Thursday, July 01, 2004

As radical essayist Randolph Bourne said in 1918, "war is the health of the state". It wasn't a complement but a warning, for then and for now.
In fact, there are few good arguments against the draft and a surfeit of good ones for restoring it. The most obvious is that we do not have enough men and women in our armed forces. Reliance on reserves and the National Guard is creating strains along the socioeconomic spectrum and is not an endlessly sustainable expedient. If we are to fight elective wars, as we are told we must, we need more men and women on active duty.

But there are other good reasons to return to the draft. . . .

The draft furthered the work begun during the Civil War. It advanced the business of making us one people. The draftees may not have liked being pulled away from the careers that awaited them and being thrown in with people they probably wouldn't have associated with otherwise. But over the two-year span of their service, there were sea changes. The disaffected became the committed, became leaders who demanded the best of others and especially of themselves. They saluted with a snap indistinguishable from any other.

. . . the nation also needs a draft because it is one proven mechanism to bring unity to our rapidly separating parts.


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