Rep. Charlie Rangel is trying to bring back the draft again. It seems like Rangel, having voted against his own idea once, just can’t let it go.
Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice wonders why Rangel would shoot himself in the foot like that. The military has no interest in a draft — the US military has already made the transition to an all-volunteer military and the costs of changing back would be incredibly high.
As Mitch Berg points out conscription doesn’t match the doctrine of the US military. You can’t take some 18-year-old who doesn’t have any interest in serving, plop him down on the streets of Baghdad and expect him to do the job our soldiers are doing. Far from being uneducated killbots, our troops are frequently called on to be diplomats, civil engineers and arbitrators as well as highly-trained and effective shock troops. This isn’t World War II, and the idea that a draft will do anything to alleviate our current problems is simply untrue.
The idea of some kind of national service isn’t a bad one, but Rangel’s proposal is a political bludgeon rather than a serious policy proposal. The reality is that our military is already a cross-section of American society, and our military isn’t about diversity, it’s about finding people who can become effective soldiers. We leave the swarms of cannon fodder for our enemies, our military doctrine has focused around highly-trained shock troops backed up with overwhelming airpower and artillery. Having a bunch of conscripts doesn’t fit in with that doctrine, and if the goal is to have an Army where everybody serves, that Army won’t be as effective as it could be. (Even the much-vaunted Israeli military had severe problems in Lebanon the last time around, partially due to their heavy use of reservists.)
Bringing back the draft is unnecessarily provocative. Yes, we need a larger military, but throughout the 1980s we had a military that was substantially larger than it is today, and we didn’t require a draft back then. If we could support another 10 Army divisions back then, the only thing stopping us from doing so now is the political will to make it happen. Rangel’s proposal is ill-considered and unnecessarily provocative. Our military doesn’t need conscripts, what it needs is a political class that treats it with respect. As General Abizaid pointed out in his testimony before Congress last week, the culture in Washington doesn’t exactly make members of our military feel supported.
If we’re going to send anyone into battle, it should be Congress. Perhaps if they spend some time with our troops in the field, they’d have more respect for what they’re doing and more understanding of how they operate.