There's a sign on the horizon, no bigger than a man's hand, that there's a military draft in the works. The Defense Department has announced that Selective Service is making preparations for another draft, "in case one is needed." The New York Times in an inane editorial pleads with the president to articulate a goal for the war that if it "was clear and comprehensive and people understood how to reach it, then Mr. Bush could . . . even bolster the desperately straitened military with a draft if Americans understood the need to sacrifice."
If the editorial writers of the New York Times are talking about a new draft that would send young men and women to die in the deserts of Iraq fighting crazy religious fanatics, then the idea is certainly being whispered about in the upper echelons of American society. A draft would not be proposed before the election -- if it were, Bush would be wiped out in a landslide. But a wise person would not bet against the draft being proposed next January.
What in the world is the Times talking about? Why should Americans sacrifice for the Iraq War? Not by the wildest stretch of the imagination can one seriously argue that the war in Iraq is to defend vital American interests. We found that there were no weapons of mass destruction there and no connection with al-Qaida or the Sept. 11 attack. The only issue seems to be whether we can impose democracy on Iraqis who don't seem seriously to want it or to prevent a civil war that will happen anyway as soon as our army leaves. Americans are supposed to accept the need to sacrifice their unwilling sons and daughters to fight for such absurd goals?
There are many authoritarian liberals who have a kind of illicit romance with the draft. Young people owe their a country a part of their lives, even their lives itself (not their own sons and daughters' lives, of course). Military service is good for you, some veterans insist. It will make a man out of a drifting late adolescent. What it will do for a young woman remains to be seen -- probably teach her how to live in a world where rape is commonplace.
Building up the army with a draft will serve only the needs of the Bush administration to "win" a war. Gen. Eric Shinseki, then-chief of staff of the Army, said that 200,000 would be needed to pacify Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld made fun of him in public. Now the Defense Department seems to be engaged in remote planning for a draft army that will be much larger.
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How many men and women, it must be asked, will be required to pacify Iraq and to turn it into a freedom-loving democracy? How long will it take, how many lives must be sacrificed to protect the honor and the legacy of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and their crowd of imperialists?
Doubtless it will be argued in favor of a draft that we all must make sacrifices for a war on terrorism. It might be better if one sent men and women in their 40s to fight in a foolish, unjust, immoral, criminal war. It would be good for them. They'd have to lose weight and get back in physical condition.
Bush has made "the war on terrorism" a mantra to cover everything his administration has done. But the Iraq war has nothing to do with the war on terrorism, as we now know. It was a plan of Cheney and Rumsfeld and their coterie of "neo-conservative" intellectuals (like Paul Wolfowitz) long before they came to power. It was supposed to make the United States a major power in the Middle East; to provide a democratic alternative to the typical Arab autocracy; to give the United States control of major oil fields; to take pressure off Israel, and to establish that the United States was a superpower that could go anywhere in the world and do anything it wanted. The "war on terror" was only a pretext to implement this plan, as accounts of the early White House reaction to the Sept. 11 attack seem to indicate.
Does one have to say that none of these goals have been achieved or can be achieved?
I wonder why Sen. John Kerry sounds so much like Hubert Humphrey in his support of the continuation of the war. I hope at least he makes opposition to a new draft a major issue in the election.