Monday, November 20, 2006

Feeling Drafty?

New York Congressman Charles Rangel has revived discussion of a military draft.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," he said.

As happens so often, a congressman has the right idea for the wrong reason. Congressmen will still find a way to "work the system" and keep their kids out of Iraq. The real reason to support a draft is a simple one.

Right now, the decision between war and peace is one that only roughly one million families have a personal stake in. For the rest, war is an abstract notion that might affect their lives in one way or another, but they will not lose a family member because of it.

Establish a military draft, or better yet, establish mandatory military service based on the model used in Israel, and peace becomes a priority at every dinner table in America.

The best part of it is that Americans will be forced to become better educated on foreign policy than they are now. There are people out there that think we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There are people out there that believe there were operational ties between Saddam Hussein, a despot that killed religious extremists, and the religious extremists of al Qaeda.

When every American family has a personal stake in the defense of this nation, people will demand accountability in our defense doctrine, something that hasn't happened since the draft was abolished in the first place. Who knows how long Vietnam might have continued had the American people not mobilized against the war?

It all leads to one thing that the White House does not want--- A personal stake in war and peace leads to a nation that is much more selective in whether or not they'll go to war. Risking the neighbor's son is one thing--- Risking your own is another altogether. And there would be a steep political price to pay for recklessly chosen wars that put America's sons in harm's way.


Brassmask said...

Not disagreeing with you but it seems that the another reaction would be a militarization of life in general and the crazed wackos of America wanting to invade any country that even looks at us cross-eyed.

I'd rather see a Department of Peace, myself. Or at least a foreign policy that looks for a way to create peace without an eye toward total domination.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the Vietnam generation, I could not agree with you LESS.

Freedonian said...


Not disagreeing with you but it seems that the another reaction would be a militarization of life in general and the crazed wackos of America wanting to invade any country that even looks at us cross-eyed.

That certainly could happen, but history tells us otherwise. There was a national mobilization against the war in Vietnam simply because the war became everyone's problem--- And that's the reason that the chief engineers of our military industrial complex run scared at the mere mention of a draft. They dismiss the idea even as they acknowledge military personnel shortfalls, and the reason is that they simply do not want Joe Sixpack to care about what they do.

I can completely understand that. At first blush, it sounds horrible, like you're dooming every American to lay his or her life on the line. But at the end of the day, the draft forced Americans to pay attention to foreign policy. The BS that led up to the Iraq War--- No president would have been able to get away with it before. There was a higher standard.

autoegocrat said...

I can think of two countries with universal consription: Switzerland and Israel.

America is more like the latter than the former. I would have to agree with B on that.

However, we already have a Department of State, which as far as I know is responsible for executing foreign policy. Why create yet another new bureaucracy when we aren't effectively using the one we've got?

Pam said...

A draft or mandatory military service work better in theory than in reality. At the end of the daym the same people would serve, because those who can afford it or have "family connections" would find a way to get around it. Think about how many affluent parents would send their kids to Canada, or how many women would get married early and have kids to get exempted. Any conscription system has it exemptions, and there is always a way to get out of it...

Rangel's efforts are futile and nobody is taking him seriously. The draft is not going to come back. We all know that!!

Pam said...

Actually, Sean elaborates better on this point so go read it at:

Freedonian said...

I wouldn't say better--- He never even tried to address the same reasoning I have for supporting it. He's looking at it as "rich boy/ poor boy sent to war", and that's not much of a reason--- The wealthy tend to stay out of war even when there's a draft. See "Bush, George W" for example.

No, I want foreign policy to be the discussion at every dinner table in America. When there's a chance that any given American family will lose a son, they become shareholders in competent and sober public policy. The Iraq War would have gone over like a lead balloon if the war came home for everyone. Those that did support it did so because it was an abstract to them.

Anonymous said...

The existence of an ongoing draft did not stop the Vietnam War from happening!

This fact vitiates your argument completely. Did you not consider that before treating us to your reasoning powers?

Freedonian said...

Gee, Mute, my history textbook when I was in school skipped right over Vietnam, so I'm grateful for the briefing.

Yeah, I'm quite aware the war happened. I'm also aware that it ended. Remember why?

It had a little something to do with sentiment at home turning against it. And a big part of that was the draft. America didn't want to send any more conscripted soldiers to fight a war that no one could find a way to win, an exit strategy for, or even a reason to fight. The draft focused that--- Made it everyone's problem. If there was a draft now, there would be no Iraq war now.

