Staff editorial: Draft brings compassion into war debate

“I believe that if those calling for war knew their children were more likely to be required to serve – and to be placed in harm’s way – there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq.”
-Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in a New York Times editorial

On Oct. 11, 2002 Congress approved the use of military force against Iraq if it does not comply with United Nations weapons inspections – but many in Congress, as well as many students, do not fully digest what it means to “use military force,” or, in other words, go to war.

Rep. Charles Rangel, who voted against the Oct. 11 resolution, has proposed reinstating the military draft, this time to include women. At first glance it would seem that reinstating the draft is synonymous with a pro-war stance, but make no mistake, Rangel’s primary motive is anti-war.

Rangel’s approach is the most unique anti-war strategy in recent history – using the draft, usually a symbol of war, to make the picture of war more real to those who would support it. Pro-war students should grasp the message Rangel is sending out – war is not just a game played by heads-of-states, it is real and real brothers, sisters and friends will be killed.

“A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war,” Rangel wrote.

Very few members of Congress have children in the armed services and if they did, maybe they would be less likely to support President George W. Bush in his movements toward war. Military service is increasingly becoming the burden of the less advantaged.

The consequences Rangel wrote about primarily apply to minorities and the disadvantaged in the United States. For instance, blacks only make up 11 percent of the population, but make up 22 percent of the enlisted military force. Rangel, through his draft proposal, is attempting to make war seem less like a video game happening thousands of miles away and more like the human tragedy that it is.

The sacrifice of war to protect the United States should be shared among ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups, but this is not the case. At the same time, it is hard to expect bright-eyed, affluent teenagers to opt for military service over the pampered GW experience, which makes the draft seem like the only answer for demographically representative military.

Students need not support reinstating the draft, but they should consider the implications of a draft when deciding their opinion about war with Iraq, North Korea or even on terrorism.

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