Mark Shields has been busy peddling his bring-back-the-draft idea {"Bellicose Hypocrites," op-ed, Nov. 2}, breaking George Will's old record for quoting himself in the process. He has been hailed by the TV issues-show punditocracy as a deep thinker for having pointed out that most Washington decision makers are not on close terms with soldiers or Marines.

Mr. Shields's giddily praised column is nonsense. And transparent nonsense at that.

We as a society hire police officers to risk their lives fighting criminals. We hire firefighters to risk their lives fighting fires. And we hire soldiers to risk their lives in defense of American interests.

To suggest, as Mr. Shields does, that the volunteer army is only for use during peacetime makes as much sense as suggesting that firefighters are only trained for those days when there are no fires. And to suggest that when fire -- or war -- strikes we should show our solidarity by grabbing people at random off the street and sending them into the inferno, when professionals are readily available is just bizarre.

No, my senator and representative may not know a lot of combat troops personally. And neither do I. I also don't know many firefighters, but I rather hope that when my house is burning, they'll rescue me just the same.

MICHAEL ROBINSON Midlothian, Va.