It’s cold in here. Does anybody feel a draft?
Representative Charles B. Rangel just recently initiated legislation calling for the reinstatement of the draft. The Democrat from New York is also staunchly anti-war, but he figures that the folks calling the shots would be less inclined to pick a fight with Saddam if their wealthy children were called to serve.
The Bush administration and much of Washington seems very hesitant about starting a new draft – the last one ending in 1973. The U.S. military has gotten a lot smaller, with around 2.7 million currently in active and reserve duty combined. Even though the military isn’t what it was during the cold war, the brass claim it’s not the size that counts but how you use it. The proliferation of technology means a lot more video game-style warfare, where a joystick drops the bombs instead of a pilot.
But even with all the techno advancements, the military still seems desperate for new recruits, unleashing a whole slew of projects and teasers to help increase recruitment numbers, ranging from flashy advertisements to sponsoring a stock car. The Army’s website, www.goarmy.com, plays itself out like an MTV music video complete with rock music, flashy animations and a sleek design that makes you wonder how many third-graders will be sharpening sticks with their teeth instead of having high quality No. 2 pencils.
Some of the more interesting features on the website include video games geared toward providing teenage nerds with a taste of army life. American Army: Operations is a free-to-download, first-person shoot ’em up with 13 missions and as much army jargon as you can stand. The game is the brainchild of Colonel Wardynski, the director of the Army’s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis, and cost just over $6 million to produce. After going online about a year ago, it has become widely popular with high school audiences and tracked close to 1.3 million downloads since its inception.
Fans of the game have more to look forward to as well. The website boasts a new game coming soon, which can best be described as a mix between the Sims and Pauly Shore’s “In the Army Now.” It comes down to building and running your very own virtual solider through bootcamp – something that sounds as exciting as watching a vernal pool evaporate. Still, I’ll probably give it a try when it comes out. I can’t resist creating a soldier, naming him Lance and having him make passes at his commanding officer.
The military has also poured over $150 million dollars into television and movie trailers, portraying life in the military as something akin to an extreme sport. The “Army of One” slogan was born out of this push. This propaganda smacks of the stuff released by the government during the end of World War II and through the Cold War. If you’re interested, the documentary “Atomic CafŽ” does a beautiful job of showing just how sneaky Uncle Sam can be.
But even with all the clever tactics and flashy marketing, the numbers for U.S. military recruitment are still low – the services needs about 200,000 annually to stay even and expects to pull in only 73,800 this year. There probably won’t be a draft; no one seems to want it, including American civilians as well as those in the service. It’s much more likely that the military will remain on a volunteer basis and will continue to dump tons of cash into gimmicks and cosmetics to lure in warm bodies.
But if the draft does come back, I think I’ll change my name to Lance.
On a somewhat related note, Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame died two days ago. Contrary to popular myth, Mr. Rogers never served as a sniper during Vietnam. Rest in peace, you ruthless bastard; I will miss you anyway.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus opinion editor.