Bring back the draft

[This opinion is a counterpoint to Dennis Hitzeman’s Land of the free.]

I have always been against the concept of building the military through a draft. My selfish reasoning stemmed from the fact that I desperately wanted to avoid military service.

I never saw myself as Government Issue material. I am an only child who spent the better part of his formidable years lost in some crazy fantasy world of becoming a professional football player or a rock star. I always knew I would not fit into a world of sheets that bounced quarters and heavily starched collars.

My selfish cowardice aside, a good argument exists for the reinstatement of the draft. The frontlines need the numbers. The global war on terror exists on two fronts at the moment, but an expansion does not seem too far from the realm of possibility. Another conflict could stretch our armed forces beyond their breaking point. The sheer need for numbers makes the argument relevant.

My point cuts deeper, however. I believe we have grown too far apart from our service men. We may honor and pray for them, but they are distant faces, sheltered from the public’s view until State of the Union addresses or ceremonial first pitches. We see them as soldiers rather than humans. They become Staff Sergeant Smith or Captain Jennings rather than Billy from down the street.

The draft brought wars into neighborhoods. Rather than knowing a friend of a friend who volunteered for the Navy, the soldiers were plucked from our high schools and churches to be put on the frontlines. The war had a face, and the sacrifice hit home. People felt the effect of the causalities, rather than flipping past a cable channel that broadcasts 30 second blurbs about the latest victim of an IED attack in Afghanistan.

A volunteer military may seem like the way to go, but the reason we buy into it is selfishness. If a young man or woman volunteers to risk his or her life defending this fragile concept of freedom, we are not required to examine the consequence of putting those brave souls in harms way – at least not like we would if they had come from our neighborhoods. They volunteered, after all. They knew what they were getting into.

Military families deal with these consequences every day. Parents worry about children in warzones. Wives and husbands raise children while constantly fearing their spouse might not make it home. That burden should not be shouldered only by these families. We all should carry that weight.

I am not suggesting that people no longer care enough about the troops. I believe there is genuine concern for our fighting men and women. I just think the focus of the discussion about war in this country has shifted from worrying about the lives of our children to a more politically motivated atmosphere.

Some people in this country would protest war no matter what. Al Qaida could bring the frontline to the St. Louis Arch and some would still call to stop killing the terrorists.

Likewise, there are also people who believe the best foreign policy comes through the crosshairs of a rifle. They say attack the enemy before they attack us.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

War is terrible and should only be waged when all other options have been exhausted. However, there are situations that can not be solved across a negotiation table. There is no universal answer about when to use military force, but the debate should not hinge on political party lines.

The draft may not solve all the problems we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the debate has moved too far from the proper focus. The decision to go to war should not be made by a small group of politicians.

The decision – and responsibility of that choice – belongs to us all.

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