasks.

As Rangel says:

Carrying out the administration's policy toward Iraq will require long-term sacrifices by the American people, particularly those who have sons and daughters in the military. Yet the Congress that voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of force in Iraq includes only one member who has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military just a few more have children who are officers.

I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve and to be placed in harm's way there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq. A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war.

But this goes beyond the sons and daughters of legislators. I believe the public would be far less inclined to support war without truly compelling cause if their sons and daughters all served, or if they themselves had served.

For example, my parents lived in Houston during the Gulf War -- a highly GOP conclave in the suburbs, extremely pro-military. Yet their entire block was against the Gulf War because of me. They all didn't want my family to lose their son. Seems silly, I know, but true.

And once you have served, you have a greater appreciation for the shit our armed forces have to endure. It's hard, thankless work. Consider, we still have troops in Afghanistan engaged in combat operations, but we, as a nation, are more concerned about The Bachelor 2, Joe Millionaire, and whatever New Year's Party we're headed to tonight.

Having served, I am not blind or indifferent to the sacrifices our men in uniform must make. Perhaps it's a curse -- ignorance truly is bliss. But we can't let our elected leaders use that ignorance to pursue ruinous foreign adventures.

There are clearly times when our nation must engage in force, but it's also clear we need to be more selective in our wars. A democratized military, in which everyone serves will go a long way to ensuring that war truly is a shared sacrifice.

Rangel's proposal won't go anywhere, of course. The wealthy wouldn't allow Congress to act. This isn't a partisan issue, both the "pro-military" GOP and the "pro-working class" Dems will ignore the bill. They have no interest in seeing their grandchildren serving, or the children and grandchildren of their big-money campaign backers.

But if someone like McCain jumped aboard this train, perhaps it could spur a real debate. And people may realize that while their sons and daughters aren't in the Iraqi frontlines, someone else's child is. And then maybe, just maybe, sanity would prevail and the administration could call of the hounds of war.

(Via Matthew Yglesias)

Posted December 31, 2002 09:32 AM | Comments (80)


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