Readers React

Closing the military-civilian divide: Bring back the draft

To the editor: The incisive and informative article highlights the degree to which 99.5% of all Americans have no involvement with our military. ("U.S. military and civilians are increasingly divided," May 24)

If our experiment in democracy is to endure much longer, that must end. Divorcing all but a tiny sliver of society from the hard and lethal realities of military service allows our national leaders to pursue dangerous and foolhardy adventures overseas with little chance that voters will be troubled.

It was an engaged and often enraged public that brought the Vietnam War to an end. As disastrous as this was for our South Vietnamese allies, it showed politicians that they meddle abroad at their own peril as well as that of the men and women in uniform.

We need a national peacetime draft, not just for military service but to help rebuild our disgracefully crumbling roads and bridges.

Marvin J. Wolf, Mar Vista Heights

The writer is a Vietnam War combat veteran.

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To the editor: Military service has always been about class and economics. For my brother and myself, with an alcoholic single mother unable to support two teenage boys, our choice seemed to be jail or the military. We both dropped out of high school and were well on our way to a lovely life of crime but decided on the latter.

I used military benefits to buy a house, get a master's degree and rise from poverty to the upper middle class. Though my tour in Vietnam changed me in ways I will never understand, I'm grateful to the military but disappointed in a society that does so little for the poor.

Many of the guys I served with had similar stories. I hope future articles on the divide between today's all-volunteer military and civilians address this issue.

Michael Smith, Long Beach

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To the editor: Being a veteran of the Korean War, I noticed the article failed to mention that conflict. This increasingly frequent lack of inclusion marginalizes those of us who served.

Americans died there as in the other wars. It was not a war to save our freedom, but to save freedom in Korea. It was the only time the United Nations took a significant stand against an aggressor nation.

Vietnam is the war America would like to forget but cannot. The Korean War is the one it did forget.

Frank Seiden, Camarillo

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To the editor: The critical section in the article is the quotation by Lt. Col. Remi M. Hajjar:

"I am well aware that many Americans, especially our elite classes, consider the military a bit like a guard dog. They are very thankful for our protection, but they probably wouldn't want to have it as a neighbor. And they certainly are not going to influence or inspire their own kids to join that pack of Rottweilers to protect America."

Worse, with the military regarded not quite as family, these elite classes can "sic the dogs" imprudently around the world, assured that their own families won't be in danger.

And yet, what is to be done? Re-institute the draft? Fat chance of that. Amend the Constitution to require military service from would-be officeholders? Unlikely. Besides, with today's remote killing power as selective as it is, the mass armies of the past are no longer relevant.

For now, better care of our wounded warriors would be a good start. There is no excuse for a homeless veteran or for making some wait months for care.

Walter W. Matera, Lakewood

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