In a recent letter to The Dartmouth, Vaughn Carney ("Scare Tactics, Part Two," October 1) launched into a painfully uninformed diatribe against the Bush Administration and its alleged attempts to reinstate the military draft. The author apparently thought Dartmouth students gullible enough to accept this claim without checking the facts. I hold my classmates in higher regard than that. Consequently, having checked into the facts, I wish to here cast a light on the current draft legislation. Seen through any of its three possible prisms, this light reflects poorly on Carney's credibility.
The first way that the current draft bills could be understood is to paint them as a laudatory striving to eliminate racism and favoritism from the draft. At first glance, this theory appears reasonable, for the Democrat sponsors of the draft legislation are all strong advocates of minority rights. Democratic representatives Charles Rangel and John Lewis are both veterans of the 1960s civil rights movement. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, frequently introduces legislation to further the rights of his Native Hawaiian constituents. And Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings, S.C., embarked on a series of "hunger tours" in 1968 to drive home the plight of America's suffering minorities -- a stance he paraded again during a floor speech on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
Yet, upon closer inspection, this theory holds little water. If a crusade against racism were the sponsors' motivation for introducing the legislation, one could expect them to say so. After all, it is these same congressmen and senator who have long decried the racism and socio-economic discrimination that pervaded the Vietnam-era draft. In addition, such a policy move would play out extremely well in their districts during a bitterly-contested election cycle. Rangel represents Harlem; Lewis, part of Georgia; Rep. Conyers, Detroit -- all districts with majority-minority populations. Yet, surprisingly, these sponsors have made no real attempts to publicize their support for the draft. Interesting.
As doubt and unlikelihood overshadow this first, egalitarian explanation, we find ourselves left to consider a second prism for the legislation. It may be the case that the draft bills' sponsors have introduced their legislation because they believe in the formative nature of military and civil service. If this is so, they are likely chasing after windmills, enchanted with the quixotic dreams of antiquated military theory.
Preliminary evidence from Germany's Grundwehrsdienst, along with Israel's remarkably effective battalions of conscripts, would seem to support the idea that a draft benefits a military. Yet, considering that seventy countries currently hold drafts, these two stick out as aberrations; they work only because of residual effects of the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The other 68 countries have had less sterling results.
Military history is even more damning to proponents of the draft. As militaries have modernized, conscripted troops have become increasingly ineffective. Napoleon, the first military commander to institute a nationwide draft, was also the last to achieve military victory with it. By the end of the 1870s, the invention of the Gattling gun and trench warfare stymied the National German Alliance's attack on France with 1.2 million conscripts. Emperor Wilhelm II's 3.4 million draftees fared even worse, embroiled for years in the no-man's land of the Western Front. Only a devastating winter saved the Soviet Union's 15 million conscripts during World War II. And many theorists believe the use of conscripts led to Argentina losing the Falklands War and the U.S. having to withdraw from Vietnam.
These facts are commonly known within military circles and propounded by most modern military sociologists. As such, many of the sponsors of the current legislation should know the deleterious effect of conscripts on military success. Rep. Stark of California is an Air Force veteran, Rangel served during the Korean War, and Sen. Hollings saw combat during World War II. They know their military history. And they know that a draft in a modern, technologically-advanced military would be ruinous. So they cannot be hoping that a reinstated draft would help out our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The resulting failure of this second explanation to explain the draft legislation leaves us with one final prism through which to view it -- the sad one of trafficking in the politics of fear. On this note, the glaring fact that every single supporter of the draft in both houses of Congress is a Democrat becomes very revealing. First because the politics of fear have been a staple of Democrats since Lyndon Johnson's infamous "Daisy" ad, which exploited fear of nuclear holocaust at the height of the Cold War. Second because these Democratic congressmen and senator have allowed John Kerry's campaign to hijack their bill to begin malicious rumors about ongoing draft preparations.
Through an anonymous e-mail blitz and snide speech quips, Kerry's campaign has spread much scuttlebutt, such as that which Carney uncritically rehashes in Friday's letter. Yet the draft bills' sponsors allow the disfigurement without moving a muscle. They have made no attempts to claim due credit for their initiative when Kerry flagrantly lies that the Bush Administration has sponsored the legislation. They ignore the fact that the board members of Selective Service committees began being rehired during Clinton's administration when their 20-year terms began to expire. And they make no mention of the deferments or option for civil service written into the current legislation. In short, it regretfully appears that they have become puppets of the Kerry camp. Like Kerry and to his advantage, they have sold their convictions for political advantage. How far have these once principled leaders fallen!
Regardless of spin, distortion, and outright lies, the facts of most cases are readily available to all those willing to investigate them. And in this case the facts speak for themselves. Every member of the Bush Administration has rejected the notion of a military draft out of hand. The Republican-controlled House rejected the notion 402-2 on Tuesday. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called the draft a "non-issue" that he won't even allow to be voted on. Indeed, the only supporters of the draft continue to be liberal Democrats. Considering that John Kerry has been thrice voted the most liberal member of the Senate, it is a frightening thought that he will continue to toe this extreme liberal line that drafts are good for America. If Kerry wins, it will be time to start packing some sunglasses and sun tan lotion, boys and girls. It gets hot in Iraq even when there's a draft.