There was a time when I thought that this was a bad idea, however I’m not so sure now.
The arguments Rangel make are good ones – the military needs more people and those that make the wars might be less likely to start voluntary imperial ones if they knew there was a decent chance of their kids finding themselves in the line of fire. The fact that he has proposed this twice in the last three years before now to have it rejected by the Republicans makes me suspicious that the latter reason strikes home in some.
Rumsfeld et al. have long defended the “all-volunteer” force without actually explaining that “volunteer” actually meant “for the poor with no other way out”. The “all-volunteer” force effectively isolates the governing and ownership class from bearing personal responsibility for rash or poor decisions, so from my own way of thinking, in some ways a draft is not a bad idea.
It’s not a bad idea, but it won’t work.
Should a draft actually occur, many of the wealthy will naturally find cosy deferments as did Bush the Lesser and Cheney the Anal Cyst, and there is no reason to believe that many in Congress or the White House would actually have to face the tearful farewell Rangel threatens. Also, resistance to the draft is one of those touchstones that unites the youth in a way that I’m quite sure the government would like to avoid. Resistance to the draft galvanized American youth against the war in Vietnam because the consequences were very real for them and I don’t think the Republicans, which at the best of times turns everything they touch to shit, wants to go near this issue with a barge pole, and I’d be really surprised if the rank-and-file Democrats would either.
As for the immediate problem, the under-staffed military, there is an easy solution staying within the framework of the all-volunteer force – raise interest rates a point or two. The actual fact is that there is nothing “voluntary” about the “all-volunteer” force – kids sign up when there is no other pay cheque available or when there is no other way to get to university or college. Raise interest rates and kill the economies of a few small towns and I guarantee the doors of the recruitment centres will swing wide and often.
Of course, the US economy is a precarious beast right now, and I’m not so sure that the effects of voluntarily raising interest rates would be controllable or even predictable. But then again, when did that ever stop these clods?