Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Draft Redux

A recent article in the Washington Monthly argues the case to reinstate the draft. The authors argue that even if you don’t agree with Bush’s preemptive war (and they don’t) America is going to have to own up to the fact that we are, whether we like it or not, the only superpower in the world. As a superpower we have the responsibility to assist other countries to prevent genocide, stabilize existing democracies, and to fight terrorism.

They list and discuss what they call five bad options: convincing other countries to share the burden, use more military contractors, radically transform today’s army, increase the size of the active-duty force, and finally increase surge capacity by enticing more people to join the reserves. They argue, for various reasons, that none of these options would provide the type of force required to not only defeat an opposing army but also to then occupy a defeated country for long periods of time in order to establish a stable democratic government

Their solution is to impose a requirement that no four-year college or university be allowed to accept a student of either gender until that student had completed a 12 month to two-year term of service. Students could fulfill their obligations in three ways: in national service programs like AmeriCorps, in homeland security assignments, or in the military. Those who choose the latter would serve in supporting roles such as police officers, truck drivers, or other non-combat specialists and would deployed as needed for peacekeeping or nation- building missions. All would receive modest stipends and college grants with more money going to those who sign up for the longer and riskier duty.

As a liberal I admit to having mixed feelings about this plan. I wish we lived in a world where no military force was necessary, but such a utopian society will not exist in my lifetime, if ever. We have enemies who, for various reasons, wish us harm and so long as they exist we must maintain a strong force to protect the United States.
That being said, I am convinced that we do need to fix the problems inherent with an all volunteer military. We cannot continue to allow what I consider to be a mercenary force to fight our country’s battles while most of us are hardly affected. The all-volunteer force is composed primarily of citizens who are either poor, minorities or both. I think this is unfair and un democratic and will ultimately lead to the moral and social decay of our country. Moreover, I believe that if we had some type of universal service such that all citizens were affected by the Iraq war, it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, for Bush to proceed with this ill-conceived preemptive war.