I'm staying here
Perhaps you're wondering why we single out teenage males [for the draft]. Some people believe it's because teenagers are the most physically fit, but that is stupid. If physical fitness were the main reason, we would register professional athletes first. The truth is that we register teenage males because:
- We always have.
- Many teenage males are sullen and snotty and could use a little discipline.
- There are fewer of them than there are of us.
- If we tried to register older people, they would write letters to their congressmen and hire sharp lawyers, and we'd never be able to get anybody into the Army.
— from Dave Barry's Bad Habits
U.S. Congress Member Chuck Rangel has called on our government to resume drafting people in their late teens and early twenties, forcing them to serve in the military just as our country is gearing up to go to war against Iraq. Some middle-agers seem to be licking their chops at yet another opportunity to punish youth for, well, for being young.
Others offer reasons for resuming the draft, reasons that may even sound good. But when these arguments are examined, they fall flat.
"Shared Sacrifice" My Âss
Rangel said, "I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice." Rangel was complaining that, without a draft, the military fills with people who are mainly from lower classes, desperate for the paycheck. The wealthy manage to avoid the danger and burden of military service. This is true.
His argument that the draft would create shared sacrifice, however, is false for two reasons.
First, we know from past experience that, even with a draft, those in wealthy families never need bare a substantial burden. Our current president, George W. Bush, was draft-age during Vietnam. Officially, he served in our armed forces. But he served in the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air National Guard, so called because all the members were from wealthy families and were guaranteed to never see combat.
The second flaw in Rangel's argument is more severe. His draft would not create shared sacrifice because it would not apply to everyone. It would not even apply to most people. It would single-out those aged 18-26. How can this be called a "shared" sacrifice when it is inflicted on only one age-group?
Rangel, trying to expand the number of those sharing the sacrifice, has proposed a draft that would apply to both males and females, but he has not expanded the age-range at all.
Youth are in their physical prime. This is important for military service, true. But this fact has never led our government to ban older people from serving in the army voluntarily. Our government does not ban those older than 26 from serving as police officers or fire fighters. Older people are allowed to do physically demanding work if they are capable and if they want to. Their contributions are valued.
Rangel insists that, while older people be allowed to serve voluntarily, young people should be given no choice.
The Price of Freedom
Some argue a draft is only fair because war is sometimes necessary to protect the rights and freedoms we Americans enjoy. But if war is the price of freedom, shouldn't that price be paid by people who have actually enjoyed some freedom? America, remember, is a country where even the president's own daughter needed a fake I.D. to enjoy some of the freedoms a foreigner would enjoy the minute he stepped on our shores. Jenna Bush was 19 when she was arrested for using a fake I.D. Old enough to die for American freedom, apparently, but not old enough to have freedom herself.
The average 20-year-old American has enjoyed little freedom over the course of her life, and she will enjoy no more if she dies on the battle field. 72-year-old Chuck Rangel, on the other hand, has enjoyed many decades of freedom. Isn't it time he paid for it? Isn't it time he gave something back to a country that has given him so much?
Rangel was in the military during the Korean War. He needed the paycheck then, and the draft board gave him little choice. Today, however, he has legitimate reasons to serve, legitimate reasons to be grateful and willing to fight for this country.
If Rangel dies on the battle field today, he will not lose many years of his life. He is close to life-expectancy anyway. Chuck Rangel has more reason to be grateful to this nation than any 18-year-old, and Rangel would be sacrificing less than the 18-year-old by serving. So why does Rangel insist on remaining safely at home while sending teenagers to do the fighting?
The Peace Ploy
Chuck Rangel opposes Bush's plan to invade Iraq. He believes a draft will pull more people to join him in opposing the war, writing in The New York Times, "I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve — and to be placed in harm's way — there would be more caution ..."
If you really want to scare the war-mongers, don't tell them their children will be drafted; tell them they will be drafted. It is not only a more effective message, it's a more fair policy.
Saddam Hussein sometimes punishes his political opponents by hurting their innocent children. Chuck Rangel, it seems, has a similar strategy: punish those who are pro-war by sacrificing their children to that war.
Americans should elevate ourselves to a higher morality.
Rangel has no right to punish youth for their parent's opinions. Likewise, those who are pro-war have no right to hide behind their children.
If you feel this war is urgent enough to justify a draft, draft yourself first. Leave your children out of it.