Why is the draft suddenly back on the agenda? Well, apart from the official 143,000 troops "inside Iraqi borders", there are tens of thousands of US troops in surrounding countries. This could elevate the total to perhaps 200,000. The US army is completely over-stretched, with commitments in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and of course Iraq. The Iraqi Resistance cannot be put down by the current troop levels. British forces have admitted that they could not possibly hold Basra if the population enacted a Fallujah-style uprising. US troops are finding themselves frequently on the run . And the loose bands of mercenaries they've got in there for "protection" are presumably not going to be up to the task either.
I would therefore expect there to be a big push to reinstate the draft. The US authorities in Iraq are presently holding out for a political solution, but that is unlikely to happen.
There has been a website devoted to this topic for some time now, the rumour-mill has been grinding, and it looks like the political class has been priming the public for the re-admission of this topic into the mainstream. And now we learn, thanks to John Sutherland at The Guardian that there is now legislation being prepared to bring back the draft. Donald Rumsfeld has suggested that the "war on terror" is nearer the beginning than the end (next stop, Canada!), so they'll be needing a tranch of new recruits. They've already begun work to get enough volunteers for their immediate requirements, mainly by hawking the virtues of a military life in America's schools . According to Congress.org:
Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan [and a permanent state of war on "terrorism"] proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.
Congress brought twin bills, S. 89 and HR 163 forward this year, http://www.hslda.org/legislation/na...s89/default.asp entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, "to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [age 18--26] in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills currently sit in the committee on armed services.
Forcing human beings at any age into military combat is unacceptable. But at 18 to 26, it is cutting off life at its prime. If America really must have a draft, I recommend they restrict it to 55-65 year old males with an annual income over $150,000. A couple of wars could wipe out the entire ruling class.
UPDATE: A generous reviewer has apprised me of an attempted rebuttal of this story by Urban Legends . With legendary urbanity, the site offers a number of reasons why the draft may not in fact be a viable option for the Bush administration. Unfortunately, and quite characteristically, the site's assessment is partial and rather scrappy. They take no notice whatsoever of the compelling reasons why Bush may need this legislation.
Doug's Place provides a good summary:
"At present, the number of ground troops in the US Army, USMC, Army Reserves and National Guard is 1.434 million. Currently, about 400'000 are deployed worldwide. Because rotation is a three-phase task, (deployment, refit, rest), that means that about 1.2 million are already tied up, leaving 234'000 troops to work with, meaning only about 80'000 American troops can be now deployed with substantial support."
He also offers three good additional reasons why the draft would be considered essential by the Bush administration:
1) The war in Iraq will intensify (this written before it in fact DID intensify).
2) The administration wants to be able to fight on a second front.
3) They are planning to start a second war. (See Rummy's recent warnings that we are closer to the beginning of the 'war on terror' than the end.)
The fact that legislation is even being advanced on this is an indication of just how far we have come. There has been a proliferation of television debates, articles, columns arguing over whether the draft should be reinstated. My belief is that the legislation is being considered because the administration needs it. The public is being primed for it. Alarm bells should be ringing.