Rangel and Draft Proposals Pending in Congress

Tapped, one of our very favorite blogs, comments on our recent post criticizing Rangel for suggesting a military draft as a means of garnering congressional opposition to a war on Iraq. Tapped acknowledges that Rangel's proposal is ..."clearly a political gambit and not a serious policy proposal," and agrees with us that "drafting people in order to sap support for a war in Iraq is a terrible idea."

That's really the only point we were making. As we said in a follow-up post, "we cannot support risking the lives of this country's youth to make a political point. They should not be used as pawns in the war debate."

Tapped says it disagrees with us that the draft itself is a terrible thing. But, we haven't taken a position on the draft as a concept by itself. We were criticizing Rangel for using it as a political ploy - relying upon our experience with the draft during Vietnam to show how traumatic it is to the kids who are forced to go. What kind of person suggests such a thing when they don't believe the war is necessary or in the best interest of our country? Since Rangel opposes the war, we think it is a cheap political stunt to offer up a draft as a solution, when a draft would be so risky to the lives of all American youth.

If Rangel opposes the war, let him do the job he was elected to do--confer with and convince other congresspersons to see it his way and oppose the war because the war is a bad idea. We were calling on liberals not to let him get away with treating the youths of this country as expendable pawns in the debate.

Were we not on the precipe of a war we oppose, we would sit down and contemplate the issues that Tapped addressed today: Is a draft ever legitimate or desirable? Should we have a compuslory national service plan for those who object to serving in the military? Chances are, we might answer yes, in some instances. World War II would be a good example. But drafting and enacting that kind of legislation is a huge undertaking that should be done over time, after careful reflection and consideration of all aspects. We haven't done that and either has Congress.

However, we can't agree with Tapped that all conservatives (and impliedly, Republicans) are opposed to a draft or compulsory national service. Certainly, not all Democrats are in favor of them.

First, take a look at H.CON.RES.368, introduced on March 20, 2002 by Rep. Ron Paul ® and co-sponsored by Rep John Conyers, Jr. (D), Rep John J. Duncan, J ®, Jr. , Rep Cynthia McKinney (D), Rep George Miller (D), Rep Patsy Mink (D), and Rep Pete Fornay Stark (D). [All references to this bill and the one that follows are available on Thomas, the Federal Legislation Service, just type in the bill numbers.]

The title of the bill states "Expressing the sense of Congress that reinstating the military draft or implementing any other form of compulsory military service in the United States would be detrimental to the long-term military interests of the United States, violative of individual liberties protected by the Constitution, and inconsistent with the values underlying a free society as expressed in the Declaration of Independence."

On March 20, 2002 the bill was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, and on April 5, to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. No further action was taken.

[Yes, we know that Rep. Conyers has now joined Rangel's call for a draft, but you'll have to ask him about his abrupt change of position--we have no explanation.]

The text of the resolution reads:
Whereas the Armed Forces have successfully fulfilled the military needs of the United States for almost 30 years solely on the basis of voluntary service;

Whereas the Department of Defense issued a report in 1993 titled `A Review of the Continued Requirement for Draft Registration', which stated that draft registration could be suspended without irreparable damage to national security;

Whereas each branch of the Armed Forces has traditionally been able to meet or exceed its recruitment targets;

Whereas the recent success of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan has once again demonstrated the ability of the volunteer military to respond to threats to the lives, liberty, and property of the people of the United States;

Whereas a military draft introduces tensions and rivalries between those who volunteer for military service and those who have been conscripted, thus undermining the cohesiveness of military units, which is vital to military effectiveness;

Whereas those individuals who are forced to serve in the military are unlikely to choose the military as a career or to share the same enthusiasm for military service as those who volunteer;

Whereas the most effective method of meeting the personnel needs of the Armed Forces is to increase the pay and benefits of veterans and members of the Armed Forces; ....

Whereas the reinstatement of the military draft in the United States is opposed by leaders and organizations of various political affiliations, including former President Ronald Reagan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Noble laureates Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, former Senator Bill Bradley, the American Civil Liberties Union, Minnesota Governor and former Navy SEAL, Jesse Ventura, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Veterans for Peace, the Libertarian Party, the Mennonite Church, and the Conservative Caucus;

Whereas the military draft violates the principles of liberty on which the United States was founded; and

Whereas compulsory military service is a form of involuntary servitude: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that reinstating the military draft or implementing any other form of compulsory military service in the United States would be detrimental to the long-term military interests of the United States, violative of individual liberties protected by the Constitution, and inconsistent with the values underlying a free society as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
Example Two: Now take a look at H.R. 3598, The Universal Military Training and Service Act of 2001, introduced by Republicans Smith of Michigan and Weldon of Pennsylvania on December 28, 2001 and later referred to the House Committee on Armed Services and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Rep Roscoe Bartlett ® is a co-sponsor.

The Title of the bill states it is "To require the induction into the Armed Forces of young men registered under the Military Selective Service Act, and to authorize young women to volunteer, to receive basic military training and education for a period of up to one year."

Here is the official summary of the bill:
Makes it the obligation of male citizens and residents between 18 and 22 to receive basic military training and education as a member of the armed forces unless otherwise exempt under this Act. Permits female citizens and residents between such ages to volunteer for enlistment in the armed forces, with acceptance at the discretion of the Secretary of the military department concerned. Limits the period of training to between six months and a year. Permits transfers after basic training of such conscripts/volunteers to national and community service programs to finish the term of service. Provides educational services and Montgomery GI benefits to persons upon completion of their national service.

Uses the existing Selective Service System and local boards for induction. Sets forth criteria for deferments, postponements, and exemptions, including high school, hardship, disability, and health.

Entitles inductees to request a particular service branch. Excludes conscientious objectors from combatant training, but otherwise requires them to take basic training before a permitted transfer to a national service program.
Both of these legislative proposals were introduced after Sept. 11. The one introduced by Republicans calls for mandatory military training/service and compulsory national service for objectors and has no Democratic co-sponsors. The resolution introduced by a Republican but co-sponsored by several liberal democrats opposes a draft.

Frankly, the whole issue seems to be too politicized to make heads or tails of. But we stand by our criticism of Rangel for suggesting, and promising to introduce, legislation that puts all kids at risk simply to make a poltical point and grab a soundbite.

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