A Draft? No Chance

by Michael Kreicher | 11/19/04 6:00am

The other day, I received a blitz that listed detailed instructions about how to register as a conscientious objector -- a common way to avoid the selective service draft because of religious beliefs. I have to admit that for a split-second I was nervous. I was nervous that the author of the blitz knew something that I didn't. I was nervous that the military draft might be in the process of becoming reinstated. Then I came to my senses. The intelligent and rational voice inside my head reminded me in emphatic fashion that there was absolutely no chance that the selective service draft would ever become an issue in my life.

Our generation was raised under the dark shadow of the draft. It was never a realistic issue directly, but we are all well aware of the controversy and anger that the draft caused for our parents. I can recall stories that my father told me about him and his friends sitting in a room listening to the radio as birthdates were called out, dictating that those young men would be the first to be called upon for active duty. Originally instituted by Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, the draft system was ended by Richard Nixon in 1973 after a powerful resistance movement throughout the late 1960s and '70s. As a result, the U.S. military was converted into an entirely voluntary force. The draft will almost indisputably go down in history as one of the most unpopular political acts of all time.

With the ongoing and often complicated conflict in Iraq, many citizens are once again worried about the prospect of a selective service draft looming on the horizon. There are currently around 130,000 American troops stationed in Iraq, but military experts believe that more soldiers are required to effectively fight insurgents and stabilize the new democratic government. President Bush has said that he plans to expand the existing force by about 50,000 troops. With army reserves and National Guardsmen already being called to duty, paranoid speculators assert that the only way to raise more troops to meet this quota is through a draft. I still remember my 18th birthday when I filled out my selective service registration card and mailed it in to the government, but I definitely do not plan on being faced with the possibility of being forced into military service through that registration card.

After we get over the hype and hysteria brought about by draft speculators, the facts of the situation strongly disprove any theory that one might hold concerning the government's intention to reinstitute the draft. First, the U.S. military is currently stationing close to 200,000 troops in Western Europe and Asia for peacekeeping purposes. As Asia continues to develop and progress towards stability and the fears related to the Cold War become more and more distant, the ability for these idle troops to be mobilized and redistributed to Iraq becomes more and more feasible. Moreover, our reserve forces are not yet depleted and more divisions of the armed forces could be redeployed in order to account for at least 50,000 additional troops. Essentially, the government has many other options that it would have to exhaust in order for the idea of instituting the draft to even be entertained.

To further illustrate this point, a draft bill was actually brought to the floor of the House of Representatives earlier this fall during the election season. The bill was sponsored by a Democrat from New York, Charles Rangel. In a very powerful statement of intention, that bill was defeated 402-2. In fact, the House did not even want to legitimize the bill by allowing it to come to a vote and it was only voted on after Republicans moved to introduce the bill and deny it once and for all.

There is absolutely no chance that the selective service draft will ever come to fruition again. The U.S. military is fully capable of providing a satisfactory force in Iraq from within its own ranks, even if it requires some mobilizing and redistribution. Moreover, Congress has already made a definitive statement against the potential of the Selective Service Act being reinitiated. Most importantly, as I said before, the original conscription act was one of the most unpopular political moves in history. No ambitious and self-motivated politician would endorse a draft bill, knowing that it would spell the doom for his political career. Thankfully, all politicians are ambitious and self-motivated. Thus, despite threats by paranoid speculators, I can say without a doubt that our generation need not worry about a draft in our lifetime.

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