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The Coming Draft Debate

July 7, 2005

In "Getting Drafty", I argued that current and emerging American national security challenges require the reinstatement of the draft and a new "hybrid model" of national service. Developments over the just the past two weeks reflect just how rapidly the pressure is building to bolster American military force levels.

  1. London Terror Attacks and the Need for Expanded Homeland Defense. Timed to coincide with the opening of the G-8 summit in Edinburgh and only one day after London won the competition to host the 2012 Olympics, London was struck by four bombings that (as of this writing) killed 40 and injured 300. The London tragedy should highlight once again the vulnerability of American transport hubs, chemical and nuclear plants, ports and other supposed soft targets at home.
  2. Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan. The downing of a U.S. special forces helicopter with the loss of 16 dead is just the latest example of our far-from-finished business in Afghanistan. American troop levels there have been insufficient from the beginning, enabling Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters and leadership alike to escape defeat and regroup for future attacks. The result has been an American inability to close the border with Pakistan and a dependence of undependable forces from the Northern Alliance and tribal warlords. Bin Laden and Mullah Omar did not just escape from Tora Bora; their forces have lived to fight another day.
  3. Porous Borders and Security Chaos in Iraq. While White House spokesmen and deferential military leaders downplay the need for more American troops in Iraq, developments on the ground tell another story. Along the Syrian border, foreign fighters are still moving back and forth across the border. U.S. and Iraqi forces have had to launch new offensives against insurgent strongholds in border towns that had been "cleared" only weeks earlier. And new waves of attacks against diplomats from Muslim countries show the extent of insecurity in Baghdad. It's no wonder that a growing bipartisan chorus led by Joe Biden and John McCain is calling for more troops in Iraq.
  4. Growing Concerns Over China. A bevy of recent stories demonstrate the growing concern in the Pentagon over the dramatic build-up of Chinese military, diplomatic and economic power. More than just the sheer size of the Chinese military, Pentagon planners are increasingly worried about the sophistication of Chinese systems, especially its rapidly growing submarine fleet. Force levels and strategies for China and the Pacific, including the defense of Taiwan, will have to be reexamined as the costs of containing, deterring or defeating Chinese threats grow.

These developments illustrate just a subset of the growing pressures on an overstretched American military. In Iran, the victory of hardliner presidential candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't bode well for Iranian-Americans elections in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the nuclear stalemate with North Korea festers.
The vast majority of Americans oppose reinstatement of the draft and President Bush has said it will not happen on his watch. Events, however, tell another story about the coming debate on the draft.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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