Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris’s The Case for the Draft (March) is a valuable contribution to the debate over ameliorating the military manpower crisis. I believe, however, that the conscription proposal and its alternativethe military or civilian service requirement for admission to a four-year collegeneed a lot of work before they might be practical.
As Carter, a former Army officer, knows well, there’s no such thing as a two-year enlistment, as the article seems to imply. Under current law, all initial enlistments are for eight years. The portion of the eight years not served on active duty remains an obligation for reserve service: if not in a unit, then in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). This continuing commitment, which many of my fellow reservists have found is no longer pro forma, would need to be retained in the authors’ plan. Indeed, an extended reserve service commitment is the whole point of their plana massive surge capacity of troops in reserve to quickly augment the active-duty force in times of emergency.
If there’s political resistance now to a wholesale call up of reservists, imagine how much more there would be if most reservists were conscripts or collegians who will have served their two years, and who will be extremely reluctant to return for a wartime deployment (possibly being yanked out of the four-year college they’d already served two years on active duty just to get into). We might end up with a much larger but less well-trained reserve component comprised of soldiers far more resistant to being deployed than those we now have. Under the proposed serve-if-you-want-to-go-to-college plan, class tensions in civilian life would likely be exacerbated because a four-year college degree would become a six-year degree (with the first two spent peeling potatoes, emptying bedpans, or patrolling the streets of Baghdad), leading the college grad cohort to consider itself even more of an elite than it now does. (Let me also point out that the nation’s four-year colleges are unlikely to support this planto put it mildly.)
New York, N.Y.
It is about time someone outside of the enlisted ranks said this! I served in uniform for 26 years, on active duty and both active and inactive (ready) reserve, and was medically retired in May 2002. The draft that you outline is excellentI see the need for just two changes in policy for it to work properly:
1. The military must change its attitude regarding sexual orientation. (The current in country shortage could have been eliminated by simply not discharging the 7,000 to 10,000 gay troops who have been let go because of don’t ask/don’t tell.) If everyone who wants to go to college must serve, then there can be no restrictions on who may serve. I served as an out gay soldier for most of my career, and there was no reduction in unit cohesion in any unit that I served in. In fact, most of my fellow soldiers were supportive, and none ever had any problem taking orders from me.
2. Bring back the conscientious objector status. When I first joined the Army, I enlisted as a conscientious objector. I was able to serve in a non-combat military occupational skill (MOS).
I served as an administration specialist for all of my 26 years, but President Reagan removed the conscientious objector status for military personnel. Many troops in support positions left the military at that time.
I write to take exception with the article by Daniel Franklin and A.G. Newmyer III (Is Grover Over? March). The authors claim that the No-New-Taxes stance is losing in the states, yet they draw their conclusions by conveniently omitting trends that counter their argument.
While Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s proposal to raise taxes took many by surprise, the House of Representatives quickly rebuked him by passing a no-tax-increase budget. Beyond Indiana, the authors indicate that the pro-taxpayer movement is losing steam. Wrong: For the past three years, taxpayers have clearly rejected tax increases at the polls, in Virginia, Alabama, Oregon, California, Seattle, Vermont, and Washington State. In the 2004 primary elections, taxpayers ousted a significant number of tax hikers, in North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nevada, and other states.
The article correctly states that the fight now moves to Virginia but exaggerates the goals of the pro-taxpayer movement. Defeating only one or two of the tax hikers would send a clear enough message. In fact, taxpayers have already scored two victories: Sen. Ken Stolle was denied a chance for higher office, and Del. James Dillard folded under pressure and resigned.
The current number of signers of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge is not 1,200 but 1,247, and more than 90 percent of them kept their commitment last year. This year, too, tax increases have already been defeated. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi shored up support for his No-New-Taxes position in the state Senate, and a Pledge signer single-handedly killed a tax increase. Lawmakers in Kentucky took to heart the concerns of taxpayer groups, and a previously flawed and tax increase-laden budget now looks revenue neutral.
The pro-taxpayer movement in the states may not be quite as far along as the movement at the national level. Pledge signers in Congress (currently 222 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 46 senators, and President Bush) have made sure that no tax increase has been passed in a decade and have secured four tax cuts in four years. Yet the movement in the states is clearly going in the right direction. The number of Pledge signers has increased from 773 in 1997 to 1,247 today, an increase of more than 60 percent. Mind you, Rome wasn’t built in a day, either.
President, Americans for Tax Reform
I read with interest the article The Worst Job in Washington (by Daniel Franklin, March). The real question is why does the FEC need to audit the campaigns of those who lose? The danger of money in politics is that the candidate, when in office, will give favors to the donors to the campaign. A losing campaign does not have this problem. Eliminating audits of losing campaigns would save money and time and eliminate the worst job in Washington.
Although he is junior to me in years, I yield to no one in my admiration for the superior wisdom of Charles Peters in every field of human endeavorwith several notable exceptions. One is his strange fixation on reviving the military draft, despite the obvious pleasure that such a move would bring to the gang of adventurers now populating the White House and the Pentagon.
Another strange fixation is his belief in overworking young professionals despite the obvious losses in productivity and even human lives (remember Libby Zion?) caused by such behavior.
I must admit that, in my work life, I frequently put in 60-hour workweeks. But I never forced my subordinates to do the sameprobably because I remembered a remark attributed to that noblest of men, Gen. George C. Marshall. When an apple-polishing young officer told Marshall that he’d worked long into the night to complete an assigned project, Marshall replied, Any officer who cannot complete an assignment within normal working hours should have that failure noted in his fitness report.
William M. Burke
San Francisco, Calif.
I am grateful for the kind words on our disagreement. I believe that if the sons and daughters of the influential served in the military, their parents would not support military adventurers in Washington. On overworking young professionals, I have always opposed the medical slave drivers. As for the rest, my views have become more benign. I hope Mr. Burke read my note on Marjorie Williams in our March issue.