Noel Koch's July 1 op-ed column, "Why We Need the Draft Back," painted a picture of protests in the streets and a divided country as forcing President Richard M. Nixon to push for the abolition of the draft. Mr. Koch then offered several reasons it might be good to reinstate the draft to increase the military manpower pool.
In World War II, this may have been valid reasoning. The problem with the draft during Vietnam, however, was that the law had so many loopholes that anyone with enough money or the right connections could avoid service legally. In effect, the draft law determined that the life of an English lit major was worth more than that of a truck driver in Iowa.
I agree with Mr. Koch that the country would be better off with a universal draft. What is needed, however, is a law that encompasses all able-bodied citizens. No deferments -- including for the sons of senators or daughters of presidents. (Good luck getting that through Congress.)
If the draft law in the '60s had no deferments, the Vietnam War would not have lasted six months, and we wouldn't be in Iraq today.
Noel Koch wrote, "If we are to fight elective wars, as we are told we must, we need more men and women on active duty."
True, but we should expand the armed forces, not reinstate the draft.
The United States has prided itself on its all-volunteer military, as it should. Volunteers are more effective and more engaged. Mr. Koch assumes that a draft will provide a "common civic grammar" -- and that militarizing the common ground of public discussion would be a good thing. Yet the military does not exist as a social experiment. Whatever social benefits they have brought to the United States at large, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard are fighting and defense units, not sociology laboratories.
If Mr. Koch is concerned by a lack of common ground among Americans, perhaps he could look to the Education Department instead of the Defense Department.
Regarding Noel Koch's argument for reinstating the draft:
When I was in advanced infantry training at Fort Ord, Calif., in 1969, I was one of only a handful of middle-class white draftees. I volunteered for stateside duty and was lucky enough to be chosen. Others in my unit had joined the Army Reserve, ensuring their safety at home. Few of the privileged in that era were drafted because they knew how to get out of it.
Let's think twice before restoring the draft as an experiment for national unity. Yes, our military is stretched thin. Yes, the threats today are real. But have our current leaders chosen well, wisely and truthfully? Are there better ways to protect U.S. interests and to ensure the safety of our nation? These are the questions we have to answer before we decide to force our children to pay such a high price.