On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working in the World Trade Center, and by sheer luck I was not one of the 2,823 people who died there. As I ran down 61 flights of stairs, it was clear to me that we had suddenly become a nation at war, and I expected the government to reinstate the draft immediately.
But that didn't happen, and the failure to reinstate the draft in the aftermath of 9/11 was a huge mistake.
That became clear to me when I joined the Marines in 2003. I served for six months in Iraq, and my experience made me realize we have a serious talent deficiency in the military.
A draft would remedy that immediately. America's bravest are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but our brightest are not. If I could have built a squad with five M.I.T. or Caltech students, I bet within months they'd have found a way to make the roadside bombs that killed so many U.S. troops ineffective.
Furthermore, if the most well-connected people in government and business had to worry about their own children's safety, battle plans would be made more prudently, and the best gear would be available to the military in a more timely manner.
I favor a World War II-style draft, with the brothers and sons of future and former Presidents serving (and, unfortunately, dying, as a Roosevelt and a Kennedy once did). That is when a war effort is maximized. The military cannot be a faceless horde to those in charge of our most important institutions.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be more discomforting to the average American than just bad news on TV. In the long term, democracies cannot successfully wage protracted wars when the only people who are sacrificing are those who choose to go.
Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
On the wall of my congressional office hangs a quote from Senator Robert A. Taft: "A compulsory draft is far more typical of totalitarian nations than of democratic nations. The theory behind it leads directly to totalitarianism. It is absolutely opposed to the principles of individual liberty which have always been considered a part of American democracy."
Taft said this in 1940, but it's just as true today, and I'm very concerned that the Obama administration may be considering bringing back the draft.
For years, I have introduced legislation to get rid of the Selective Service, which requires all 18-year-old men to register with the government, because why should you have a Selective Service if you're not planning to have a draft?
To me, a military draft would be the most serious attack on personal liberty. I consider it involuntary servitude. If we can draft young men and women and send them overseas to fight wars and think this is part of a method to preserve liberty, then we are sadly mistaken. And the truth is, if there is to be a draft, it will be for men and women.
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. Furthermore, most members of the military oppose a draft because they know there's a vast difference between serving alongside another volunteer and serving alongside a reluctant conscript.
A military draft would allow the government to demand your very life without your consent. This should be unthinkable in a free society.
Congressman Ron Paul
Republican of Texas
(The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 142, February 8, 2010)