Pam said...

I am with Winter on this one. You cannont assume that "if there was a draft, there would be no Iraq..." That is just speculation based on faulty logic.

We went to war on false premises, and most of the American people were behind the war when it started. Had we had a draft at that point, we would just have more people to send to war and they tours of duty would be shorter.

As Winter said, the draft never prevented wars before...

Pam said...

Oh, and when I said that Sean said it better, I meant "than me."

Freedonian said...

As Winter said, the draft never prevented wars before...

What was to prevent? WWII? You couldn't have kept people out of that one if you tried after Pearl Harbor. Korea? our deployment was relatively small, and we were part of an international coalition. Sadly, most Americans wouldn't even remember that one if not for M*A*S*H.

And then you've got Vietnam--- A war where we gradually sent more and more people overseas until a (fictional) event made it blow up to new proportions.

We have nothing to compare this to historically.

Americans don't feel the need to "own" a war anymore. Think a third of the population would be so ill-informed that they think Saddam had WMD if there was a chance their kids were going to get plucked out of the house to go play WMD whack-a-mole? The kids aren't in the military, so they're not paying attention.

It wasn't naked hippies taking to the streets that ended Vietnam. It was mothers taking to the streets because they didn't want any more kids coming home in boxes. And right now, very few of them have anything vested in matters of war and peace.

Brassmask said...

After having thought on it some more, I agree that there is a general "It doesn't affect me" aspect to Iraq.

I think this has more to do with apathy towards the alleged goals of Iraq, the execution of Iraq and the slow creep of realization of the Truth of Iraq.

People feel powerless against BushCo and the gang who have hijacked our White House and are using our country's resources to execute their "little folly".

The sad truth about Iraq is that it isn't close to being a WWII situation where we know who the bad guy is and when we defeat his army, the people will be happy and our boys can come home victorious. Only the truly ignorant, the truly frightened and cult members thought that going into it.

The rest of us knew that it was a war of choice for plunder.

If people are against a draft, it's not that they don't want their kids to go off to war and be killed or live. It is definitely because they don't want their kids to go off to war and be killed or live IN THIS "WAR".

Nearly 70% of Americans understand that this "war" was not worth the cost financially speaking and definitely not worth the cost in lives. Let alone the destruction of Iraq and our international standing.

Rangel's gambit is worthwhile in theory though futile in it's actual realization. It could perhaps drive Americans to think it through the way I have and reach this conclusion.

Freedonian said...


You just made my day, friend. Thank you.

BraveCordovaDem said...

I am also a member of the Vietnam generation. I had a low draft lottery number and ended up in the Reserves for 6 years to stay out of Vietnam. So I do know some things about the draft and how it impacts families. I also very much AGREE with Freedonia on this.

I would go farther in saying that every American should be required to spend a certain length of time in some type of public service, military or otherwise. This is not too large of a sacrifice for living in the world’s only superpower.

Americans have had to be sold on wars since the turn of the 20th Century. It took Wilson a while to sell us on WWI. Although the reasons were clearer, FDR spent a lot to sell us that we should be involved by even mobilizing Hollywood to bombard the public with propaganda. Even in Korea, the draft extended to the wealthy. Remember that Pat Robertson had to go, even though his daddy got him out of combat. Because of that, the pressure was on constantly to get it over with, resulting in the cease fire after three years.

By Vietnam, deferments had excluded college students and most others. White collar families had no personal stake. Vietnam was the first one fought almost exclusively by poor and working class individuals. As a result, it took the antiwar movement three years to come to fruition and Nam is still our longest war ever, even though Iraq is threatening.

If we had the draft, it should be like the WWII model with few deferments. This wouldn’t prevent wars but it would force the government to give us a case and the pressure for results would be on our leaders, just like it was on Wilson, FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower.

One more important side benefit. As a nation, we are more polarized than ever. We tend to live in neighborhoods that are economically and racially divided. With technology, there is even less incentive to “venture out” so to speak. In my short time in active duty, I ate, slept, showered, and worked with all types of young men, all races, all economic groups, all religions, smart and dumb guys, ugly and good looking guys. This gave me an experience of seeing America in a microcosm that, even though only a few months in length, had a big impact on me. This was over 30 years ago but I still look at it as a significant experience. I believe that this would have great unifying benefits in the long run.

I have no illusions that this will go anywhere but I have been convinced for a long time that Nixon made a major mistake by eliminating the draft and that it would be a good thing for the country.