Edited version published as lead “Opinion” the CTBulletin, March 28, 2012 & “Opinion” Litchfield County Times, March 29, 2012 as "It's Time to Reinstate a Universal Military Draft"
The attendant horrors of war were brought home once again by the cold blooded murder of seventeen Afghan civilians by Staff Sergeant Robert Bales last week. The poor bastard was on his 1,195th day of his four long deployments in a war against an ill-defined enemy armed with improvised explosive devices doing its best to kill you. No wonder he snapped, but it wouldn’t have happened had we had reinstated the draft.
When war was raging in Vietnam, I dodged the draft. Unlike George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who gamed the system by finding safe harbor in the National Guard or using multiple questionable deferments, my dodge was based on the luck of the draw, the lottery. But I did not skate home totally scot free. I participated in a small way: I served as the Chairman of a local Selective Service Board so the burden and danger of service was always before me, while I safely sat the war out.
Once we “won” the Vietnam War, the draft fell victim to peace. In 1981 the Joint Chiefs of Staff convinced the President to reverse an earlier decision reinstituting the draft. The all-volunteer peacetime force was all that America needed in the absence of war. What a crock of shit. I invite you to access Timeline of United States Military Operations compiled by the Committee on Foreign Affairs @
A quick perusal will convince you that we have been in a continuous state of war since then. There are four pages of single spaced military operations identified. Here are only the highlights: 1982-1983 saw deployment of troops in Lebanon; 1983 witnessed Operation “Urgent Fury”, the invasion of Grenada; Operations “Nimble Archer” and “Earnest Will” [1987-1988] were Iran/Iraq/Kuwait precursors to the 1991 Operations “Desert Shield” and “Desert Shield”; at the same time we were deposing Noriega and invading Panama; operations “Provide Promise” and “Deny Flight” with NATO in Bosnia; and of course more than a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, with side trips to Yemen and Kosovo.
The Civil War [1861-1865], the First World War [1917-1918] and the Second World War [1941-1945], our major wars were brutal but mercifully short. We have now been in a state of actual war for more than 30 years. Our “all-volunteer peacetime” military has been stressed to the breaking point as witnessed by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, Haditha and now the Kandahar massacre.
In those earlier wars soldiers were deployed for a short time. Even then stress proved too much for some. In Viet Nam, another war of limited deployment, stress proved to be the trigger to atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Deployments such that Sergeant Bales endured must end.
A universal draft for all, regardless of sex, must be reinstituted immediately. It will save our military and it will bring sanity and a clear perspective to our goals and the price we are willing to pay in achieving them.
First, it will end the deployment of our troops for extended tours of duty sure to result in war crimes, instances of post-traumatic stress disorders and suicides which will haunt us for years at appalling cost. Second, it will assure that there will be a continuing influx of civilian sensibility into the military preventing the installation of a dehumanizing killer culture. Third, it will assure that those who commit our men and women to combat will face the fact they their sons and daughters will be among those doing the fighting and the dying.
Last and not least, it will get us out of Afghanistan, Iraq and possibly Iran now, not later.