Rangel's Draft Idea Spurs Vital Debate
By: Bassey Etim, Badger Herald (U. Wisconsin)
November 21, 2006 4:45 PM
(U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. - U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., is not insane. His proposal to reinstate the draft has been met with a virulent response from the left and the right, and the outrage is understandable.
However, most bewildered critics and Americans hearing about it on the news don't have any more than an elementary understanding of Rangel's proposal. Offering an idea this controversial is meant to trigger a larger debate: How can we sustain our military in a long-term struggle against pseudo-Islamic extremism and the philosophy of terror?
A mandatory draft would mean a dramatic cultural change for our nation. I'm not sold on the idea, but it's worth serious thought. Further, Mr. Rangel is not suggesting that everyone of age should be shipped off to war.
"Young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools (or) in hospitals," he said in an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation." He added that service would come with a promise of educational benefits.
While we treasure our self-determination as college students, it is hard to argue that a few years of mandatory national service wouldn't strengthen our country. In addition, his assertion that government officials would not have presented shoddy guesswork to justify an invasion if their children could be placed in harm's way doesn't seem wholly unreasonable.
War is a serious endeavor, and we may be breeding a culture of pop-militarism by assigning our national defense to those who feel compelled to volunteer.
Our military is an amazingly diverse institution, yet the responsibility of battle falls inordinately on the disadvantaged who see no other option to get ahead. I don't mean to suggest poor people signing up for military service is a bad thing, but it seems morally corrupt for the middle and upper classes to pay for conflict while the lower class does the fighting. Quite simply, mandatory service to our nation would give us a concrete perception of the pity of war.
What would the implementation of this proposal mean on an individual level? Instead of clamoring over what colleges they've applied to, high school graduates would argue about what branch of the national service to join, whether to teach underprivileged kids, scan cargo at the local port or fight overseas before college.
Somehow, that doesn't seem like such a terrible proposition. Exposing a nation with an increasing gap between rich and poor to service among every economic class is a provocative, yet tempting option.
Nonetheless, Mr. Rangel's proposal has its share of potential pitfalls. Would mandatory service backfire and make the voting public more militarized - and even emboldened - by the sheer size and might of our army? It seems like having a small readily active military may be a virtue in itself, as it discourages our involvement in conflicts that vaguely concern us. A large active force may well encourage policy makers to deploy our armed forces as an international police unit.
After Iraq, we can only hope our generation has learned this lesson. The shame in this war is that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are dying because of our growing pains. The motivation behind Mr. Rangel's radical suggestion stems from this lesson: How do we prevent elective wars?
I don't know that Mr. Rangel has the answer, but that he is looking for it at all, and is willing to take a firestorm of criticism from all sides just to start this debate, speaks to his effectiveness as a member of Congress.
Our men and women serving abroad live with the consequences of our dire mistake. Although those in service and our policymakers want to leave the Iraqis with a stable country, it seems there is little, if anything, we can do to rectify the mistake of invading in the first place. The Washington Post has reported that the Pentagon sees three options for Iraq: "Go big, go long or go home."
Go big essentially means sending in more troops to crush the insurgency, which for reasons my allotted space simply won't allow for, simply will not work. To put it plainly, by an insurgency's very nature, a large and conspicuous military presence will augment its influence. The go-long option is basically the current strategy to train the Iraqi police force over the course of approximately 18 months. The go-home option is to set a timetable and gradually withdraw, leaving the Iraqis to choose between a shared governance compromise and civil war.
None of these is appealing, and we've given the Iraqi people a raw deal. However, it seems clear that our continued presence will not improve the situation and has done nothing but give factions the time they need to maneuver for influence prior to a compromise. It's time to tell the Iraqi government that the hourglass will no longer be filled with the blood of American soldiers.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggests more troops should be sent into Iraq and claims soldiers there now are, "fighting and dying for a failed policy." Sending more Americans to fight a proxy war for the Sunnis and Shiites is not a solution.
Mr. Rangel's proposal may have more wisdom than you think. If there had been a mandatory draft, we might not be wondering what to do with a country we have inadvertently ravaged.