now, in the wake of this terrible act of war, we can break our great
taboo and at least consider a revival of the draft. We've been having
our cake and fairly stuffing our mouths with it for three decades
now. We managed a victory in the Persian Gulf with minimal casualties;
won the war in Kosovo from the air; and now depend almost entirely
on machines to do our spying. It's all worked marvelously well,
I was at the
dentist Tuesday afternoon. First thing he said was, "As soon
as I saw how they did it, I realized they weren't Americans."
We don't want to imitate our enemies, but no nation can stand whose
citizens are unwilling to defend it with their lives. We Americans
have become far too recognizable as a people afraid to risk casualties.
who commandeered those planes were more than suicide bombers; they
were probably also trained pilots, recruited with the aid of some
government hostile to the United States. Is our military prepared
to take on such a foe and still carry out our responsibilities worldwide?
And now that our vulnerability has been exposed, the threats will
The truth is,
military recruitment has been in a state of crisis for some time
now, and it has seriously affected our readiness. The all-volunteer
military would be unsustainable even in its current troubled
state without the women who compose 14% of the force. Yet
in order to admit enough women to keep force levels adequate, we
have seriously undermined physical standards, the quality of training,
and morale. Simply restricting ourselves to the small number of
women who can meet traditional military standards would force a
restoration of the draft. And that's without taking into account
the increased demands on our armed forces that the war against terrorism
will surely impose.
it would be better to make do with an all-volunteer military, and
maybe Americans will rise to the occasion and come forward in greater
numbers. The military is not chomping at the bit for a revived draft,
and for good reason draftees mean motivation and discipline
problems. Yet there may be no other way out. So the matter must
at least be seriously debated.
military in its current ramshackle state already restricts the options
available to the president for responding to any states that might
be sponsoring this terrorism (or building weapons of mass destruction).
But what really has our government in a box is our national unwillingness
to risk casualties or permit a draft. Politicians from either party
are desperately afraid of even uttering the "D" word.
Yet it's downright dishonest, at this point, not to at least raise
been floated for a national-service program that would include,
besides the military, the option of some form of domestic service.
The requirement could be attached to college loans, or could simply
be universal. Such a program would cultivate the much-needed sense
that we owe some debt of service to our country. And these cultural
changes matter, for without the will to fight, our military might
counts for little. For too long now, we've indulged the fantasy
that we can have our way in the world without cost. Our readiness
has suffered significantly as a result.
But now we
see that Americans can be killed, whether or not they intentionally
put themselves in harm's way. Now we see that our military is not
a place to play at androgyny, but an instrument we must call upon
to defend ourselves. Now we see that machines alone cannot do our
are rightly jealous of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. Understandably, we are reluctant to surrender our
freedom, even temporarily, in order to defend it. Yet defend it
we must. And we are not as soft as all that. We may not be a nation
of suicide bombers, but the fire-fighters who lost their lives rescuing
civilians from the tower lacked no courage. Then there's the crash
of that plane outside of Pittsburgh, perhaps brought down by a pilot
who preferred to die at his own hands before allowing his captors
to succeed in their plans.
Or maybe you
think we can still get away with it that a few more high-tech
listening devises, a few more cruise missile strikes and bombing
raids, will be enough to make the terrorists and their sponsors
back off. After all, it's worked just fine, until now.