America went through one of its worst times when young men lost their lives in Vietnam. The draft didn’t end until 1973, and as is apparent now, the dilemma over a draft still hasn’t ended, even though the negatives far outweigh any positive reasons for reinstating it.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., in a news conference on Jan. 7 introduced a bill that will require “mandatory military and national service for all of our young people, without exemptions for college or graduate courses, with the exception of allowing youngsters to finish high school at a given age.” Rangel, who was decorated with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the Korean War, is concerned that minorities comprise a disproportionate part of the military. Recent statistics show that racial minorities comprise around 45 percent of the armed forces but only 25 percent listed themselves as non-white or more than one race in the 2000 Census.
Though the percentages are shocking, Rangel is clearly mistaken if he thinks reinstating the draft is the quick-fix remedy he seems to think it is. We need only look to history to see the overwhelming disadvantages of the draft.
Implementation of the draft first started during the Civil War, and from the very beginning, there were loopholes. The wealthy and the well-connected always managed to avoid any fighting. Then who’s left? History has shown that the poor and minorities have been generally left as cannon fodder.
Dr. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said the very idea of a draft goes against the principles set forth by our Founding Fathers.
“The basic premise underlying conscription is that the individual belongs to the state, individual rights are granted by the state, and therefore, politicians can abridge individual rights at will. In contrast, the philosophy which inspired America’s founders, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is that individuals possess natural, God-given rights which cannot be abridged by the government,” Paul said when he was introducing legislation on March 23, 2002.
Also, with warfare now heavily reliant on technology, as demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is very important to have cohesive and small military units. Pairing conscripted soldiers with volunteer soldiers is like trying to make red and pink match — it just won’t work in this new battlefield. Drafting only works when a large, ground force is needed. Recently, the problems have been with terrorists, who blend in as civilians and operate in cells like al-Qaida.
Technology has changed traditional warfare. Some jobs require years to learn fully. The military is already having a hard enough time retaining trained service members. Why would we want people in jobs they don’t want to have and have no intention of completing their full capacity? It’s not only bad for morale but also dangerous. At best, draftees will make inexperienced soldiers most likely to return home in body bags.
Under the system set in place in 1980, all physically able American men must register with the Selective System within 30 days of turning 18. If a draft bill ever passes — first it would have to pass Congress and have President Bush sign it–20-year-olds would be the first to be drafted. The order would be determined by a lottery based on birthdays. Eligibility would then extend to 25-year-old males.
Nevertheless, some people insist that the military draft is the way to go if we are to win the wars in which the United States is currently involved. The idea of reinstating the draft brought cheers in the town hall meeting of Nov. 20, which was hosted by ABC News’ Peter Jennings in the auditorium of the College of Public Health. In the words of panelist Jack Harris of WFLA-970 AM, youth today need “discipline.” Does this mean that mandatory military or civil service will necessarily bring the desired discipline? The crowd seemed to think yes.
However, Dr. Susan MacManus, a USF professor of political science who was also on the panel, said youths already have the highest rates of volunteerism of any age group.
For now we wait and hope that those cheering people in the auditorium, Rangel and other draft supporters will look to history and modern technology and learn that a bigger military does not necessarily mean a better military.
Sherry Mims is a senior majoring in mass communications with a minor in political science.