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Should The U.S. Bring Back The Draft?

Two Congressmen, both veterans, on whether a volunteer military or conscription makes more sense .

In 2002, I called for national service and a renewal of the military draft as a way to ensure that the burden of war was fairly shared. Five disastrous years of war in Iraq has not softened my stance.

Joining the military is a patriotic call to service. Yet far too many of those who enlist today do so because their economic situation provides few opportunities for achievement in civilian life.

Under my proposal, all young men and women would be eligible for the draft. There would be no deferments beyond completion of high school, except for reasons of health or conscience. Those not needed in the military would be obliged to contribute domestically, in hospitals or schools, for example.

Those who believe that our military effectiveness would suffer need only to remember the millions of draftees who rescued the world from despotism in World War II. In fact, the argument that volunteers make better soldiers is not one that I have heard from veterans of combat.

Despite lucrative signing bonuses, military recruiters have been unable to prevent our military forces from becoming vastly overstretched. Reservists who never expected to be on the front lines are finding themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some cases, soldiers are being redeployed three or four times.

Reinstating the draft would spread the burden of sacrifice across all of American society. It would also add gravity to future discussions about war. Presidents and politicians are likely to weigh these decisions more carefully when the child they put in harm's way may be their own.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel
Democrat of New York

The conviction I hold most dearly is that every individual is endowed with inalienable rights from our Creator. The most basic of these rights is that our lives are our own to do with as we choose. The Founding Fathers shared this conviction, and crafted our Constitution to restrain government and protect our liberties. This belief guides my absolute opposition to the draft.

I joined the Air Force in 1962 and proudly served as a flight surgeon for five years. My experience taught me that military service must be voluntary. Most military experts believe a draft would actually impair military readiness, despite the increase in troop levels, because of training and morale problems.

Draft supporters argue that young people owe a debt of service to their country. I also reject this notion. Compulsory national service, whether in the form of military conscription or programs like AmeriCorps, is a form of involuntary servitude, not patriotism.

Today, young men must register with the Selective Service on their 18th birthdays and remain in a database throughout their 20s, should a draft arise. Soon, young women might be compelled to do the same. This means that government can seize ownership of the lives of young people and force them into the military against their will, violating our most basic right. I find this unacceptable. I have no doubt that Americans would rise in mass to defend our country in the face of an attack. But, that choice must be made willingly and openly. A draft stands against America's most basic principles.

Congressman Ron Paul
Republican of Texas, 2008 presidential candidate