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Why We Should Bring Back the Draft

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I hope the next Deep Throat is sleepless right now, thinking of all the things he was a part of in Florida and Ohio these past few years. And reading Bob Levey's thoughtful post, I couldn't help thinking it won't come from conventional media anymore, it has to come from this new world we are in. But it grows.

The New York Times story about the role parents are playing in reducing military recruitment totals pointed up the creeping awareness which is finally setting in, even in red states. As Arianna points out in her latest, the continuing administration effort to blandish away the obvious in Iraq, the dreadful realization that suicide attacks are unpreventable-- it all conspires to produce the resentment which pours forth in those school and community gatherings the Times describes, where parents are establishing that this is Bush's war, not theirs.

But while it's cathartic in some ways to see the worm finally turning against those horrific lies, the growing division will damage us. And a part of what is happening is that those eighteen-year-olds who can do anything other than to enlist in the military will do so, leaving-- with some spirited exceptions-- only those who need the foothold of opportunity to take the risk.

Back when I was nineteen and avoiding the draft at all costs to stay out of Tet Offensive harm's way, I would have argued with passion that the draft was the ultimate in racism and economic discrimination, because mostly the privileged could find a way around it and mostly the underprivileged became the target. That was basically true, and it was a flawed system which ultimately helped to turn the country against Viet Nam. But we learned something about ill-advised wars, and I think we are a bit different now.

The current system harbors all the same discriminatory elements as did the draft, but the net result is an even more extreme division, a more pernicious South Americanization, between gung-ho military achievers and poor kids brought in to meet recruitment quotas. There is no leavening of the system with differing talent, with greater penetration of the social fabric across the board, and with all parents having to consider at least the possibility of their children having to go. Those elements come into play only with a draft.

If millions of parents in the red states had been faced with the prospect that their teenager might face a decision about the next military adventure, might they have looked at Iraq a bit differently? If millions of teenagers knew this was coming up for them, might they take off their I-pods for a second and read a blog or two?

I tore up my draft card one night in 1968 on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. No way you would ever find me supporting the draft. But Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y) said it one day a couple of years ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since. And I've decided Charlie was right.