Paul Jacob

The holiday season is a magical time when fantasy can become reality. Nevertheless, let’s hope one frightening fantasy conjured up by Representative Charles Rangel of New York, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina and David Broder of the Washington Post never becomes a reality.

Politicians Rangel and Hollings have introduced legislation to begin forcing young people into either civilian or military service to the federal government. Columnist Broder has apparently been named head cheerleader for the campaign.

As the great Daniel Webster once exclaimed, "Forbid it, Almighty God!"

Most observers feel the country is unlikely to return to a military draft, especially going into an election year. For all the aging armchair enthusiasts, the draft has never been popular public policy.

Moreover, the performance of America’s All-Volunteer Force--regardless of how one feels about the foreign policy being pursued in Iraq or elsewhere--has been exemplary, unrivaled, awesome. Whether our politicians have a clue, or not, they have arguably the best military in the history of the world to help carry out their brilliant or banal policies. Both a scary and reassuring fact.

TIME Magazine certainly noticed: naming the American soldier their "Person of the Year 2003." The designation is well deserved. "It is worth remembering," observes the magazine, "that our pilots and sailors and soldiers are, for starters, all volunteers, in contrast to most nations, which conscript those who serve in their armed forces."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the All-Volunteer Force "a special thing that this country has."

One has to wonder then: what is the argument for fundamentally changing a military that is performing so spectacularly?

"[I]f we are going to send our children to war," Congressman Rangel wrote in The New York Times, "the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice." Rangel’s concern is not military victory at the lowest cost in lives; it is "fair" death counts as measured by race and economic status.

Furthermore, the correct principle is the one underlying the current All-Volunteer Force: Free men and women will defend their freedom. And, additionally, that precisely such a life and death decision should not be compelled by the government in the name of "shared sacrifice," but made from one’s own conscience.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.