I HATE TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO, but….
I warned in these pages almost four years ago that Rep. Charlie Rangel’s efforts reinstate the draft could result in women facing conscription. Now Rangel has removed all doubt that this is his intention.
The Washington Post reports Rangel has vowed to re-introduce “a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42” this year, after he takes over as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rangel introduced a draft measure in 2002, in a transparent attempt to hijack President Bush’s foreign policy prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although that bill did not specifically include women, I noted President Clinton’s treatment of the military as an instrument of feminist social policy may leave women eligible for mandatory busfare to Parris Island. Clinton removed the “risk rule,” trained females for aviation combat, and allowed eight women to receive training in Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition squadrons (RSTAs), which one general declared “directly meets the Department of Defense definition of ‘direct ground combat.’” This and other PC tinkering undercut the 1981 Rockster v. Goldberg decision, which barred women from being drafted precisely because they were ineligible for such combat roles.
Now Charlie Rangel proposes to legally remove this barrier, apparently under the pretense that the most effective weapon the Army is lacking in its war against global terrorism is middle-aged housewives.
Of course, Rangel’s proposal has nothing to do with military strategy, much less the effectiveness of the armed forces, which has never been a leftist cause. Since changing to an All-Volunteer Force – under President Nixon – retention rates of first-time enlistees have increased 500 percent. The Reagan administration estimated returning to the draft would add another $1 billion to an already busted budget – more than $2 billion when adjusted for inflation. (Those presently campaigning as “Reagan Republicans” but who favor national service plans may wish to revisit this statistic.) Costs will soar with an ever-replenishing supply of untrained youth to drill and equip. Unable to reject underqualified applicants, conscription would fulfill Rangel’s vision of the military as a refuge for disproportionately poor, minority, and uneducated youth. With no desire to stay in the military and every incentive to be discharged, breaches of discipline – even fragging – are likely to rise. And all these considerations overlook the gross individual liberty embodied in a peacetime draft called in lieu of a looming conventional war.
Luckily, this bill will never be implemented, and Rangel makes little illusions about his cynical motivations in tendering the plan. This is his attempt to erode support for a war in progress, as he forthrightly admits. “There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way,” Rangel told CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday. He made similar promises in 2002, a theme picked up by Michael’s Moore’s Farenheit 9/11.
This bill is not a serious policy alternative. The president has stated his opposition to reviving the draft, and the Democratic Left lacks a veto-proof majority. This is an attempt to revive the blatant fearmongering that surfaced in the 2004 campaign, when such Democratic heavyweights as Harold Ford Jr., Howard Dean, and Max Cleland insisted President Bush would reinstate the draft in his second term. Dean told the first-time voters of Brown University, “I think that George Bush is certainly going to have a draft if he goes into a second term, and any young person that doesn't want to go to Iraq might think twice about voting for him.” The Bush-is-Hitler Left spread the rumor throughout the fever swamp blogosphere. So demagogic was this attack that when the Republican Congress brought the draft bill up for a vote in October 2004, Rangel himself voted against it. Only two leftist Democratic Congressmen voted in favor of reviving the “blood tax”: Pete Stark and longtime draft advocate Jack Murtha.
Rangel hopes to whip up fears among less-informed younger voters that President Bush’s Iraq War will rip young mothers – or not-so-young-mothers – from their homes and family responsibilities; force them to fight Sunni “insurgents,” al-Qaeda fighters, and al-Sadr loyalists in Fallujah; and subject them, upon capture, to vicious sexual assault and/or beheading. (These are the very benefits the Left is otherwise assuring women are their rights and privileges under the Constitution.)
It is the lowest form of cynical politics, transparently manipulating U.S. troops for partisan advantage: a dishonest charge to lay at the feet of one’s political foes and a prescription for national disaster if sincerely enacted. In this, it perfectly reflects the spirit of the Left and much of the incoming Congressional leadership.