The other day I was at a small dinner party and the topic of the Iraq War came up. One woman, a good friend whose son is 19 years old, expressed her anger at the Bush Administration’s intent to re-initiate the Selective Service (otherwise known as the “Draft”). Everyone listening, nodded sagely with a “well-what-would-you-expect-of-this-evil-Republican-demigod-Bush” expression on their faces (this was in Ann Arbor, after all).
“No, no,” I told them reassuringly. “All administration officials from Bush to Rumsfeld have vehemently denied that they have any intent of starting up the draft. In fact, Rumsfeld is on record as morally opposing the draft.”
This did not reassure them, since they believe that everyone in the Bush Administration is a liar. So, I brought out my big guns. “But you are wrong about who is talking about the Draft,” I said. “The people who are strongly in support of it are liberal Democrats—Charles Rangel (D, NY) , John Conyers (D, MI) , Fritz Hollings (D, NC), and Jim McDermott (D,WA), who have introduced Bill into both houses of Congress to re-instate the draft. All President Bush has done is to propose filling forthcoming vacancies in the Selective Service System Local Boards since their terms of 20 years are just about to expire.” Every article I have read on the subject brings up this issue of filling vacancies on local boards as their justification for believing that no matter what anyone says, the draft is being readied again (President Jimmy Carter is the last one to initiate registrations for the draft, and his appointees' terms are now expiring).
Needless to say, not a single person at that dinner party believed me. I imagine that many people in the U.S. who are my age, would think as the guests at that party did, that it was inconceivable that Democrats would, not only support the draft, but actively campaign to bring it back to the American consciousness. Memories of Vietnam War protests and standing for moral clarity, chanting, “Hell no, We Won’t Go!”, are far too pervasive in my demographic. Back then, the issue seemed clear. Young men of draft age were being involuntarily forced to go to a war that few appeared to support and many did not understand. Huge numbers of those young men were being killed every day (58,000 American’s were killed in Vietnam— sometimes over a 1000 per week. Compare that to the total of 1000 killed in Iraq in the last 16 months).
I thought then, and I think now, that the existence of a Military Draft is contrary to everything America stands for. So why are the Democrats calling for a Draft in this war, when they were so opposed to it during Vietnam? Here are their two stated reasons:
The first I call the “Patriotic Gambit”- In the words of McDermott, “You owe it to your country to serve.” And, “every man and woman ought to be subject to service in this country, just like the Israelis or a lot of other countries.”
The second reason is the “Equality Gambit”- The Democrats believe that only the poor and those desperate for money would voluntarily serve in the military and hence, blacks and minorities are unfairly wounded or dying in Iraq compared to non-minorities. This position is completely unverified by the facts. The volunteer military of the U.S. is roughly representative ethnically of the civilian population, with only very slightly higher rates for African Americans—primarily because of their higher retention rates in the military; and slightly lower representation for Hispanics. However it is more psychologically convenient for liberals to believe that an all-voluntary military discriminates against and exploits Blacks and minorities.
But now we get to the real (unstated) reason for their support of the Draft: With an all-volunteer military, you cannot argue that servicemen and women (yes, women are included in Rangell's and Hollings' Bills--see Gambit #2) are being forced to participate in the war (after all, you tend to know what you are signing up for when you join the Army or Marines). With an all-volunteer military, you don’t get the kind of anti-war demonstrations on the college campuses, where individuals are free to pursue their own happiness--hence they have very little incentive to protest the war. With an all-volunteer military, there are no draft-dodgers, or draft-card burners to immortalize in the never-ending quest to generate more Bush hatred.
And this is why the issue of the Draft won’t go away. The liberals in this country desperately want to go back in time and pretend that what is happening now in the world is the moral equivalent of Vietnam. They want to turn the discussion from the evil of Terrorism to the evil of George Bush. They don’t want to admit that they themselves are so morally bankrupt that they would do or say anything to make all the bad things that have happened in the world, including 9/11, be Bush’s fault.
My friend left the party, her position unchanged. I suspect she never even checked on the facts I stated to reassure her. Reality is a painful experience sometimes.
DISCLAIMER: It is always possible that a Military Draft will be initiated in the future. After all, the Selective Service Board has existed since Franklin Roosevelt (a Democrat) started it during WWII. The draft ended in 1973, and registration was formally ended in 1975. Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) re-started it in 1980 after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Registration has been required since that time through both Democratic and Republican administrations, so it is nothing new. It is my personal belief that the all-volunteer military has been extraordinarily successful and that there is and never will be any need for an involuntary military draft. I have no doubt that if our Homeland were attacked directly, more than enough people would volunteer (note that the rate of sign-ups for all military services increased substantially after 9/11; and that recruitment remains high, despite the Iraq war.).