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Published: 9/25/2004

Draft is part of a bygone era

TWO recent polls indicate the presidential race has tightened again to within the margin of error. John Kerry made it clear that this isn't true in a speech in Florida Sept. 22.

In response to a question after a speech in West Palm Beach, Mr. Kerry said President Bush might bring back the military draft if he is re-elected. This has become a theme among Democrats.

"There will be no draft when John Kerry is president," said vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

"America will reinstate the military draft" if Mr. Bush is re-elected, said former Sen. Max Cleland, a Kerry surrogate, in a speech at Colorado College.

"I think that George Bush is certainly going to have a draft if he goes into a second term, and any young person who doesn't want to go to Iraq might think twice about voting for him," said former Kerry rival Howard Dean at a speech at Brown University in Rhode Island.

Web logger Betsy Newmark said that college students at the University of Arizona have been getting an e-mail that says:

"There is pending legislation in the House and Senate, S 80 and HR 163, to reinstate mandatory draft for boys and girls (ages 18-26) starting June 15, 2005. This plan includes women in the draft, eliminates higher education as a shelter, and makes it difficult to cross into Canada.

"The Bush Administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections. The Bush Administration plans to begin mandatory draft in the Spring of 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election."

There are bills in the House and Senate calling for reinstitution of conscription. They have attracted a handful of sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

The bills are going nowhere, because the Bush Administration strongly opposes them, as do about three quarters of the members of Congress.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have said repeatedly that America does not need a draft to fight the war on terror.

"If you add up everyone we are looking for in the active forces, 1.4 million and the Guard and Reserve and the Selective Reserve and the Individual Ready Reserve, it's about 2.5 million. And all you have to do is alter the incentives and we can attract and retain all the people we need. We do not need to go to compulsion."

The draft is an artifact of a bygone era. We would sooner bring back the musket or the crossbow than the draft, because military leaders recognize the U.S. armed forces are the best in the world in large part because they are all volunteer.

During Vietnam, the IQ and education levels of the young men who were drafted into the Army and Marine Corps were significantly below the average for the youth cohort as a whole.

The men and women entering the armed forces today have intelligence and education levels far above the youth cohort as a whole. The "judge-motivated volunteer" is a thing of the past.

In the Vietnam era, morale in the Army was poor. Morale in today's Army is high, and it is out of sight in the Marine Corps.

The high technology military we have today requires bright young men and women to operate complex equipment, who are willing to serve long enough to recoup the cost of training them. A draft which would bring in the unwilling for too short a time to be useful would undermine this.

I do think we need a somewhat larger Army and Marine Corps to effectively wage the war on terror. But there is no reason to suppose we cannot recruit the 40,000-50,000 additional troops we need voluntarily, out of a population of 294 million.

Mr. Kerry's lie about the draft is of a parcel with Democratic claims to seniors that Republicans will end Social Security, or to blacks that Republicans will bring back segregation. It is as much a sign of desperation as it is of a lack of integrity.



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