Young Americans, beware — Uncle Sam may ask you to join him soon on a worldwide adventure to exotic places to see fascinating sights and to meet interesting people and kill them or be killed by them. This week as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen were testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, its chairman, Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), asked the question he said no one wants to ask: “Is the cost of maintaining an all-volunteer force becoming unsustainable and, secondly, do we need to consider reinstituting the draft?"
As a stunned audience gasped for air, Gates indicated that the escalating costs of maintaining an all volunteer armed force were worth it. Mullen was not so hopeful. The exchange brought out in the open an issue that has been ignored by politicians this election year — military conscription.
Why would politicians want to discuss an issue in public as controversial and loathsome as the draft in any year let alone one in which a new congress and president will be chosen? Inouye’s reference that no one wants to ask about the draft on Capitol Hill can be construed as an admission that he has had discussions in private with other members of Congress to reinstitute the draft. In public, the two major presidential contenders, Barack Obama and John McCain, have also steered clear of this political hot potato in their speeches and pronouncements. However, verbiage on both men’s official campaign websites raises troubling questions about their position on converting the all volunteer military into a conscripted one.
While both men never mention the word draft or anything related to it, they both directly state that the U.S. military must be enlarged. Obama’s site states:
We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.
These are strange words from a candidate who has repeatedly pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq. If under Obama we would withdraw troops from Iraq, why do we need more? Additionally, how is the increase going to be achieved? The site does not specify. Will Congress and President Obama provide more inducements by way of higher pay and better benefits for troops to reenlist and potential recruits to sign up? Or are we looking at a draft?