Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Update: Restarting the Draft

The draft for military service was an accepted “norm” of American life from shortly before World War II through the Vietnam War. It disappeared from use, other than registration for all 18 year old males, for the last 30 years. This blog has been keeping a watch on the draft because the Bush administration must have more manpower, or pay for it through good-buddy contracts, to carry out a pre-emptive warfare foreign policy.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly insisted that he will not ask Congress to authorize the return of the draft, and last year inadvertently offended many veterans of the conscription-era military by belittling the value of conscripts in contrast to today’s volunteer soldiers.

However, recent news reports indicate that other government officials are quietly preparing for such a resurrection.

Last year, the Selective Service System quietly announced a recruiting drive for “potential” draft board selection committee members. I can think of no other reason for this than Selective Service officials want to be ready to implement a nationwide conscription program at short notice if the government wants it to do so.

Officials noted that the Selective Service System already has a special program in place to register and draft health care personnel ages 20 to 44 – covering more than 60 specialties – in a crisis…to date, the Pentagon has made no such request.

It seems more probable that the Pentagon can, as an alternative to reviving the draft, win support for more and more expensive contracts to civilian firms to provide those very services.

In short, the draft debate may well be a ruse to sidestep the groundswell of criticism against civilian defense contractors providing direct support to the military in Iraq and elsewhere.

But even if that is the case, those who support the “All-Volunteer Force” should remain vigilant: If there is one thing we’ve learned since 9/11, an unexpected crisis or major setback could lead to a policy reversal.

The draft is not dead, and there are officials who know how to awaken it from its deep sleep.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link