I had a conversation with an old friend recently. A military man. Marines. On his way to Afghanistan for his fourth tour of duty overseas. Good friend, good man.
Our conversation was spawned by the horrific news, last week, about the soldier that snapped and left his base in Kandahar province to murder 19 civilians (including a 2 year-old child) in their beds. Well, as I've mentioned before on this blog, war breeds atrocities.
War is sometimes necessary, some will argue, in spite of its inherent evil. Perhaps. But if that is true, should not the burden of war fall equally upon all citizens of the nation engaged in it? If the United States determines that it must go to war, who does the fighting?
As I mentioned to my friend, much more has been asked of him and his family (four tours overseas!) than of most Americans. Even though our nation has been at war for over a decade, the events in Iraq and Afghanistan are little more than 10 minute segments on the television news for many.
In the early 2000s, when Junior was waving the bloody shirt for Iraq, Congressman Charlie Rangel (who was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service during the Korean War) put forth a proposal to reinstate the draft. At the time, it seemed preposterous. But with 10 bloody years of experience behind us, and with case after case of mentally-savaged combat veterans crumbling under the strain of disproportionate sacrifice, it seems a lot more reasonable.
My friend disagrees:
Dade, respectfully disagree with regard to the draft. An all volunteer force is well proven, albeit the Army has softened standards to meet recruitment, the Marines have nearly a year waiting list for boot camp. To these kids credit, they WANT to serve when they don’t have to, and, will water our eyes as they do their job in crappy conditions. Sure, it’s great resume fodder for future opportunities, but the draft isn’t needed, nor wanted by both military and civilian leadership.
I still disagree with the draft...and here's why. In short, let's take two kids...one an athlete gifted in many physical attributes, good stamina, intelligent,'type-A' sort; another somewhat less athletic, intelligent, aspergers- type-A sort of guy, more of an engineer type that can design a jet engine but can't ride a bike. Are you saying that you would put them in the same foxhole in combat, or, same cubicle at Lockheed-Martin? Exploring strengths, spiritual gifts, (whatever the term), works... That said, lessons learned from the Vietnam draft (and draft dodgers), is that morale sucks under conscription during war, and is a welfare program during peace. Draft dodgers will always hold the title of a union scab to military men.Well, who wants to argue with a Marine about how to create an effective fighting unit? Not me. But, with all due respect to my friend, he's approaching the problem as a professional soldier. My argument is sociological.
If we, as a society, determine that we must go to war, no one should be exempt from the sacrifice war requires. Paraphrasing Representative Rangel: "Declaring war without a draft is like saying 'Let's go fight. Here, I'll hold your coat.'"
And there is this: a draft might make debate over war a lot more serious and considered than it was for the Iraq lie. One wonders how vociferously cowards like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, or Richard Perle would have argued for war if there was any possibility of their own kin being killed in it. As it stands now, that bitter old adage has never been more true:
Rich man's war; poor man's fight.