Bush has no choice but to reinstate draft
President Bush may or may not have a secret plan to reinstate the draft. But this is beside the point. The deteriorating facts on the ground in Iraq, plus the Bush doctrine of acting pre-emptively and unilaterally against hostile regimes, will soon leave him no choice. If President Bush is re-elected, he will have to restart the draft.
Indeed, President Bush has already imposed Stage 1 of a new draft. Many soldiers whose enlistment period is up are not being allowed to leave the service, and those who left the service years ago are being forced to put on the uniform again against their will. It is clear that we already have a backdoor draft.
President Bush has effectively ended the all-volunteer military.
And Stage 2 of a reinstated draft would be easy to implement. Draft boards are already in place in every county in America, and young men who turn 18 are already required to register with their local draft board. A major terrorist attack could easily serve as the pretext for flipping the switch and setting this apparatus in motion.
It is obvious that our armed forces are stretched dangerously thin.
We do not have enough people in uniform to meet current needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less to deal with a confrontation with Iran or North Korea.
Right now, total active Army and Marine personnel number about 655,000, and that includes support units, training units, headquarters personnel and others who do not see combat. In a long, drawn-out war like Vietnam or Iraq, units sent to the front lines have to be rotated out periodically and replaced by an equal number of forces.
Currently, we have 135,000 troops in Iraq, 20,000 in Afghanistan, roughly 100,000 in Asia, and more than 100,000 in Europe. Our armed forces have been strained to the breaking point. To fill the gaps and shortages, tens of thousands of National Guard soldiers and reservists have been called up.
But there is a cost to all of this. Morale is suffering, as evidenced by the recent refusal of an Army Reserve platoon to carry out an order. Enlistments and re-enlistments are down. The Army National Guard fell 10 percent short of its 2004 recruiting goal. The regular Army has had to ease up on standards in order to meet its recruiting goals.
What if all-out civil war breaks out in Iraq, and we have to increase our troop strength to 200,000 or 300,000 to quell it? What if a newly re-elected President Bush decides to act pre-emptively against Iran, Syria or North Korea?
Today, people are hesitant to join the National Guard or reserves because of skyrocketing odds of being sent into combat or kept away from family and a job for a year or longer.
So where would Bush get the manpower to pacify Iraq while pursuing the next phases of his doctrine of pre-emptive, unilateral war? There is only one viable option: a reinstated draft.
It is probably too much to expect President Bush to acknowledge this before Election Day. But we would do well to remember when President Lyndon Johnson was running for election in 1964. Voters were afraid that he had a secret plan to escalate the war in Vietnam.
He denied it, repeatedly promising, “I will not send American boys half way around the world to do a job that Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
Johnson was re-elected. And sure enough, millions of American boys were drafted and sent halfway around the world to Vietnam. More than 17,000 of those draftees got killed in combat.
Today we have good reasons to fear the return of the draft. George W. Bush may have avoided the draft when he was a young man. But if reelected, he will not be able to avoid the draft as President.