The next two sections examine the concepts of national service, draft registration and conscription into the armed services.
The Case For The Draft
Our first President eloquently stated the rationale for national service:
"... it must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our (democratic) system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defence of it.
The closest that the US has come to such a policy was at the time of Washington, when white males were required to be part of the militia.
National service has been proposed and debated in Congress intermittantly since Vietnam; it has not been successful. In fact, Congress has reduced funding for voluntary forms of service, such as the Peace Corps.
The Universal National Service Act (HR2723) would require all men and women aged 18-26 to perform military or civilian service "in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." The required term of service is 15 months. It was introduced by Rep. Rangel (D-NY), a veteran of the Korean War. Prior to action in Iraq, when he first introduced this bill, he said:
I truly believe that those who make the decision and those who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that's involved, the sacrifice that's involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility...
Those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country. For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance.
It's not hard to find passionate calls for mandatory national service for all. It's more difficult to find similar calls for a draft lottery. The conservative American Enterprise Institute quotes former draftee Charles Moskos:
A draft would dramatically upgrade the quality of U.S. recruits, because it would give the military access to a true cross-section of our youth. Due to enticing economic and educational alternatives elsewhere, the number of military enlistees who achieve advanced scores on qualifying tests has dropped by a third since the mid 1990s. In fiscal year 2000, the Army actually took in some 380 recruits with felony arrests.
Most telling, over a third of new military members currently fail to complete their enlistments. Contrast this with the one in ten draftees who didnt complete their two-year obligations when we last had a draft. Its much better to have most soldiers serve a short term honorably than to have large cohorts discharged for cause.
This argument rests on what's called a backdoor draft: the issuance of stop-loss orders which prevent soldiers from departing at the end of their contract. The military says this practice was authorized by Executive Order 13223 issued by President Bush on Sept. 14, 2001.