Do you feel a draft? I do. Every day I read the news, and there are more troubles to report. United States casualties in September are already higher than they were for August, and I am growing more convinced that something has to give. The United States is running out of soldiers to send to Iraq, and if the U.S. is going to stay there it will need to find new troops to dodge the car bombs. I see no alternative.
There are bills before Congress that could reinstate the draft for everyone between 18 and 26. Yes, everyone. In this draft, both men and women could be sent together to fight and possibly die in a far-off place.
Further, unlike Vietnam, college deferments will not be available. The United States has also negotiated an agreement with Canada that will close the border to draft resisters, including those who want to avoid service in Iraq.
Will these bills become law? Who can say; but let me make this clear: the supply of troops is going to run out. The Pentagon has already extended the tour of duty for 21,000 soldiers who were scheduled to leave Iraq. In addition, National Guard units from Michigan have been told they must stay in Iraq for a full year. How long these sources can be drawn on is anyone’s guess, but certainly there is a limit that will at some point be reached. One day, the soldiers will have to be allowed to go home. Although that time can be extended, within a few years it will likely be reached.
While the casualty list increases, thousands of soldiers are becoming unfit for combat due to injury. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that as many as one out of six soldiers returning from Iraq suffer some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. Certainly some of these people will be able to return to duty, but how many? As long as the United States is involved in active military operations inside Iraq, there will be a need for soldiers to carry out the mission. But where will they come from?
The guard and the reserves have already been sent to Iraq in large numbers. Fifty-five thousand guard and reserve troops are already in Iraq, more than a third of the total troop strength deployed. More guard and reserve units have been called to active duty than for Vietnam, the Cuban Missile crisis, Bosnia, Kosovo and the first gulf war combined. “One weekend a month, my ass” has become the motto of some of the reserves. Remember that advertising pitch? Well, it’s not like you can sue for false advertising. I’m sure that somewhere there’s a paragraph stating the above is null and void in the event of a war.
The bottom line is that the troops are likely to run out before the war does. If George W. Bush is reelected, there is every reason to believe that U.S. armed forces will be fighting the “war on terror” for years to come. He will need troops, and he will get them.
Who will he get? Maybe you, my fellow Temple student. Regardless of how the personnel needs of the Pentagon are met, it is safe to say that those who are highest on the economic ladder will escape the burden. It may not be the same kind of draft that was in use before 1973, but you can bet that something will be done.
Likely, it will be some form of economic draft. Do not be surprised if in the near future student loans are tied in some way to military service. It will be sold as a wonderful way for those who otherwise cannot afford higher education to finally be able to attend the college of their choice.
Do you feel a draft? You should – it’s just around the corner.
William Lodge can be reached at Wlt1959@aol.com.