Senator John Kerry took yet another approach to his campaign this past week. “Watch out, if Bush gets a second term in office, he might bring back the military draft,” Kerry stated.But before anyone gets into a panic about a possible draft, I?d like to remind Americans that the military draft ended in 1973, around the time when we pulled out of Vietnam. The draft, by definition is conscription, or involuntary service to the military. Since the Vietnam War, the U.S. military has been a voluntary service only, and shows no signs of change according to those in charge. The problem with the current public perception is the belief that the authority of the draft is held by the president.
This is not true. To reinstate the military draft, the U.S. Congress would have to propose such legislation and approve it. President Bush does not have the authority to reopen the draft without legislation from Congress. But even if Congress did pass draft legislation, it is highly unlikely that President Bush would sign it into law. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he doesn?t expect to see the draft again. Even Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, called the draft unnecessary. Notably, as a member of Congress, Senator Kerry has the power to propose opening the draft again.
The interesting thing about Kerry?s statement about Bush bringing back the military draft is that members of Congress, not President Bush, have already proposed to reopen the draft. With a little investigating, I found that it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who attempted to reinstate the military draft in 2003! Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), along with six other House representatives, all Democrats, proposed a bill (S 89, HR 163) to bring back the draft, but the Republican majority blocked this draft legislation on more than one occasion. Apparently, these Democrats were attempting to make an antiwar statement. Instead they?ve caused a lot of false fear and anxiety for young people and their families.
The legislation proposed by the democrats, titled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, called for men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 to serve a period of two years in the national defense of our country. This act has not been approved by Congress, and President Bush has shown no desire for such action, even stating that Kerry?s statement about the revival of the draft was irresponsible.
Only through an act of Congress can the draft even start to become a reality. Using the draft as a scare tactic won?t work if the American public is properly informed. Janice Hughes, a specialist with the Selective Service System, commented on the revival of the military draft. “It?s not true. We would know. We?re the enity that would run a draft if it ever did happen.”
Rick Loughery is a junior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy.