Could YOU be drafted?

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

The draft is something most college students have never really had to worry about.

Sure, if you’re male, you signed up for selective service along with everyone else on your 18th birthday, but the draft hasn’t been in use since the 1970s, when politicians realized that sending men who had not enlisted to Vietnam wasn’t winning them any popularity votes.

But now, with American casualties again becoming a topic on the evening news, the draft is creeping back into discussions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It may be necessary to return to the draft. Recruitment with the all-volunteer military right now is reasonably good. Many fear that if the economy improves that recruitment may be much, much more difficult,” said Dr. Robert Burns, a distinguished professor of political science.

This time around, those for the draft have two main arguments. Some argue that not all are being asked to make an equal sacrifice, while others argue the numbers of people in the military are not sufficient.

The debate about the draft has made its way to Congress, where a representative from New York named Charles Rangel has brought the debate back.

While most Americans haven’t discussed the draft in years, Rangel believes that the draft should be reinstated without the typical exemptions for university students.

Rangel’s reasoning is that in the typical military, the number of soldiers from ethnic minorities and low-income backgrounds is substantially higher than soldiers who are white and from middle to upper-class backgrounds.

Rangel, who is African-American, believes that bringing back the draft and not allowing college students to be exempt would be a good way to make sure all make an equal sacrifice.

“If you look at the socio-economic makeup of the volunteer military and the ethnic makeup, it doesn’t appear that all are being asked to make an equal sacrifice,” Burns said.

But while Rangel’s arguments may spur debate in Congress, there is no grassroots support for a draft, as Lieutenant Colonel Richard Raunchey of SDSU’s Air Force ROTC program points out.

“The all-volunteer force has served the United States well. … I’m not sure there’s a need,” Runchey said.

SDSU students talked to for this article didn’t seem to think reinstating the draft was a good idea, indicating that Rangel’s arguments have no real popular grassroots support – at least in eastern South Dakota.

“I don’t like the draft,” said freshman microbiology major Laura Weyrich. “If it’s needed, you have to go and there’s no way around it. I think we should use voluntary methods before it’s reinstated.”

Runchey also believes that Rangel may be trying to win political points by bringing up the draft debate as more and more young men and women from America’s inner cities die in Iraq. While Rangel’s arguments may not be popular here, they are likely to be more popular in downtown Detroit, for example.

However, some have questioned whether the military has the numbers to be able to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come.

Recently, Time magazine calculated that 140,000 forces are on the ground in Iraq keeping things stable there. Assuming the Department of Defense does allow most National Guard members and reservists to go home after a year, Time estimates that only 40,000 soldiers will be able to be in Iraq next year at this time.

To be sure, more NationalGuard units could be activated and those who have been placed on reserve (like the one based out of Mitchell) could be sent to the Middle East.

But many wonder if these numbers will be enough. While some think a real crunch in numbers will come next year, it seems more likely in the year 2005 or 2006, according to Time’s calculations.

“We are starting to spread our active military personnel rather thin and we are being required to rely more on the activation of National Guard and reservists,” Burns said.

In this case, Burns believes there will be a real discussion over whether the old exemptions applying to university students, who tend to be affluent and white, should stand.

In addition, if equality does become an issue, Burns believes there could be another discussion over whether women should be included in the draft.

Should all this happen, Burns thinks the draft will be unpopular with American voters and that it may become a political problem.

“I don’t think any young person likes the idea of being subject to an involuntary draft. You lose control over your own destiny and that’s a rather frightening prospect,” Burns said.

Runchey believes there is no reason for concern. He said that the Department of Defense has never mentioned that there may be a need for a draft and has indicated that those who signed up voluntarily will be more than enough to keep Iraq and Afghanistan secure for the foreseeable future.

“Is the force stressed? No doubt,” Runchey said. “But is it to the point where we’re not going to meet our worldwide requirements? No.”

Regardless of what happens, it seems the draft will return politically – at least as a subject for debate – in the next few years.

The answers to that debate will affect everyone on this campus for years to come.

#1.886792:2726170609.jpg:draftdeally.jpg::#1.886791:1323046906.jpg:DraftPhotoIlustration.jpg:Photos from wars past conjure memories of a time when college age students could be drafted into the military whether they wanted to fight or not.: