The Draft, a 'Peace Movement'; President Subverts Meaning of Democracy

Article excerpt


Since July, national attention has focused on the vigil of Cindy Sheehan. Last week, the president highlighted the patriotism of another mother, Tammy Pruett, who has watched her husband and five sons march off to war. The president announced, "America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts."

President Bush is wrong. The Pruetts' patriotism is unquestionably admirable. However, contrary to the president's assertion, it has been the citizen-soldier, often times drafted into military service, and not the patriotic volunteer, that America has historically relied on secure our freedom.

Offering Mrs. Pruett to counter the emotional and political momentum generated by Mrs. Sheehan is a metaphor for a more profound issue: Whether the constitutional checks and balances against military adventurism have been fundamentally distorted by the ability of the president to rely on the all-volunteer force. Thus, the issue is not whether the unflinching patriotism of volunteers reflects the wisdom of the president's policies, but whether their volunteer service allows the administration to avoid asking all Americans if they, too, are willing to accept the same burden.

The president's continued emphasis on the patriotism of the volunteers executing the policies developed by men and women who almost universally avoided the call to arms in their own youth has struck many as hypocritical. However, the true hypocrisy was that instead of reminding voters that the true test of support for the war in Iraq was a willingness to, if necessary, bear the burden of war, Mr. Bush pledged that under no circumstances would he ever consider reinstating the draft. With this no-draft pledge, and his continued desire to tout the loyalty of the armed forces as proof of the wisdom his policies, Mr. Bush is subverting the true meaning of the great power of our democracy.

Our founders understood that the best way to check military adventurism was to ensure the people bore the cost of war. To limit executive power, they established checks and balances to ensure that resort to war would only occur with the genuine support of the people. Thus, for the first approximate 100 years of our republic, the aversion to large standing armies resulted in our nation relying on a small professional standing army. This army served as the nucleus of larger forces created when necessary by calling upon the states to provide their militias for federal service.

The increased wartime need for manpower, beginning with the Civil War and running through the Vietnam War, resulted in conscription to fill the ranks. …