Incoming Ways and Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, has proposed to reinstate the draft in an effort to strengthen and diversify the U.S. military.
Rangel’s proposal – which if implemented would have a profound effect on college students – comes at a time when approval for the war in Iraq is lower than ever.
“If this war is the threat to our national security that the Bush Administration insists it is, then the President should issue a call for all Americans to sacrifice for the nation’s defense,” Rangel said in a statement. “If there must be a sacrifice, then the burden must be shared fairly.”
Rangel introduced a similar bill in 2003, which was shot down by the Republican-run congress in a 402 to 2 vote.
Rangel’s plan would not allow those who are in college to be exempt from the draft. The Army currently offers signing bonuses of up to $40,000 and benefits as high as $73,000 for college; if a draft were reinstated, benefits like these would not be offered.
Some CSU students, like senior civil engineering major and former Marine Cody Hix, say reinstating a draft may be a good idea.
“I think if the military needs more people, then they should reinstate a draft,” Hix said.
But the 110th Congress, convening in January, will be run by Democrats, a fact CSU political science professor John Straayer says is not conducive to a draft proposal.
“The democrats are not interested in making Americans mad,” Straayer said. “This would be a politically risky situation. They are just not going to do it.”
Rangel argues that politicians would think differently about the war in Iraq if it were their children fighting it.
“I believe it is immoral for those who insist on continuing the conflict in Iraq, and placing war on the table in Iran and North Korea to do so only at the risk of other people’s children,” Rangel said.
Some say Rangel’s proposal comes as an effort to stir debate about who fights wars versus who starts wars.
“Rangel is trying to make a point,” said Bob Lawrence, a retired CSU professor of political science and former member of the U.S. Air Force. “It is just a social comment.”
Rangel’s argument is given some weight, Straayer says, because the military is overwhelmingly comprised of lower income and minority citizens. According to a demographics survey done by the U.S. Army, 23 percent of enlisted Army recruits are African American – where as only 13 percent of the total American population is African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Yes, the military is voluntary, but the facts remain that it is disproportionately made up of a low income non-white population,” Straayer said.
Congressman Rangel points out that in New York City, 70 percent of military recruits in 2004 were African American and Hispanic and from low-income neighborhoods.
“If a congressman’s kid was to get drafted, that would have an interesting effect,” Hix said. “I’m sure it would have something to do with how the war was run.”
Many have compared the war in Iraq to Vietnam, but Vietnam was fought by a drafted military, which Rangel says brings the war home.
“A lot of Americans hardly know a war is going on, at least in terms of personal sacrifices,” Lawrence said.
A draft would make the war a much more prominent part of the lives of Americans, he added – which is Rangel’s primary argument.
“(If there were a draft) you would see opposition like you haven’t seen since Vietnam,” Kyle Ballew, a senior construction management major said.
The huge impact the draft had on Americans – particularly young Americans – during the Vietnam War played an integral part in its end.
“If there was a draft, I wouldn’t mind going and serving my country,” Eric Kaan, a senior computer engineering major said. “But I don’t see a need for it.”
But not all students would be so willing to serve in the military.
“I would run,” said Joshua Smith, a junior marketing major. “I would go to Canada because I don’t believe in (the war).”
The U.S. military continues to be thinly spread, and has only recently begun to fulfill recruiting goals set by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Army fulfilled recruiting goals by 101 percent in fiscal year 2006, recruiting 80,635 new boots. The Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force all achieved 100 percent of their goals. And the Army National Guard was at 99 percent of their goal.
Meeting such recruiting goals comes after some branches, namely the Army, have lowered certain recruiting standards, widening the scope of who can become a soldier. The Army, the largest branch of the U.S. military, revamped its advertising campaign to be called “Army Strong” this year, in hope of attracting more soldiers.
And with 145,000 troops in Iraq and no end in sight, the U.S. military must continue to address the need for soldiers.
Debbie Cannon, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Denver, says students like Kaan and Smith shouldn’t load up their Alice Packs just yet, though.
“There is no indication that a draft is likely,” Cannon said. “Senior leadership in the White House and the Pentagon have stated that the all-volunteer force is meeting the manpower needs of the Department of Defense, and that a draft is not needed at this time.”
Army recruiting officers and the CSU ROTC program declined to comment.
“Rangel doesn’t have a prayer,” Lawrence said. “We are not going to have a draft.”
Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*23 percent of enlisted Army recruits are African American
*13 percent of the U.S. population is African American
*The Army gained 80,635 new recruits in fiscal year 2006
*There are currently 145,000 troops in Iraq
*In 2005, the Army sent 93,000 soldiers to basic training. Of those, 11,500 received moral waivers
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, The Office of Army Demographics and the U.S. Census Bureau