Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

The Rolling Stone magazine is running the disturbing speculation that the draft will be making a comeback. This is bad news for all teens.

The Return of the Draft -
With the army desperate for recruits, should college students be packing their bags for Canada? - Rolling Stone

Desperate for troops, the Army has lowered its standards to let in twenty-five percent more high school dropouts, and the Marines are now offering as much as $30,000 to anyone who re-enlists. To understand the scope of the crisis, consider this: The United States is pouring nearly as much money into incentives for new recruits -- almost $300 million -- as it is into international tsunami relief.

"The Army's maxed out here," says retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, who served as Air Force chief of staff under the first President Bush. "The Defense Department and the president seem to be still operating off the rosy scenario that this will be over soon, that this pain is temporary and therefore we'll just grit our teeth, hunker down and get out on the other side of this. That's a bad assumption." The Bush administration has sworn up and down that it will never reinstate a draft. During the campaign last year, the president dismissed the idea as nothing more than "rumors on the Internets" and declared, "We're not going to have a draft -- period." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in an Op-Ed blaming "conspiracy mongers" for "attempting to scare and mislead young Americans," insisted that "the idea of reinstating the draft has never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by anyone in the Bush administration."

That assertion is demonstrably false. According to an internal Selective Service memo made public under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency's acting director met with two of Rumsfeld's undersecretaries in February 2003 precisely to debate, discuss and ponder a return to the draft. The memo duly notes the administration's aversion to a draft but adds, "Defense manpower officials concede there are critical shortages of military personnel with certain special skills, such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network engineers, etc." The potentially prohibitive cost of "attracting and retaining such personnel for military service," the memo adds, has led "some officials to conclude that, while a conventional draft may never be needed, a draft of men and women possessing these critical skills may be warranted in a future crisis." This new draft, it suggests, could be invoked to meet the needs of both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.

The memo then proposes, in detail, that the Selective Service be "re-engineered" to cover all Americans -- "men and (for the first time) women" -- ages eighteen to thirty-four.

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