Alan Reynolds

 Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska recently invited the country to debate reviving the military draft. "Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said. But not all of our citizens are between the ages of 18 and 26, and it is they and their families who would pay the entire price of involuntary servitude.
 
Before the Iraq war began, Rep. Charles Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft (H.R. 163). In a New York Times op-ed of Dec. 31, 2002, Rangel wrote, "If we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice."

 Personally, I'm offended by the collectivist notion that "our" children are national property to do with as "we" (the government) decides. In any case, it is obvious nonsense when Rangel and Hagel pretend that people who cannot possibly be drafted will "share the sacrifice" with those who can be drafted. The draft falls only on those between the ages of 18 and 26 who are ineligible for the inevitable deferrals. Their families bear a secondary burden.

 Those with no children or older children can only share in the sacrifice under the current system, where they are compelled to pay taxes to recruit volunteers. Under a volunteer army, the burden is largely borne by mature people with relatively high incomes, since they pay the income taxes. The point of conscription is to replace the incentives of attractive pay and benefits with the cheaper option of brute force. Dan Rather recently opined that if the U.S. is at war, "we can't do it on the cheap." But doing it on the cheap is what a military draft is all about.

 Sen. Hagel argues that conscription would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face." Rep. Rangel likewise claimed the U.S. would be less likely to go to war if soldiers were drafted rather than adequately paid. Hagel introduced a bill to permanently increase the size of the Army by 30,000, which he estimated to cost $3.9 billion. Defense has not asked for that, nor is there any reason they should.

 The number of military personnel in Iraq is about 130,000, or 9 percent of the total on active duty. A September 2003 count showed nearly as many in Europe (117,910) and Asia (99,862). The oddity of keeping so many U.S. troops in Germany (74,796) and Japan (40,519) suggests a lack of awareness that World War II and the Cold War are over. But surely we could easily find 30,000 spare soldiers from a few of the 130 countries in which we stash troops.


Alan Reynolds

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