Proposed military draft enlists no support

In 1969, Francis Kelly was prepared to go to Canada to avoid the United States military draft.

He even traveled to Montreal before the draft and stayed for a week to find out what it would be like.

“I wanted to know if I would be all alone,” said Kelly, 55, of Lawrence. “I wouldn’t have been. There was a network of people helping.”

Kelly recently recalled those days when the war in Vietnam raged on and this nation was divided on what to do about it. Talk of a draft to supplement the U.S. military was resurrected two weeks ago as the country fights a war in Iraq that is becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public.

Kelly did not go to Canada. When the draft lottery occurred, his number – 357 – was so high that he was sure he never would be called to serve. He wasn’t.

“I was very relieved when I got that number,” Kelly said. “I had been a ‘hell no, we won’t go’ kind of guy right from the beginning. Both of my parents served in World War II and they were against it.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., suggested reinstating the military draft as a method of deterring politicians from launching more wars and bolstering troop levels for possible future military action against Iran or North Korea.

Rangel noted that minorities make up a large number of enlisted members of the military, and suggested that the duties of military service should be shared among all classes.

He introduced similar legislation in 2003 that would have established two-year mandatory military service. In 2004 the measure was defeated in the House by an overwhelming vote of 402-2.

Kelly doesn’t think there is much of a chance that today’s young Americans will have to ponder the choices he did nearly 40 years ago.

“I don’t really like the idea of a draft, but I think he’s trying to make a point and it’s a good one to make,” he said of Rangel. “I don’t think it would be that popular politically.”

Kansas congressional representatives agree with Kelly. None wants a draft reinstated or thinks it is necessary.

“I have opposed legislation to reinstate the draft because a volunteer force is more effective and less expensive than a draft system,” said U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan.

He also noted there does not appear to be broad-based support for the idea.

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., said he does not favor a draft and thinks it is unnecessary because of strong re-enlistment rates.

“It is very telling that one of the first priorities of Democratic leaders after taking control of Congress is to talk about reinstating the draft,” Ryun said.

Nancy Boyda, a Democrat who defeated Ryun in the Nov. 7 election and takes office next year, said she does not favor a draft.

“I think what he’s actually trying to do is make the point there is not enough of a shared sacrifice right now,” Boyda said of Rangel. “What he’s trying to do is make sure there’s a conversation about shared sacrifice and about how dangerously thin our troops are stretched. I do respect the man for at least having the guts to bring up the situation.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a former Marine and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, does not support reinstating the draft.

“The all-volunteer force works well and compulsory military service would fail to benefit our citizens, our military or the nation as a whole,” Roberts said.

Incoming Democratic leaders in the U.S. House, including the next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, have also voiced opposition to Rangel’s proposal.