Melvin R. Laird [“We don’t need a draft,” Washington Forum, Feb. 22] listed reasons why returning to a military draft would be a mistake, but he missed one very good reason why we should do it anyway: It will help keep us honest.
During the depths of the Iraq war, recruiting quotas were met by lowering standards and increasing compensation. Waivers were granted (not just for misdemeanor but also for felony convictions), bonuses were hiked and the maximum enlistment age was raised from 35 to 42. This allowed some to maintain the fiction that there were no problems with the “all-volunteer force” and that the nation was behind the war.
Standards and compensation should be set at levels required to staff the military with suitable resources. If, however, a time comes when sufficient numbers of volunteers fail to materialize, a draft should be instituted. Giving voters and politicians a reason to believe that they, or their sons and daughters, might have “skin in the game” would help them reflect more acutely on whether to go to war.
Michael Lilek, Bethesda
Melvin R. Laird’s commentary brought to mind some of the notable benefits the draft provided to our country and those who served.
As someone who served in the military during both the draft and all-volunteer eras, I have seen the tangible benefits that the draft provided to those who didn’t go directly to college — instilling responsibility, discipline, self-esteem, pride in one’s appearance, respect for authority, a sense of duty and direction. The military provided people with skills equivalent to those required for civilian jobs such as mechanics, policemen, plumbers, medical technicians and air-traffic controllers. The draft gave our country experienced, knowledgeable legislators who were better prepared to make decisions about military defense matters. And the G.I. Bill afforded many veterans the opportunity to earn a college degree, which bettered society.
Although most draftees, enlistees and officers couldn’t wait until their service commitment was up, they would later acknowledge the benefit of their service and how proud they were of having served their country. Mr. Laird is correct that the all-volunteer force has been successful, but it does lack some benefits of the draft.
John V. Daley, Ellicott City
The writer is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant.