There has been a lot of talk about the draft going on in the blogosphere for the past couple of days.
The origin of it is New York Democratic congressman Charlie Rangel, who has offered draft legislation now for several sessions of Congress.
Rangel's motive is that he sees a disproportionate number of poor people in today's military, people for whom the military is probably the only option they have to escape a life of poverty. He also sees very few of his colleagues on capitol hill with kids in the military. So Rangel's idea is simple. If everyone in Congress had to stand a chance of their own sons and daughters winding up dodging snipers in Baghdad, they would not be so quick to vote for war.
Of course, Republicans, devoid of any ideas that appeal to most people under thirty, were quick to find a target and bash Rangel and hold out the specter of a draft (well, what else would you say to them if you had the GOP's record on everything that young people are concerned about from privacy issues to college financial aid? A good scare might be about all the GOP has to offer them anymore).
What this has done though is stir up debate about a draft and that may not be a bad thing (though a draft itself most certainly would be a terrible idea.)
For example, here is one problem that will make conservatives uncomfortable and which is related to a draft: They will have to figure out what to do when they implement a draft and millions of young people come forward and confess to being openly gay in order to dodge the draft. If they send them anyway then they have shown their whole argument about keeping gay people out of the military as affecting combat readiness, to be a farce. If they don't, then the draft itself will be a farce since it will have a hole in it big enough to drive a truck through.
Another problem that this has brought up again and related to education is legislation which was passed in 1980 to deny people who did not register for the draft college financial aid for the rest of their lives. This was done to punish anti-draft activists, but in fact there were very few of them. What it has caught up, in large numbers, are thirty-something men, who were often in a drug induced haze during high school and didn't bother to register because they didn't give a darn about anything. So now fifteen or twenty years down the road, they are paying child support to three women, working at a dead end, low wage job, and finally decide to get their act together and bam, they are blocked by this law. Sooner or later we as the state end up helping pay for their kids because dad isn't sending enough money, because dad doesn't make any money.
And Rangel does make the point about 'shared sacrifice,' especially pointedly to his congressional colleagues. OK, so what about those Congressmen and other members of the elite?
They've got kids, yes. But they are in the words of a song, 'privileged sons.' Rangel feels that the true costs of war, whether the costs in lives that is being borne by the young men and women now in uniform, or the costs on dollars that have been passed on to future generations to pay for while today's greed-crazed fat cats wallow in a sea of tax cuts while the country borrows mightily to pay for their party--have been hidden. He says that those costs have simply not been shared. And he is right about that. In order to sell a failing war policy, the Bush administration has made sure that none of the costs of war will come home in any way at all for most people, especially most wealthy people. Of course the costs will come home-- we can't wish them away, but by then the Bush administration will be out of office and the chances are their successors will be blamed for high taxes and budget cuts as their taxes go to pay for the debts that are now being run up and government is squeezed dry on the other side of the ledger.