The Rangel Over The Draft


     Debate is again occurring on whether our country should reinstate the military service draft.  Confusion is generated in this debate when public statements focus on the thirty second sound bite rather than addressing the complexities of the issue.  The recent debate between Senator Rangel and Mr. Preble of the Cato Institute is a case in point.  Both gentlemen addressed valid issues, but neither seemed to address the other’s issues.  The Senator’s position focused on the injustice of a system which narrowly focuses sacrifice and the duty of service, while Mr. Preble focused on the military need.  Both issues are worthy of debate.  Such debate, however, should bring to fore the sum benefit or cost in regards to all pertinent considerations. 


     An example of a similar debate, and one which highlights the need for an honest look at all sides, is one which occurred during my time in recruiting over the quota system.  To say that quotas did not exist does not obviate the fact that the perception, if not reality, of the requirement was a factor in board presidents throwing out board votes and reselecting previously non-selected candidates in order to meet selection board quota guidelines.  Such actions were taken at the time to meet a congressionally mandated racial mix.  Although this occurrence struck me as having wasted a week when the board president could have accomplished the same without calling board members to DC to cast needless votes, I reasoned that the quota system fulfilled a social rather than a military need which, at that juncture, was considered by our elected congressmen and congresswomen to be more important.  Whether the perception of equitability in the minority representation in the military officer ranks was of greater import than the military need to obtain the best and the brightest from the market at that time is unclear to me; however, such were the issues.  The same can be said of the current debate as argued by Congressman Rangel and Mr. Preble.  Mr. Preble argued that reinstating the draft would be disadvantageous militarily.  Congressman Rangel argued that such action was required for societal reasons of fairness of opportunity and shared sacrifice.  The question is not so much who is right or wrong, but rather which is the most wise course of action all things considered.  Given the requirements currently put on our military forces, the cultural dissociation between the military and the citizenry they serve, and the perceptions of unbalanced opportunity or burden, what is the best course of action to take?  If we are to adopt policies and practices which are clearly, if taken only from the military viewpoint, of no or negative value, then we must clearly state the non-military value and show how, given what we know and can reasonably foresee, this is best, in a total cost benefit picture, for the country.  We must not, however, attempt to couch social policy in the light of a military advantage when it is not. 


     Given current and foreseeable military commitments in light of present operations, on-going contingency plans, our lack of effectiveness in multilateral efforts to address the host of today’s challenges, as well as the pared down nature of our current force structure, it is not at all clear, if these things do not change, that a draft might not be not only militarily advantageous but necessary.  Today we are faced with the same contingency challenges as in the past for major theater war, now during a time at which we are continually reminded, even before Iraq, that we are at war with terrorism, a “war” with a significant domestic front, with ongoing deployments in multiple peacekeeping or lesser theater war scenarios.

The adequacy of the current force structure, however, is a question for the DOD to answer.  Currently serving as a high school teacher in a rural, economically somewhat depressed area, I can also say that the Congressman’s views are very appropriate.  Recruiters appear to be doing relatively well in this area, this at a time when war is raging and casualties are mounting, and in a school where, although given the opportunity daily, few choose to stand for or participate in the pledge of allegiance.  I must assume that the propensity to serve has a much greater economic basis than one motivated by a desire to serve ones county.


     There are many reasons why we should engage in a debate on the draft, these being only a few.  If nothing else, perhaps such a debate can help us to add clarity to our vision of what we desire for our future in terms of foreign and social policy, and the impacts of both on the structures and functions of the mechanisms we use to implement them.  What role should the military properly have in domestic issues?  Is the “war” on terrorism the new reality?  If so, are we to be continually a nation at war?  What does that mean in terms of the wartime powers of the executive?  Should we spend more funds on police forces to deal with these issues domestically, or is it primarily a military issue?  Do we anticipate changes on the international front in our ally’s willingness to share the burdens of our vision of freedom and stability?  Is that vision one which is shared by our friends and allies as a normative standard which justifies preemption in sovereign countries?  Does the new reality actually call for a drastic overhaul of our force structure and another long term look at roles and missions?  Is contracting out military functions really something we should be doing, or are these functions inherently governmental?  These issues are complex, far reaching, and of significant impact.  If we are to engage in a debate on the draft, they are also all pertinent to that debate.