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America's youth must serve their country, one way or another

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The United States military has a very big problem: Too many global conflicts and commitments – and too few soldiers.

That's why it's time to reinstate the draft. A draft would do more than just harness the energy and idealism of the nation's youth to meet the military's unmet personnel needs. It would also tap more of the resources of the nation's women, heeding their demands for more gender equality by making their obligations more consonant with their rights.

It would give the federal government more flexibility in dealing with conscientious objectors. And it would be fairer to African-Americans and other minorities, who might stop viewing military service as just another job choice.

Here's how the new draft should work:

•All able-bodied and able-minded 18-year-old men and women should have their names placed in a lottery. Depending on how many soldiers are needed – typically just a few thousand each year – a modest percentage would be drafted.

•Then, the names of all those who didn't get drafted should be placed into a lottery for nonmilitary service in city or suburban slums, rural areas, native Americans reservations, or other poverty-stricken places.

•If the lottery puts draftees in a nonmilitary program – say, in healthcare – that requires more education and training than they possess, they could opt for getting that additional expertise in the civilian world. But then, the draftees would have to enter that nonmilitary program immediately after completing their studies.

Now, it is always possible that in any given year the number of young people eligible for both the military and nonmilitary lotteries may exceed the need for their services. But whenever any young people miss involuntary service by the luck of the draw, they will have done so more fairly and honorably than was true during the days of the Vietnam War.

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