Letters: Bring back the draft

Readers respond to Ann Marlowe's article about a compulsory national service that would go beyond legally required enlistment in the military.

Published October 9, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Read "Bring Back the Draft" by Ann Marlowe

The belief that a compulsory draft will help level our society is optimistically naive. The children of the rich and the middle class would either find deferments or land cushy positions while the poor would be the ones fighting wildfires and cleaning up the ghettos. And the belief that forced service would cut down on racism and drug and alcohol use has no basis in reality. Look at the wonders that the Vietnam War did for race relations and drug abuse. And, finally, there are already programs out there for those who want to give something back to their country: the armed forces, Americorps and many others, which are all volunteer and seldom lack in applicants.

-- Roger Bruneau

Ann Marlowe's article "Bring Back the Draft" is definitely the most wonderful piece of writing I've encountered since Sept. 11. There really needs to be a sense of obligation and community brought back into America as well as a good old-fashioned work ethic. I really can't even think of a better solution than mandatory national service for our youth. We have been too lazy too long, and it's about time America cultivate its seeds and soil before we are completely surrounded by weeds.

-- Eric Saulnier

Ann Marlow's proposal for compulsory national service is a bad idea for a number of reasons. First of all, she writes that its purpose would be to foster a love of service, and perpetuate the wonderfully cooperative volunteerist spirit of recent weeks. But compulsory service won't accomplish that, precisely because it is compulsory. People will rightly resent the loss of liberty that this would entail, and that's not likely to make them feel good about service. Second of all, it isn't morally valuable to force people into cooperative schemes. What is admirable about the recent "pitching in" is exactly that it is what people wish to do, not something they are coerced into doing.

-- Dr. Aeon J. Skoble

I appreciate Marlowe's sense of fairness in advocating that women should also be required to serve. The discussion on men's rights Web sites tends to be very skeptical about whether our society could ever bring itself to require military service from females. Mention a draft and we men hear the sound of a hundred million females stampeding, running for the exits. You will forgive our cynicism, but we've seen this before and it's not the first time we've gotten stuck with the check, so to speak. I fear that our society is still very Victorian and sentimental about womanhood. I don't feel that women who expect men to pay for dates are going to equally shoulder the burden of national defense. We jump from saying that women could do anything men can, to saying that they need special status and protection because they are women. Does gender equality and fairness apply only to women and only at their pleasure?

-- Les Farkas

What a great idea! I'd vote for this in a minute, and sign up for service, too. Run for office, Ann. You've got great potential!

-- Stacy Boyd

It is obvious Ann Marlowe has no concept of "National Service." Today's basic training does not break down an individual and remake them as a member of a team. This philosophy is on display in the new Army slogan "Army of One." Females are not challenged to the same high standards as males. In fact no one is challenged to high standards. Today's recruit has only to achieve 50 percent of the maximum score to exit basic training and proceed to a permanent party station, where his squad leader is forced to continue training him/her to an acceptable minimum standard of 70 percent of the max score.

Marlowe is happy with the concept of differing standards. Her suggestion with regard to selection for service areas points this out. In selecting which person would pick up trash and who would work in a national park, who do you think will be selected? Will the inner-city kid who has a poor, government-funded education, in which he did not learn about those documents she wishes to have remedial classes in, be allowed to "work on a submarine"? Or will the young man from Philadelphia's Mainline who has attended private institutions and is light-years ahead of other kids in science skills?

Why not approach things in a common-sense manner? Bring back the draft and limit it to an 18-month period of service. Set universal unalterable standards. Allow the draftee to choose "within the bounds of reason," his service branch -- Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and add the Border Patrol.

Skills learned by draftees could then be used later in life. There is more to military service than learning to kill. For each warrior placed on the battlefield, 10 support personnel are needed -- clerks, medical, cooks, transportation, law enforcement, lawyers, communications specialist, transportation, pilots.

It would surprise Marlowe to learn that the warriors (infantry) are not from the shallow end of the gene pool. During my tenure in the '80s and '90s as an airborne infantry soldier and later a military policeman, I had the privilege of meeting a musician who had received his degree from Juilliard; a young man who was paying for medical school with his infantry signing bonus; a future attorney and future social workers, accountants and educators -- in short, the most democratic group of individuals you could possibly assemble. Perhaps Marlowe should spend some time with military folks before she dismisses them out of hand.

-- Teddy Sandifer

By Salon Staff

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