Two recent articles in the Nexus concerning the military draft have stayed much in my mind. One, “Army Recruitment Dangles Deceptive Bait” (April 9, Daily Nexus) frankly censures the military for foisting false promises. “The recruiters, local dupes themselves just looking for the opportunity to spend some time at home in exchange for ‘recruiting’ … extol the virtues of the American Armed Services, which they know are a load of crap. But if they sign enough people up, they get a bonus. So they use the same lines that got them into the military: ‘It will make you into a real man;’ ‘Your parents will be so proud;’ ‘Everyone will respect you;’ ‘You can pay for college’ and ‘There’s very little chance of you ever seeing combat.'”
Conversely, “Respect Our Troops Overseas; They’re All Grown Up Now” (April 13, Daily Nexus) earnestly reveres patriotic sacrifice and reflects popular sentiment. Notably, that in the military “an enormous number [of soldiers] never do see combat” and instead are “keeping the peace and aiding less fortunate nations around the world.” Also that “in other countries, young men may be forced to serve” while, in the U.S., “the draft is avoided because patriotic men … step up to serve their country.” High esteem is held for “American soldiers … who have sacrificed so much for the sake of their country.”
Interestingly, the two opposing views were written by women and the articles evidently regard the draft in its historic context – that is, as something mainly to do with men.
Both authors, and their peers, are on the brink of a personal brush with the “sacrifice” so highly praised by a presidential administration that, for the most part – with the exception of Secretary of State Colin Powell – sat out the Vietnam War while in college.
Twin bills S.89 and HR 163, also called the Universal National Service Act of 2003, are now pending in the House and Senate. This act requires all young persons age 18-26 to perform either military service in the armed forces or civilian service in U.S. Homeland Security – women included.
Unlike the recruitment during the Vietnam War, another new twist in this Bush-governed time of perpetual warfare is that evading the draft will be more complicated as college and Canada are no longer draft-dodging options. Canada is ruled out by a “Smart Border Declaration,” signed by Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and the director of U.S. Homeland Security in December 2001, whose 30-point plan includes a “pre-clearance agreement” of people entering and leaving each country. College deferment, too, is eliminated. Undergraduates can only postpone service until the end of their current quarter and seniors until the end of the academic year.
Using $28 million added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft, the Pentagon is quietly recruiting civilians to fill 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Next year, on March 31, 2005, the SSS must report to President Bush that the military draft system is ready for activation.
Mandatory military service for all persons age 18-26 – women included – will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of young Americans across the nation. The matter of war and peace is about to become very up close and personal.