and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
January 2003 #4

Let those advocating return to conscription
be first on the front lines

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, January 24, 2003

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, came a discussion about drafting women.

Wait! We haven't yet had a debate over reinstating the draft for men. I want to start at the beginning -- of this issue, and of my involvement in politics.

It wasn't taxes that made me into an activist; it was Vietnam, and the military draft. My opinion hasn't changed in 40 years: If the country is invaded, we all grab our guns, issued by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and head for town common and/or the threatened borders.

But if the United States wants to wage a just war anywhere else on the planet, it convinces adult Americans, of either sex, to join the military and make the world a better place.

Congressman Charles Rangle, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft with no deferments. But he was making a point that young black men make up a disproportionate number of this country's soldiers.

If this is true, and I don't care enough about color to check it out, I don't see why it's a problem for volunteers. Americans of whatever race did a great job in the Gulf War and Afghanistan and from all I hear are well-trained to do a great job anywhere.

But in Vietnam, when poor kids of both races were more likely to be drafted than the college-deferred white guys, it was a disgrace; and it is good for us to remember this.

Vietnam, however, should not be used as a place to start this discussion. That war was worse than undeclared, it was undefined; there seemed to be no commitment at the top to winning it, and the soldiers at the bottom didn't get the support they deserved either from Washington or many people back home.

Volunteers, draftees and the American people were lied to throughout the war by politicians and the likes of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. (I almost met him once, when he was in studio with talk-show host Jerry Williams just before I joined Jerry for my segment. I left the building until he was gone.)

So many young men dead and maimed because of politics, because of lack of understanding of our military mission, because of lies. We had the draft, which provided the cannon fodder, so why bother to have a mission statement, fight to win, or justify the day's news?

There was no patriotic reason to enlist once it became clear that the civilians leading the war effort were no patriots themselves. They didn't have to defend anything, just draft a few more able bodies, knowing these bodies -- unless they were able to obtain a college deferment, had rushed into marriage or moved to Canada -- had to show up for basic training. It was insane.

I was a Navy wife for most of this period, arguing against the draft with professional military men who were the best and the brightest, who were where they wanted to be, because it was their calling. I can't imagine a more important calling, or a more outrageous violation of everything they stood for than to have a slavery-based draft.

Rangle is right in that if anyone is drafted, then all should go. But he meant to bring an end to the discussion, and to what might be a just and necessary war that he doesn't happen to support.

A draft would also cause chaos in the armed forces, since present military leaders have made it clear that they don't need conscription, and professional military volunteers have made it clear that they don't want to be burdened with people who don't want to be there.

The real problem is those people from both ends of the political spectrum who think it would be good for "our youth" to be forced to "serve" in some capacity.

OK, I'll play. Everyone goes to war, or to pick cotton, or to "serve" in some capacity determined as worthy by Big Government. Let's start with those politicians, talking heads and columnists who are promoting this bright idea.

Not wanting to risk the lives of volunteers who might be serving next to them in the field, I'd have the mandators leave their jobs and family to serve food in the mess, wash uniforms in the laundry, or clean the latrines.

Let the soldiers soldier; let the intellectuals who decide what's good for the rest of us dig holes.

Not to take this personally, but my son chose a career working with juvenile offenders. Other young people decide to be doctors, plumbers, nurses, construction workers, telephone repairmen -- performing all those other tasks necessary to keep the world turning. Yet some elitist geniuses think they could make a better decision for each of our kids.

Congressman Rangle wasn't serious about restoring the draft. But the society-organizers are always serious about sorting people into little groups of draftees and slaves who "serve" some Big Government plan. They are the ones we need to go to war against, and fight to the bitter end.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

For another view on "The Draft" and "mandatory national service," see Chip Ford's column, "'The Draft' is a misguided program in a free society," published by The Boston Sunday Herald on June 28, 1992.

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