Once again, like the proverbial bad penny, Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) is filing yet another "bring back the draft" bill. His motive is transparently clear, and one he's repeatedly stated: by forcing people into the military, he hopes to end the war in Iraq -- and any future military entanglements.
The sheer dumbassery of Rangel's plan transcends so many different levels, it astonishes me.
First up, there's the treatment of the military as "punishment" or "obligation." We had that for a very, very long time in this country. It was Rangel's own ideological predecessors that pushed so hard for mandatory military conscription to be ended over 30 years ago, and (as much as it pains me to say so) they were right. By converting to an all-volunteer military, we (after some tough teething pains) ended up with the world's finest, most professional, most capable, most efficient, military. Those who serve today see their service as a privilege, as an opportunity, and not as a burden. Rangel's plan would devastate that, and bring back the days of the professionals having to deal with hordes of new "recruits" that want nothing more than to get the hell out of service.
Second, there's the incredibly convoluted legal situation it would bring about. Think our society is lawsuit-heavy now? Wait until would-be draftees get their hands on the legal system. Watch for whole classifications of people declared legally ineligible for the draft, for a horde of newly-discovered "disabilities" and "conditions" and "circumstances." The ACLU will have to triple its staff just to defend those who have suddenly discovered that they aren't fit for military service, and the government will spend even more money trying to enforce Rangel's folly.
Third, the military is doing all right right now for recruits. They have had good months and bad months, but overall they're hitting their quotas. And the re-enlistment rates are going fine -- in fact, the troops serving in Iraq are re-upping at a higher rate than those outside the war zones.
Finally, Rangel betrays his fundamental prejudices and anti-military beliefs with this move. The primary function of the United States Armed Services is to defend the United States and our interests. Their primary tool for that is force -- either violence, or the threat of violence. They are not social workers or institutions for societal change or useful tools for social causes, and to attempt to do that with them is not only incredibly inefficient, but diminishes their ability to carry out that primary function. (See Clinton's Follies in Somalia and the Balkans for examples.)
Rangel is turning into a Johnny One-Note on the issue of the draft, and it's a sour one.
The one redeeming feature of Rangel's fixation with bringing back the draft is that it might -- just might -- keep him from other mischief, now that he's the chairman of the powerful House Ways And Means Committee. But I have little faith in that; he strikes me as the kind of man who can simultaneously engage in a whole host of bad ideas, all at once.
(And before anyone asks, no, I'm not going to discuss my own military service or lack thereof, nor my own eligibility for any draft. As flattered as I am by the attentions of those who bring up such things, this is not about me. I could be a triple amputee with five Purple Hearts and two Medals of Honor, or a 19-year-old who would score 1-A with the draft board, and my points above would be just as valid. So just get over me, will ya?)