In his Jan. 13 commentary, "Talk of a Draft Is Nothing but Hot Air," former secretary of the Army Louis Caldera argues that the all-volunteer Army is more militarily effective than a conscription Army and that the 1960s draft produced just the kind of Army that Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) doesn't want, one disproportionately manned by the poor and lower middle class. No one would argue with these points.
However, Rangel's proposal is about the justification for war, not military efficiency or economic equity. In the 1960s, the poor fought in Vietnam while the middle and upper class went to Canada, played tricks with their health, joined the Texas Air National Guard and lost sleep avoiding an unjust war. These consequences would be enough to cause the most influential Americans to oppose a war in Iraq.
I was struck by Caldera's last paragraph. First the statement that the "benefits of military service far outweigh its burdens." Really? So if you come back in a body bag from a war fought for lower oil prices and oil company profits you come out ahead? Please explain. Also, the ridiculous notion that all the men and women who serve do so "out of a sense of duty and love of country." I have two brothers who served, and they did so for lack of a job. I have a sister-in-law who is serving right now and is doing so for the same reason. If they had viable employment opportunities they would never have enlisted.
Keep in mind that the commercials that convince these "volunteers" do not speak about the burdens of military service but the rewards only. They promise a career, training, money for college and the excitement of being part of an elite group of people fighting to protect our country. I have yet to see one that goes on about the death and destruction that is performed to accomplish these goals. And no one told my sister-in-law that she may have to die so that we can have gasoline at less than $2 a gallon. Truth be told, I would rather pay higher gas prices than pay the price of her life.
The advent of the all-volunteer force in 1973 ensured that the children of our national elites would not be found in the military. I am concerned by the fact that policymakers do not have any visceral connection to the military people who will live or die by their decisions.
Sun City, Ariz.