TCS Daily

Rethinking the Military

By Frank Sensenbrenner - January 22, 2003 12:00 AM

Representatives Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI), and Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) recently introduced legislation to reinstate the draft. They argue that due to the inequity of the present system, public policy is insulated from the sacrifices inherent in any conflict. However, they propose to return to an antiquated system that's inappropriate, and perhaps harmful, to current conditions.

Today's draft fits yesterday's military. While the draft was appropriate for a force relying on overwhelming numbers in Vietnam and Korea, contemporary battle relies on technical and intelligence superiority. Any draft would suck a large portion of the talent pool available to business and government into the military. National service programmes in Europe recognize this, but the Selective Service system does not. In Europe, national service can be performed through working for civilian institutions deemed in the national interest, or for other governmental arms. In addition, with a tech-heavy force, could the military even make use of a flood of conscripts?

The draft, however, ignores the discrepancy of capabilities of an incoming class, and instead of utilizing its resources optimally, blindly allocates all resources to one branch. In addition, a national service program would ignore the current question of women and gays in the military, as they could fulfil obligations in other ways. However, any such program would be riddled with exemptions, and draw resources from other sectors equally useful in the war effort. Instead of placing individuals in jobs most suited for their qualifications, the draft lumps together all eligible into combat service, when some of them could be more useful in occupations peripheral to combat.

Concentrating on technology during a war is not counterproductive. The overwhelming technological advantage the United States Forces possess springs from private-sector research. The 'smart bombs' and other space-age weaponry are not governmental constructs, but the fruits of a healthy economic system. History shows that research and development can save lives (as in the Manhattan Project), as well as improve our capacity to wage war. Today's Bletchley Parks are not found in Washington DC, but in Silicon Valley. Conyers and Rangel also ignore the strong role intelligence plays in war. While Bill Donovan's OSS was an army branch in World War II, the CIA has followed it. Therefore, a draft might harm our intelligence analytics, as potential recruits would serve in the military instead, despite the military's dependence on CIA information.

The apparent inequity of the draft leads to strong resistance, as well. While the last draft abounded with loopholes such as student deferments, today's has none. That is, except for women, gays, and other categories the military does not want in its ranks. However, it is ludicrous to believe that such people can't either help the war effort, or help the military. If Claudia Kennedy can achieve the rank of general, why don't women serve? Given that these groups can claim the same legal rights as those eligible for the draft, why don't they have similar obligations? The systematic exclusion of any group would undermine the idea of a 'joint sacrifice'. While the Supreme Court in Rostker v. Goldberg opined that women should not have to register for the draft, the opinion repeatedly references the combat role of the draft. In today's litigious society, if the present draft system is reinstated, expect a lawsuit.

It's cynical to believe that the Rangel-Conyers bill aims to improve the military. It is incumbent on any individual in stewardship of lives and liberties to maximize his resources. Currently, the military functions well with an all-volunteer force, and is supported by civilians in industry and government. Rangel and Conyers claim that the disproportionate number of minorities in the services is unfair, but with an all-volunteer force, it seems rather easy to question their credibility. The draft, as is, ignores our capitalist society by concentrating all our resources into combat. Today, logistical, intelligence, and technological advantages will win the war, not human waves.

TCS Daily Archives