Paul Jacob

Volunteers! Hundreds of them! Each email streaming into my inbox carrying along with it the voice of yet another American citizen speaking out on the military draft. I hadn?t conscripted a single comment. Not one. Rest assured, there is no lack of patriotism--or diversity of opinion--among my volunteer readers.

Last week, you read what I had to say about a military draft and national service program. This week, readers sound-off on the draft--with my gentle comments, of course, as judge, jury and editor.

Reader responses were evenly split between support and opposition to the draft. That?s not surprising, since military conscription has always been highly controversial. During the Civil War, there was resistance to the draft across the nation, with riots breaking out in New York City. Prior to Pearl Harbor and World War II, Congress passed the first peacetime draft by only one vote in the House of Representatives--with a fist-fight on the House floor punctuating the controversial nature of the measure. After Pearl Harbor, the draft certainly wasn?t needed, but became an orderly way to process all the willing volunteers. More recently, the draft became the very crucible of resistance to the Vietnam War.

Many readers still think a couple years or more of forced military service might knock some sense into today?s young people. One gentlemen sums up the point of view expressed in many of the emails I received: "Serving in the military helps to discipline a person and in this country these days, discipline is sorely lacking."

Another reader said: "I could not disagree with you more. This country needs to return to the draft... This current generation, spoiled #@%&! brats, never had to work for anything. Just had it all handed to them."

This sentiment may indeed be difficult to argue with, but there is no reality behind it. More of this generation?s young people hold down jobs while also going to school and more volunteer in their communities than in previous generations.

Like a bunch of old fogeys, we can moan and complain about "today?s young people," but the facts suggest that the current generation stacks up just fine. [They better be good, we?ve left them an awful lot of our bills to pay.] Of course, the freedom of one generation should never depend on their ability to please other generations.

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.