If you had told me five years ago that I would consider supporting a draft today, I would have never believed it.
The volunteer army has done an exceptional job for the United States. Drafting young kids who are not interested in serving in the military is an option that is less than desirable. So, why I do think the draft is a very viable idea right now?
There are several reasons. But the first -- and most important -- is that it gets everyone invested in our foreign policy. Wars that we start cease to be far away video games fought by people we don't know. It's one thing to be for a first strike against Iraq or Iran when you know you don't have to fight it; it's another thing entirely when you'll be on the front line.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., has suggested that we would have never gone into Iraq if we had a draft. He might be right. All the loudmouths who were so brave from the comfort of their couches and their television studios might have thought differently if it was their lives or their children's lives that hung in the balance.
We might never know whether we would have attacked Iraq if we had a draft. But one thing is for sure: we certainly wouldn't be considering attacking Iran right now. Seymour Hersh is reporting in The New Yorker that the vice president's office is actively lobbying for a military strike against Iran, even after the disaster in Iraq. Imagine how Americans would react -- after you sent their kids to die for no reason in Iraq -- if you now told them you were going to do it again in Iran. Let's just say less than favorably.
The problem right now is that we don't all share the pain. It goes all to the volunteer army. And I have heard many Americans -- mostly conservatives -- say over and over that the kids who sign up for the military knew what they were getting into. It almost sounds as if they're saying, "They had it coming." This is an ugly way to justify senseless wars.
People often ask why there were so many protests in the streets during Vietnam and there are very few on Iraq. The answer is very simple. Because all those people in the protests during the Vietnam War could have been drafted and sent off to die in that conflict. Since that's not possible in the Iraq War, people protest comfortably from their living rooms. They're concerned but not personally involved. Once again, it's not their ass on the line.
The draft might even affect policymakers' decisions on a personal level. Would President Bush have been so excited to do a first strike against Iraq if he knew his daughters were going to be on the front lines? Would he have been as stubborn to "stay the course" if it meant keeping his daughters in Iraq for a couple of more years? Would he even consider sending his daughters to Iran after they survived Iraq?
Come on, be honest with yourself. Even if you're a diehard conservative, do you really believe George W. Bush and all the politicians would have made the same decisions if it was their kids' lives that hung in the balance?
The draft also has some hidden benefits, one of which is it brings the country together. Literally. It brings people from all across the country to the same place to work on the same mission. Young people from diverse backgrounds -- geographically, economically and ethnically -- come together to work on the same project and learn from each other. I think we are underestimating how much that binds a country together.
Of course, they don't have to come together just in wartime. It's hoped we can have a draft and not engage in senseless wars like Iraq. Young people can serve their country, grow together and be actively engaged in our foreign policy decisions. Also, we have to keep in mind that Rangel is not suggesting that every person drafted be forced to serve on the front lines. His proposal includes serving your country in other ways as well. We want to have a sensible policy that serves the needs and talents of different individuals.
Given all this, there is an excellent chance that a draft could lead to a stronger, more connected, more united and wiser country.