Your letters about the draft are becoming more charged with emotion. Let me share a few snippets with you.
From a father: "I have one son who would be required to register now and another son a year behind him, so I am following the debate with special interest. I think that if a draftee were required to serve for six years and a volunteer for only three, it would seldom be necessary to draft anybody."
From another father: "I favor universal service. When young people reach a certain age, they should enter a training program. No exceptions, no deferments except for those who are totally incapacitated. Even people with serious physical handicaps have demonstrated they can do useful work."
From a young man: "The selfishness of your generation is shameful. You want me to fight your battles for you. I have a better idea. Let's start drafting everybody who is older than the average age for congressmen or columnists, 60 or 70 or whatever it is. I'd like to see how much enthusiasm you old guys would have for a draft under those rules."
From a retired Army major: "I am sickened to hear about rebellious young people who are motivated solely by self-interest and are blind to all else. They have a constitutional right to spout their defiant slogans only because young men made of stouter stuff fought and died by the thousands to make us free and keep us free. If the preservation of that freedom now depends upon these traitorous cowards, God help America."
From a young woman at the University of Maryland: "I can tell you right now that many young men will refuse to serve, and some are already making plans to go to Canada and elsewhere. They love life and have much to live for. They can see no point in losing their lives over oil, or to defend the profits of big business."
From a Falls Church businessman: "I am not a patriotic fanatic, but an American flag has flown in front of my home every day since I moved in. The reaction of my neighbors at first was, 'What's the special occasion?' On Memorial Day, when the flag is at half-mast, I still get questions like, 'Who died?' People are ignorant of the protocol by which we show respect for our flag and love of our country."
From a woman in Chevy Chase: "I have been an ardent worker for ERA because I felt that women need a clear-cut legal basis for their struggle to be accepted as equals. Now we are being told that if we want equal rights we'll have to accept equal responsibilities, like being drafted.
"Many of my friends are against the draft because they abhor war and oppose anything that prepares us to fight a war. I disagree with them.
"I, too, abhor war, but I recognize that it would be foolhardy to permit ourselves to become weak and defenseless. That would be the surest way to invite aggression. Nevertheless, I am not willing to serve in combat. I am not afraid to die; I am just not willing to kill. I can picture myself as a noncombatant ambulance driver, clerk, messenger or nurse, and I realize that noncombatants can be killed just as dead as a fighting man at the front. But I don't want to have to become a killer to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed."
I agree. I support the principle of equality, but I would not want to send women into combat.
I am attracted to the suggestion for "universal service," with no hanky-panky that would give special treatment to VIP families.
The need for greater preparedness seems clear enough. The Soviet Union's lust for power and world domination give us little choice.
Khrushchev said, "We will bury you," but we paid as little attention to him as we had previously paid to Hitler's blueprint for German expansion. If we don't prepare to defend ourselves this time, we may never again have the luxury of an early warning.
The suggestion that we old guys ought to be drafted may be a good one. We're not much good at forced marches or at galloping up San Juan Hill on horseback, and in rough terrain an old man would be a liability. But modern warfare requires other capabilities, too, and older men could serve well in many assignments.
The problem with drafting us would be more economic than physical. Older men tend to have more dependents, and their wives may no longer be able to go back into the job market as easily as a younger woman can.
On the other hand, some of us old geezers have more endurance -- or more willingness to endure -- than the 19-year-olds have, and I think we'd give a reasonably good account of ourselves.
And some of us would have a significant advantage over 19-year-olds. We'd have a better understanding of why it is preferable to die fighting than to live in slavery. We wouldn't have to waste so much time and energy getting our heads on straight.