Opinion: Playing the draft card

Chris Hampson

Chris Hampson

By Eric Naing

Iraq is in chaos. Much of Afghanistan is out of our control. Iran, Saudi Arabia and many other countries continue to support terrorism, and Osama bin Laden still is at large. President Bush is losing the War on Terrorism, and in order to “stay the course,” a national draft likely will be needed in this country.

When it comes to the draft, we have a choice in this election. Sen. John Kerry brings with him the credibility to gain the support of our allies and the wisdom to avoid a foreign policy of pre-emption. President Bush, on the other hand, brings with him a failed foreign policy that he vows to continue.

While it might not get much coverage in the news, the possibility of a military draft has become one of the most pressing issues in this election. Many fear that if Bush gets re-elected, a draft will be inevitable. To allay these fears, the president made a concerted effort to mention his belief in an “all-volunteer army” during Thursday’s debate.

Problem solved. The president promised there would be no draft so we can all rest easy, right? Wrong. First, taking the president’s statements at face value has become a losing bet these days (weapons of mass destruction, anyone?). Second, if we continue at this pace, there seems to be no choice but for the Army to enact a military draft sometime in the foreseeable future.

Our military has been stretched dangerously thin. Defying the advice of General Eric Shinseki, Bush invaded Iraq with an understaffed army. Today, large portions of Iraq remain under the control of the insurgents. Elections in Iraq still are questionable and are perpetually being delayed in Afghanistan. To secure these countries, more soldiers will be needed.

Unfortunately, the Army has exhausted almost every alternative measure to keep troop numbers up. Bush already has turned to the Army Reserves and the National Guard to maintain adequate troop levels. Almost half of the troops currently serving in Iraq come from temporary forces.

The Army has extended the time members of the Reserves and the National Guard must serve in Iraq. Extending tours of duty for soldiers has made military service increasingly unpopular – contributing to a 9 percent decline in the Army’s recruitment rate last year.

Stop-loss orders also have been issued, which force soldiers to stay in the military past their unit’s deployment period and up to 90 days after they return home. Many consider this a back-door draft that unfairly forces soldiers to serve longer than they originally agreed to.

In July, Bush began calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserve. These soldiers tend to be older reservists who have been off active duty for a considerable time. They are supposed to be summoned only during national emergencies.

Most recently, the Bush administration announced a massive reorganization of troops. It pulled out soldiers stationed in Europe and in the Korean peninsula – shortening rotation times in order to temporarily inflate the Army by 30,000 soldiers. The move is risky, especially at a time when North Korea poses a heightened threat.

In order for the president to continue his reckless foreign policy, he will need more troops. In light of his refusal to admit his mistakes, the possibility of a draft becomes almost certain. If Bush is re-elected, a draft could become an unavoidable reality. The only element holding the president back at the moment is the fear of losing votes in an election year.

A draft affects everyone: leaders, soldiers, parents and children. Is it really worth it for Barbara or Jenna Bush to die for this war? Is it worth it for me or you? The soldiers currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have earned my highest respect, but are their lives worth securing Najaf? They should not have to die for a war that each day becomes more of a mistake and neither should anyone else.

Eric Naing is a junior in LAS. His column runs Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]