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It's No Panacea, but..."P-l-e-a-s-e, Bring Back the Draft!"

By       Message Donald Archer     Permalink
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Coming of age in the 1960s, confronted with a war most of us regarded as folly if not unjust, my generation was left with no attractive alternatives: we could passively be drafted; we could enlist; we could pursue conscientious objection; we could go to jail; or we could leave the country. But we could not ignore the situation we faced, or escape it.

Vietnam was a defining moment---the draft wasn't positive; but the response it provoked was: vulnerability to the draft was a major catalyst for activism and change. That activism ended the war, and ultimately it ended the draft.

Many of us tried to make a difference, and hoped that the future would be brighter than the present. Forty years later one is still hoping.

I didn't like the draft then; I don't like to think of it now. But it was a bracing slap of reality. Today, ignorance and escape are---or seem---possible. And that's much more dangerous.

Many young men and women say they have no interest in voting, that it's irrelevant, that they have no stake. I understand their frustration and contempt, but not their complacency.

While they presently may not have to serve in Iraq, they nevertheless will be left with the mess: the skewed priorities, the flimsy values, the ill will, and the debt.

Activism---that concerted effort and struggle to mend what is wrong---has to begin anew, each generation. Older generations---the comfortable, the secure, and the established---have too much to lose, and so dismiss it.

The sad fact is that the sixties generation, my generation, brought us this war. Will this be our legacy?
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We may find Osama bin Laden, we may bring Saddam Hussein to justice, but we will not be a kinder, safer, better nation for it. Not until we overcome our own demons. And these are much harder to root out and subdue.

Consumerism, injustice, hypocrisy, materialism, the 'establishment,' the 'military-energy-national security-industrial-congressional' complex, and complacency---the very things that spawned the sixties 'revolution'---again have brought us to the brink.

In fact, we currently do have a draft; it happens to be hidden and unspoken.

Since Vietnam, we have relied on what has been called an 'all-volunteer' military. Many young servicemen and women---with little education, few resources, and no hope of opportunity at home---have virtually no choice. It is conscription for the underprivileged.

Not calling for a national draft, however cynical and irresponsible that inaction may be, is perfect political strategy: sacrifice and death are not popular. Having a quiet minority shoulder the burden makes a militaristic and imperialistic agenda less controversial, therefore more tenable.

Our current policy is neither just, nor democratic. In truth, it is un-American.
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Like Roman legions, the United States has 350,000 troops deployed in nearly 130 countries around the world---not just in Afghanistan and Iraq---performing a variety of duties from combat operations, to 'peacekeeping,' to training with other militaries.

To curb expansionist policies, it should be mandated that the sons and daughters of those who promote military force and 'pre-emptive war' be the first to serve. If the children resist, the battle will be filial, not national or international.

Short of that, a universal draft---men and women, civilian and military---would bring reality, responsibility, and sacrifice to everyone's doorstep: except, of course, to that of the privileged and the rich.

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Donald Archer is a painter, observer, and commentator living on California's Central Coast. His work may be seen at www.DonaldArcher.com.

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