Rangel and others have claimed that conscription is necessary to ensure that our military more closely resembles the "economic makeup" of our nation. The Congressman from Harlem has said, "for those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance." But the allegation that the current war is being fought -- and that casualties are disproportionately suffered -- by poor, urban, minority males simply isn't substantiated by the racial, ethnic, economic and educational data available.
Despite denigrating comments like Sen. Kerry's "If you don't study hard you get stuck in Iraq," today's soldier, sailor, airman, Guardsman and Marine is better educated than his civilian counterpart. And according to the Department of Defense, the overwhelming majority of military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq -- nearly 74 percent -- have been white. Hispanic/Latino deaths make up about 11.5 percent; blacks account for less than 10 percent. Yet, the overall U.S. population of more than 300 million is 14 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.
In nine trips to cover our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq for FOX News, I've never heard a single officer or non-commissioned officer in any branch of our armed forces advocate returning to the draft. That's because they know that today's all-volunteer force is smarter, better educated, trained, equipped and more combat-experienced than any military in history.
Our troops are so good because the standards for admission are so high -- standards, history has shown, that it would be impossible to keep with conscription. According to the GAO, "at least half of today's youth between the ages of 16 and 21 are not qualified to serve in the military because they fail to meet the military's entry standards for education, aptitude, health, moral character or other requirements."
Reinstituting the draft would inevitably require that these standards be lowered. We've made that mistake before. In the late 1960s President Lyndon Johnson implemented what he called "Project One Hundred Thousand" -- a program that forced the military to accept draftees who would otherwise have been rejected.
That program was a disaster and a modern draft would be as well. Most sensible people in Washington know that, but it hasn't stopped some of them from promoting the idea to denigrate the war effort and the motivations of those who voluntarily serve our country. The idea of a draft has so far received a chilly reception, but cynicism is alive and well on Capitol Hill.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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