Here are two recent articles, one supporting a draft and one opposing it: Why We Need The Draft Back July 4, 2004 By NOEL KOCH As a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, I wrote the legislative message proposing an end to the military draft. The president sought to end the Vietnam War in a way that would advance what he regularly called "a full generation of peace." In the late 1960s, America's cities were set aflame by the civil rights revolution; in the early '70s, the campuses of the nation's universities were in similar peril. The draft was a target of anti-war protests. The president made a tactical retreat, ending it. He later regretted the move, urging that the draft be restored. The subject has surfaced since Vietnam, but never, until now, with much force. In fact, there are few good arguments against the draft and a surfeit of good ones for restoring it. The most obvious is that we do not have enough men and women in our armed forces. Reliance on reserves and the National Guard is creating strains along the socioeconomic spectrum and is not an endlessly sustainable expedient. If we are to fight elective wars, as we are told we must, we need more men and women on active duty. But there are other good reasons to return to the draft. I joined the Army in 1957. Members of my family had served in every conflict since the Civil War, and service was expected, as was getting a job, getting married and having a family. We were lower middle class and uneducated. I left high school without a diploma. College was not something to which my family aspired. It never occurred to us that we could go. The draft shattered class distinctions. It mixed high school dropouts with college graduates, rich with middle class and poor. To be sure, the draftees weren't happy to be in the Army, and they were even less happy to be rubbing shoulders with those of us who volunteered. There was friction from basic training through advanced training and, with lessening heat, into assignment to our permanent duty stations. Name-calling was a regular feature of our lives: We were "lifers," "losers," "GIRBs" (GI rat bastards), etc. We had our own names for the draftees. But the educated learned to value those without college degrees, and the uneducated, helped along by the GI Bill, discovered that higher learning might be within reach after all. This homogenizing process didn't end with education. It extended to the broadening of cultural horizons. I learned to appreciate Bach and Handel listening to the records of a draftee friend. He enjoyed my rendition of "The Duke of Earl" down the center of our hooch near Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Class lines blurred and so did racial lines. The military did more to advance the cause of equality in the United States than any other law, institution or movement. Not for nothing did "Bro" come into common usage in the Vietnam era: "Who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." The draft furthered the work begun during the Civil War. It advanced the business of making us one people. The draftees may not have liked being pulled away from the careers that awaited them and being thrown in with people they probably wouldn't have associated with otherwise. But over the two-year span of their service, there were sea changes. The disaffected became the committed, became leaders who demanded the best of others and especially of themselves. They saluted with a snap indistinguishable from any other. When they took their discharges and went home, they had an investment in America not shared by those who didn't serve. Try to find a draftee who regrets his service to America. After a time, they weren't "draftees" at all; they were American soldiers - part of the fabric of the nation, committed to its values and their preservation. The resurrection of the draft, so vitally necessary to restore the depth of ready manpower we need in our force structure, is self-justifying despite the arguments of a succession of defense secretaries who feel obliged to defend our "volunteer military" with technical arguments that mask political squeamishness. But the nation also needs a draft because it is one proven mechanism to bring unity to our rapidly separating parts. It needs a draft to provide that common civic grammar that encompasses those who have served and their families and friends. It needs a draft to honor, and to even out, the sacrifices we call upon our young to make for our nation. Finally, America needs this fund of experience to expand the pool of people likely to find their way into the corridors of power and, when they get there, to bring with them a bone-deep appreciation of the true costs of conflict. Thus might we reduce the risks of counsel from those who have never had to learn the difference between a war and a cakewalk. Noel Koch was special assistant to President Richard Nixon from 1971 to 1974. He was assistant secretary of defense and director for special planning at the Defense Department from 1981 to 1986. He wrote this article for The Washington Post. ------------------ Draft Is Unnecessary When Threat Is Real July 10, 2004 SEAN VIVIER In August, I will turn 24. That leaves more than two years during which I would be subject to a draft. When I first got my Selective Service card at 18, the fear of being drafted was more remote. Now, the chance that I might be compelled to take life and risk my own for someone else's cause looms nearer. For the last several months, draft offices have been restaffed. Before the war in Iraq, Democrat Charles Rangel suggested a draft because it would give government officials pause if they risked endangering people close to all their constituents. Republican Chuck Hagel recently called for a draft by the same logic, adding that it would spread the burden of war fairly among classes and because people owe their government for giving them rights. Calls have been made to increase the draft age to 34 and to conscript women as well. Bills to fully fund the Selective Service are before the congressional armed services committees. Iraq clearly demands more and more soldiers, even as our pool of troops runs low. Promises to reduce troop strength in the country have been reneged on. National Guard and Reserve units have been called up. "Stop-loss" orders prevent volunteers from retiring or discharging, forcing them to fight against their will. There's no doubt, the draft is a grave and gathering danger. Supposedly, we need the draft to properly defend the country. People's desire to defend themselves, however, does not need to be controlled - it happens naturally. There's a reason so many people volunteered to join the military during the fighting in Afghanistan but not Iraq. There's a reason relatively few people protested the draft during World War II, but the masses cried out against the draft for Vietnam. Most people know the difference between legitimate self-defense and exploitation by a small group of politicians. People will defend themselves from real danger without being compelled. Drafts are far more often necessary to uphold unpopular wars, than to defend the homeland. A cursory glance at history shows that drafts do not stop wars. Rather, it is the countries with conscripted armies that find themselves perpetually at war. Conscription is a mark of a corrupt government. A draft will not make the powerful share the danger. Old men in Washington will not fight, and they will still be removed from those who die for them. Let us also be clear on rights. Rights are recognized by a government, not given. It only remains to be seen if the state will respect those rights or trample upon them. Authority exists for our sake. We do not exist for authority's sake. I have the right to live my life as I see fit, not to spend it as George W. Bush sees fit. Think of the potential I have that must be sacrificed for someone else's vendetta if the draft returns. I can expect to live into my 70s or 80s. I can do a lot in more than 50 years. How many people could I reach as a teacher or as a writer? What happiness could I find and give to another if I ever marry? What legacy could I leave to my children? What friendships could I share? What new things could I learn every day? What else could I accomplish? Even should I not die, I still would have to put my dreams on hold for years for someone else's sake, and I would face all the traumas of battle. Now multiply that by all the young men and women ages 18 to 34 who would face the same. It's a shame that Democrats and Republicans have spoken in favor of the draft. You can't trust either side to care for the most basic of human freedoms, the right to live our lives. If we do not have that freedom, what freedom do we have? It may be hard for our leaders' controlling minds to understand, but it all comes down to one simple question: Who owns your life? I say I own my life, and I will not have it spent in an unjust war. ---- Sean Vivier of Newington recently earned his master's degree in education from the University of Connecticut and will teach Spanish at Berlin High School beginning in September. edit: Oops, both of these articles are from www.ctnow.com the online home of The Hartford Courant.