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Does More War Require a Draft?

By Brent Budowsky
August 24, 2006

Editor's Note: In this guest essay, political analyst Brent Budowsky says policymakers and pundits favoring a wider war in the Middle East must be asked about ominous signs that the Bush administration's proclivity for war means some form of military draft is in America's future:

The involuntary recall of 3,500 Marines to active duty, required by personnel shortages for the war in Iraq, on top of previous extensions of deployment schedules for active-duty troops and reserves, demands an answer to this question:  Is America headed for a return to the draft, either by that traditional name or in some other form?

The problem is simple: the United States went to war in Iraq without sufficient numbers of troops leading to inevitable problems. My view has always been that it would have been better for the President to have finished the job of killing bin Laden in Afghanistan, rather than cutting and running on that job, and helping bin Laden escape, to charge into an unwise war in Iraq.

Once the decision to wage war in Iraq was made, the manner with which it was conducted created inevitable and catastrophic results that have caused major, long-term damage to American force structures, recruitment and
restocking of equipment that will cost many billions of dollars to replace.

Many thoughtful Republicans, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel, have raised these issues from the beginning.  Even Sen. John McCain, one of the strongest supporters of the war, has always understood the implications of
troop strength and force structure, and now criticizes the President for not leveling with the American people on the consequences and cost of the war.

From the beginning, there have been unfair burdens imposed on our troops; there have been unfair deployment practices that have imposed major hardship on Reserves and their families; there have been inadequate
supplies for our forces including insufficient armor, bandages and even helmets; there has been major erosion of equipment in the desert sands that will impose shocking new costs to replace; and there has been a major
and dangerous disruption of American military force structures around the world, and major damage done to recruitment at home.

My view -- expressed here, elsewhere and privately to officials, once this war was unwisely begun -- has long been to seek a cease-fire with internal Iraqi insurgents, laying down their arms in return for a seat at the table of the
governing of Iraq. This cease-fire would NOT include external terrorists, who are in much smaller numbers and would have been isolated and defeated with American casualties being dramatically decreased years ago.

Similarly, I have urged for several years, and urge again here, that America regain its traditional role of Middle East diplomacy deploying internationally known figures in both parties -- former President Clinton and former Sens. Sam Nunn and George Mitchell, working with former Secretaries of State Jim Baker, Colin Powell or others. The last six years represent the first time since 1948 that there has been no American diplomatic leadership at least attempting to address the fundamental issues that divide the Middle East.  This re-engagement should have been initiated six years ago; it must be initiated now.

The President has been trapped in a narrow, provincial, war-obsessed mentality that has only increased instability, radically strained American force structures, given tactical advantages to our terrorist enemies and to Iran. This, too, must change immediately before the damage and dangers become even worse at a time of escalating chaos in the region, deteriorating conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and further destabilized American military force structures.

Warning Sign

The forced recall of 3,500 Marines is a clarion call warning to all Americans, and along with other distortions of deployment practices, is now, in effect, a form of reviving the draft.

Listening to the President, Vice President Cheney, the various neoconservative policy pushers, their vision appears to be a vision of endless and permanent world war, with expanding and ever more dangerous fields
of combat, when we do not even have the troops strength to meet our commitments today.

Having been involved in intelligence and military matters for more than two decades, this much is clear: we cannot sustain our commitments today; with any additional wars to fight, we will be left with only two choices: either inadequate forces creating more Iraqs, or adequate forces that can only be maintained through a revival of the draft, no matter what it is called. That is the fact.

When these neoconservative voices rush to the airwaves to proclaim the wars they would like (others) to fight, Democrats, Republicans and all in the media should ask:

If you want war with Iran, where will you get the troops, and will you bring back the draft?

If you want war with Syria, where will you get the troops, and will you bring back the draft?

If you want war with North Korea, where will you get the troops, and will you bring back the draft?

It is high time and long overdue that the United States resumes its role of world diplomatic and political leadership and brings in people of world-wide credibility and stature to at least test the waters for game-changing diplomacy.

For those who prefer the course of war, we must all ask, on every occasion: for the wars you would like to fight, where will you get the troops, and are you prepared to bring back the draft?


Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net .


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