Friday, May 18, 2007


A military draft will create many new problems. It will be tremendously expensive and require more borrowing, cuts in existing programs, tax increases, or some combination of two or three of them. Rangel's proposal--the only one in a long time--costs over ONE TRILLION dollars a year because it takes the absurd position that everyone has to serve whether needed or not.The armed forces with the draftees will be less effective than they are now because the troops will be less well motivated. That is why leaders of all the branches of the armed forces have long opposed the draft. Many in the military spoke out against the draft before it was allowed to expire in 1973.A lot of people who will never be drafted will be worried that they will be drafted. So will their loved ones. Some will be so worried that they will leave our country. Others will merely threaten to leave our country.A lot of people will be hiring lawyers to get them through whatever exemptions are created along with the draft. Those with more money for lawyers and appeals if necessary will be ultimately far less likely to be drafted.A lot of people will be trying to shoehorn their religious convictions into whatever religious convictions turn out to be exempt from the draft.There will be a lot of disruptive anguish, angst, and actions at high schools, colleges, and other places where draft-eligible people hang out.We need an end to the War in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, in selling the war, said the U.S. would be out of Iraq in 90 days if we went in and toppled Saddam Hussein. The way things are going, we will be quite lucky to avoid 90 months in Iraq, and 90 years there is not impossible.We do not need a draft. A draft says that people exist for the government. Like most people, I believe that government exists for the benefit of the people.Just about every nation in the world has either emulated the U.S. and abolished its draft or greatly reduced the draft's role in the military. Even in Israel, a small country at odds with much larger countries, there are many military and non-military voice for abolishing its draft.Some day, military drafts will be as rare as slavery is today. The closer we get to a draft-free world, the less likely it will be that American lives will be lost in war. The more that being a soldier is voluntary, the more that those who want soldiers to enlist will have to sell the soldiers and the country at large as to the merits of the battles and wars to be fought.

September 4, 2007


Restoring the draft is a bad idea, whether it is advocated seriously or as a means of protest. A better idea would be to get rid of draft registration and the machinery that makes it seem like a credible option.It is a bad idea because it creates unmotivated soldiers, and a bad idea because it is ridiculously expensive and inherently controversial to implement. It is a bad idea because it devalues human life and asserts that human lives are at the mercy of government control. Only if we are fighting a foe as evil as Hitler--killing millions of people and threatening to kill many, many millions more--could a draft be justified in my mind.Yea, implementing a draft would increase anti-war sentiment. And increasing the number of people in poverty would increase anti-poverty sentiment. And eliminating college scholarships would increase the number of people demanding lower tuitions. And reducing medical access would increase the number of people demanding uinversal health care.But I am convinced that it is a mistake to believe that we can improve things by making them worse. What making them worse usually does is reduce hope and limit the will to meaningfully fight for change. It is the demonstrated ability to win improvements that leads to more successful fights for further improvements.Eliminating the draft in 1973 was a major reform of American life--led in the Senate by 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel-- that everyone should be proud of. It asserted that the lives of citizens belong to the citizens themselves, and not to the government. It asserted that a foreign policy with military components has to have the backing of individual soldiers. It set limits on the kind of military adventurism that our national leaders could engage in.Our eliminating the draft led many other countries to do likewise. Today, virtually every country in the world that still has a draft also has a movement to end the draft. I would hope that within the next 20 or 30 years every country on earth would be free of a military draft; it would be a great step forward for humanity if that could happen.

August 16, 2007


The one bad thing about Jack Murtha's well deserved prominence as a critic of our tragic folly in Iraq is that it calls attention to his position as a supporter of restoring the military draft, and lends that position more credibility than it deserves.

Murtha's most recent statement was that Bush has so totally screwed up the war in Iraq that a draft might be needed. He was one of only two members of the House to vote for military draft restoration when House Republicans, scared that issue would cost Bush the election in 2004, forced a vote on the issue to undermine Democratic charges that the Bush Administration favored draft restoration.

