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Archive for Sunday, April 25, 2004

Hitting home

The current conflict in Iraq may not be another Vietnam, but talk of renewing a military draft stirs some painful memories of that era.

April 25, 2004

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Nothing will test this nation's resolve to pursue the war on terrorism more than talk of reinstating a military draft.

Some observers say the need for American troops in various locations around the world have shown that the U.S. military is stretched to near-capacity. Reserve units have been called up, and tours of duty have been extended, but some suggest the nation may soon find that more troops are needed.

That, logically, leads many people to consider the possibility that an all-volunteer military force may not be enough and U.S. officials may have to reinstate non-voluntary service, the draft.

Although military and government officials have been loathe to discuss the possibility, Sen. Chuck Hagel R-Neb., raised the issue Wednesday. It's not fair, he said, to continue to make middle-class and lower-middle class Americans fight what could be a 25-year, "generational" war. A draft would ensure that the burden of battle was spread over a broad spectrum of America.

The term "generational" has some interesting significance here. The baby boom generation largely represented the children of the "Greatest Generation," those who fought in World War II and supported the war effort on the home front. The nation, however, didn't experience the same patriotic fervor when it sent many members of the baby boom generation off to fight in Vietnam.

Rather than lying about their age in order to enter the service, as many did in World War II, many baby boomers sought deferments and even left the country to avoid the draft. Many veterans of World War II didn't want to see their sons serve in Vietnam. Ironically, many of the children of those baby boomers now would be among the generation that would participate in a revived draft.

That isn't likely to occur soon, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who said Thursday there is no need at this time to reintroduce the draft. The United States has ample troops, active and reserve, to meet the current needs, he said, and many jobs within the service could be filled by civilians.

The headline in Friday's Journal-World that stated "Students cool to return of draft," comes as no surprise. Like the generation of Vietnam, this generation of teens would prefer peace to battle.

Most military people would say the same thing. People join the military not because they love to make war but because they want to preserve peace. Military service is an honorable pursuit and, even Americans who don't fully support U.S. policies nonetheless support the troops who defend those policies.

The lists of fallen soldiers that now are coming out Iraq are a sobering reminder of the realities of war. The names and ages reveal that many of those killed had not yet reached their 20th birthdays. They died honorable deaths, but the losses will test the resolve of those at home.

It has been said that the American public hasn't really been called on to make any noticeable sacrifices for the current war effort. The loved ones of the almost 700 military personnel who have died in the Iraq conflict certainly have made a sacrifice, and renewal of a military draft would spread the pain and reality of the war on terrorism across the nation in a way that it couldn't ignore.

It is an important battle, but the American public should demand that its leaders use their human resources wisely and take their losses seriously. The people on the casualty lists are more than numbers and whether they are volunteers or draftees, the soldiers who fight, and perhaps die, for this cause should never be taken for granted.

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