Monday, November 20, 2006

Discussions on the Draft ...

All signs indicate a Bush Administration (and possibly Baker Commission) move to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and, perhaps, Afghanistan. Hence, an important question is posed: where do the troops come from? American troop levels worldwide are already stretched thin, creating a challenging redeployment soup with a plot as thick as a chess game. Enter NY Congressman & soon-to-be House Ways & Mean Chair Charles Rangel (D-NY) struggles to make a confusing point in his repeat push to reinstate the draft. Here he plays the ultimate "devil's advocate," as they say (although, we don't see why anyone in Congress right now wants to play such a game with a policy issue as freshly heated as this one).

We prefer a Rangel push to discuss how the Administration, in all of its lacking wisdom, proposes to enhance troop presence with little global troop force to begin with, particularly as matters heat up in the Asian theatre with North Korea and China. That's a very legitimate discussion worthy of an aggressive political push to further eat away at the Administration's lost credibility on this war. But, legislating the draft makes the political climate for Democrats much more precarious than they need it right now. Rangel isn't even Chairman, yet, and he's already jumping the gun. But, we see his point: reinstating the draft makes the war much more personal for lawmakers who have the convenience of completely detaching themselves from decisions on the war. No longer is it a war disproportionately engaged by African Americans, Latinos, poor Whites and others with few options at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Suddenly, it's a war for everybody to think about.

Which is why you can make the argument (as we have before) that perhaps public opposition to this war has never really been strong enough. We see public opinion polls showing wide dissatisfaction with the war - but do we really see it in the streets the way we saw it during Vietnam. American opposition to the war is based mainly on the war's unpleasant direction and our inability to win it - it's not so much that Americans dislike the Iraq War because it was wrong and morally twisted to execute in the first place, it's because Americans don't like to see themselves lose. That implies Americans would support this immoral war if there was a perception that things on the ground in Iraq had changed for the better. If we had a draft, we're willing to wager that American disillusionment would transform into American disgust on principle. In many ways, the war promotes an interesting balance between our consumer culture-induced comfort zones and "that war in the Middle East."

Our point here is that American opposition to the war is not really all that principled. It's self-serving and globally arrogant. Kudos to Rangel for seeing that. We're just not sure he's going about it the right way. It's not a ridiculous proposition to discuss the draft, for it is always a possibility - if it wasn't, we wouldn't have a Selective Service System.

And it's not ridiculous for public servants to also propose that, perhaps, it's time we all think about public and community service on a larger level. We feel Rangel on this point:

''young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals,'' with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.