I played a small role in forcing that vote when I got Philadelphia anti-draft leader Beverly Cocco--a moderate Republican with two teenage sons who works as a crossing guard and is an attractive and extraordinarily persuasive media spokesperson on this issue--in touch with people who got her national television coverage for her views. Beverly Cocco briefly became the most controversial crossing guard in America, as the Republican blogosphere, fearful of seeing her emerge in the Kerry campaign, treated her as a major Democratic spokesperson and ludicrously tried to trash her reputation. The extraordinary Republican overreaction to her appearance on national television helped fuel the House vote against draft restoration.
Restoring the military draft is strongly against the interests of the United States,and the interests of young Americans, no matter whether it is sold as means of protesting the war in Iraq or strengthening American ability to intervene at will in foreign conflicts abroad.
I am completely against military draft restoration no matter what its rationale is. I do not believe that it is a worthwhile solution for increasing male enrollment on college campuses (to avoid the draft), for increasing the number of men engaging in worthwhile alternative service programs (also to avoid the draft), or for increasing equality between men and women (if the draft is reinstated with women included.)

The endless search for liberal rationales to justify an expensive, militarily counterproductive, and extraordinarily disruptive and threatening presence in the lives of many scores of millions of people over time only serves to raise questions about the ability of the Democrats to govern effectively.

It is not true that a draft more equitably assigns the burdens of military risk across demographic categories of Americans. A lower percentage of American casusualties in Iraq are black than was the case in Vietnam, even though the black percentage of America has risen somewhat over the years.

Restoring the draft was one of the signature issues of the Democratic Leadership Council in its early days in the mid-1980's. When the Democrats regained control of the Senate after a six year hiatus in 1986, Senator Sam Nunn announced that hearings on draft restoration would be held promptly. I was one of many thousands of Americans who immediately contacted the Senate and asked to testify.

Senators in both parties were stunned at the depth of public outrage at Senator Nunn's statements. Senate Democratic leaders hastily announced that they would oppose restoring the draft, and no hearings would be held on the subject.

Senator Nunn would later somewhat re-evaluate his position as a staunch advocate of military responses on a global scale, and lead Democratic opposition to Goerge H.W. Bush's invasion of Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Countries throughout the world have abolished military drafts. If I do not live to see the day when every country everywhere has abolished its military draft, I am sure that some younger members of the Daily Kos community will do so.

Military drafts inherently assert that people exist to serve governments instead of governments existing to serve people. They give governments the right to decide how young people will spend precious years of their lives, and give governments the right to decide what risks to life and health they must endure. They give governments a coerced army to advance foreign policy goals, and reduce the need to persuade citizens of the worth of these goals.

President Lyndon Johnson's vast and unequaled domestic achievements--he was a major leader for expansions of civil rights, economic opportunites, and health care accessibility--were swallowed up by his vigorous prosecution of the War in Vietnam and his unquestioning support of the military draft.

Johnson famously read no books about Vietnam, but only read governmental reports, which tended to be limited in scope and self-congratulatory. Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers--a critical study of the American role in Vietnam commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara--out of desperation to get indisputable realities into the discussion as to our Vietnam policies.

Without a draft guaranteeing an endless supply of soldiers, the Johnson Administration would have under far more pressure to fully evaluate the assumptions behind a deeply flawed policy. The draft encouraged official hubris, and led to tragic misjudgements. It was a rare time in American history when many, many thousands of students and college professors were far better informed on foreign policy issues than was the White House or the State Department.
The military draft would have been defeated for reauthorization in the House of Representatives in 1971 if not for the failure of a few liberal Democrats to be in Washington on the day it came up. In 1973, it was killed due to a Senate filibuster on a reauthorization bill led by Democratic Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, a strong critic of the War in Vietnam. Gravel, defeated for re-election in 1980, has re-emerged in his late 70's as an anti-Iraq war protest candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008.

Restoring the military draft appeals to the idealism of shared sacrifice, the idealism of men willingly dying for their country, the idealism of no man's ambitions being greater the national interest.

Many idealists are wonderful people. But all idealisms are not created equal. Some idealisms have harmful and deadly consequences so great that they are far more threatening than helpful to public interests.

The draft was necessary for the winning of World War II, but it is not necessary to achieve any military or valid social purpose today. It deserves burial as a serious public policy option. To paraphrase George Santayanna, we must remember the past so that we do not have to relive it.

September 14, 2006



Post a Comment

<< Home