A House bill to reinstate the draft finally made its way to the Armed Services Committee where a vote is expected only after President Bush decides whether he is for or against conscription.
Bush has failed to make clear how he plans to restock the Army in light of dwindling recruiting numbers. Meanwhile, Congress is reluctant to make a decision due to the draft’s unpopularity with voters.
A White House spokesman said Bush has “always firmly opposed the draft.” But many insiders believe Bush will have to reassess the issue in light of the Army’s failed recruiting efforts.
Emile Milne, a spokesman for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who sponsored the controversial draft bill, said this is the type of bill “no one likes to touch” without a consensus of all branches of government.
“The draft is especially unpopular now because of the mounting death toll in Iraq,” said Milne. “Rep. Rangel is, of course, opposed to the war, but believes if we are going to have to fight it, then the military should have enough soldiers to do the job properly.”
Rangel, originally in favor of the draft in order that “rich and poor equally share the burden of the war,” now feels the draft may also become a necessity due to the Army’s difficulty in meeting recruiting goals.
Since the war has become less popular with the American people and the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq has risen to over 1,680, the Army is now reporting recruiting levels down as much as 50 percent.
The issue of “enough boots on the ground” is further complicated by the added strain put on the National Guard troops, many having to serve two or three tours of duty in Iraq.
“There is no doubt that the military is undermanned,” said Milne. “Rep. Rangel feels if the war is going to continue, the only way to solve the problem is to bring back the draft.”
Although Rangel’s bill mounted very little support when it was first introduced last session during an election year, critics claim now that the election is over and the military is crying for more warm bodies that a reinstatement of the draft is “inevitable and only a mater of time.”
“No one likes to hear it, but if things keep going the way they are with less recruits and re-enlistment numbers down, the draft may be the only way to solve the problem,” said Milne.
Whether the draft becomes a reality is still in political limbo. However, no one would argue that Bush’s aggressive foreign military policy dictates the need for more troops.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, former security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski were quoted as saying the U.S. requires at least 500,000 more troops to sustain the war in Iraq and reinstatement of the draft may be unpopular but necessary.
“At best, Rangel’s bill merely plays into Bush’s hands,” said Bill Galvin, head of an anti-war group called the Center of Conscience and War. “At worst, it’s a stealth measure intended to supply progressive political cover for pro-draft Democrats.”
Galvin said he also fears Bush is just waiting for the right moment “to spring the draft back on the American people” since he no longer has to worry about getting re-elected.