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Why America needs a draft


May 3, 2011
By Will Mackey

After the September 11th attacks, Bush argued that the U.S. needed to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to prevent another such attack, and most politicians, both Democratic and Republican, agreed with him. But 10 years after 9/11, U.S. troops are still in both countries, and now many politicians have begun to question whether the continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is making America safer. The Obama Administration seems to agree with these doubters, and has begun withdrawing American troops from Iraq, even though a spate of recent attacks has demonstrated that security improvements in that country are tenuous at best. Obama has also been pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, while he and his policy advisers try to figure out what the future U.S. mission actually should be over there. But for most of– us, including me, it really doesn’t matter how long U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq or how long it takes Obama to figure out a complete withdrawal plan, since those wars are far away and have little immediate effect on our everyday lives. That is why America needs a draft.

If the U.S. had a draft, Americans would not accept half-baked justifications for war, as they did with Iraq. They would demand proof that war was absolutely necessary, and that it was the last and only option remaining to policymakers. Apathy would no longer be an option, since everyone’s kid would face the risk of being shipped over to fight and die in a foreign country. The lead-up to the Iraq invasion, for instance, would have been very different if America had a draft. People would have actually looked at the evidence presented by the Bush administration, putatively showing that Saddam was working with Al Qaeda and was building WMDs, and questioned it. They would have demanded more information and proof, rather than the statements of a few Iraqi expats, describing Saddam’s threatening deeds, if they were going to allow their children to be sent off. Unfortunately, as we all know, that is not how things turned out. People were content to sit back and let the Administration have its war. Their families would not bear the costs, it would be those other people — those military people who would suffer the consequences.

Today the U.S. population, 308 million people, relies on around 1.5 million active-duty soldiers to fight our wars. These soldiers have served multiple tours of duty, putting their lives on the line for months on end and leaving their families and loved ones behind for even longer periods of time. They come home, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and find it difficult to reintegrate into civilian life. Some draft opponents may say that is what the soldiers signed up for. It is, after all, an all-volunteer army. But when those soldiers signed their contracts, they did not expect to be sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan again and again and again. Some soldiers, like Sgt. Thomas Riordan, are even sent back to battle, despite the fact that they are already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Army’s justification: fighting with their brothers in arms helps them get over their problems. An interesting argument, particularly considering that near-constant fighting caused their problems in the first place. Maybe that explains why more soldiers committed suicide last year than died in combat.

Many military officers are skeptical of the draft. They say that it would be counter-productive, since the military would have to train and discipline millions of soldiers who did not want to be there. But this argument sounds, at least to me, more than a little self-serving. Sure, their point about unwilling draftees causing a ruckus seems legitimate. But a draft would cause other, more threatening problems for military officers — mainly that they would be held accountable for whether or not their strategies succeed and, more importantly, whether or not the human toll associated with achieving those strategies would be worth it. Bad generals, like Ricardo Sanchez and George Casey, both of whom oversaw Iraq’s nose-dive into sectarian civil war and an ensuing uptick in U.S. causalities, would not be allowed to pursue failed policies for months. People at home, knowing that their family members were bearing the hardships, would demand a change in strategy and leadership. Perhaps they would even demand that their soldiers come home.
Military officers and civilian officials also point out that it would be incredibly expensive to train and equip all the new soldiers if the U.S. instituted a draft. OK, that seems like a good counter-argument too. But contractors are not exactly cheap, and in many cases, they are amazingly expensive, even when they are not bilking the government out of billions of dollars. Also, the American people would be much less resistant to the idea of a war tax, if they knew that it was going to help their fighting family members get the best equipment possible. (Unarmored Humvees, which American soldiers got, would not have been an option.) Indeed, if we had a universal draft, Rumsfeld would never have been able to say, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” For if he had said it, let alone allowed it to happen (as he did), the resulting outcry would have forced him to resign or, knowing my mom and many others, he would have been dragged out of the White House, rather than being allowed to remain as Secretary of Defense.

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it was amazing to see how little discussion there was about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, there were hours of TV specials, repeatedly showing the planes crashing into the towers. Pieces of the World Trade Center were even shipped around the country, so people could gather around the hunks of metal and bow their heads and remember that terrible day. 30 minutes or so later, most of those people climbed back into their cars and drove off, consciences assuaged, knowing that they had shown their patriotism. In Afghanistan and Iraq, though, American troops don’t have the luxury of simply driving off. They are stuck there, while the Beltway crowd tries to figure out what to do with them.

Do I expect the U.S. government to institute a draft? Certainly not; it would be political suicide for anyone to even voice the idea. But just because it is not politically viable now, does not mean the draft issue should be ignored, and maybe, just maybe, in the course of a public debate about its relative merits and downsides, we would remember that American troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan and are still facing hardships that most of us know nothing about. That, I think, is a great way to honor not only the victims of 9/11, but also the spirit of solidarity that swept through the country immediately following the attacks, a phenomenon that many Americans now talk about like it occurred a very long, long time ago.

Why America needs a draft | Middlebury Campus


Aug 13, 2010
United States
United States
Absolutely no military merit to a draft in the current Afghan scenario, the guy basically wants it so that he can be a Conscientious objector to it.

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