Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2002/ 3 Shevat, 5763
theory of involuntary servitude
New York Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel's illogical proposal that we reinstate a military draft to force the "shared sacrifice" of war plays the race card at its immoral worst. It is otherwise a pluperfectly bad idea.
Rangel proposed the draft in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, arguing that congressmen and women would be less likely to favor war were their own children likely to serve. "A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war," he wrote.
Rangel's Argument, defined as "sounds good, smells bad," is based on an underlying assumption of moral bankruptcy -- that members of Congress only vote in favor of war when no one they know personally is likely to suffer or die. If that's the moral barometer by which Rangel believes his colleagues cast votes, then one wonders why he waited 16 terms to mention it.
The race card, meanwhile, reads like this: Because military recruits tend to come mostly from minority groups and the poor -- and because members of Congress tend to be mostly white and financially secure -- well, you get the picture.
Some more cynical than I have proposed that Rangel, who voted against the joint congressional resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, is hoping a draft would prompt sufficient protest to thwart the resolution. In other words, if you can't beat them democratically, force their surrender by holding an Iraqi missile to their children's heads. As I said, I'm not that cynical.
But beyond cynicism lies a clear and persistent illogic to Rangel's dangerous proposal, which presupposes that all those who voted in favor of the joint resolution either have no family currently serving in the military (a few do) or are, like Sen. Hillary Clinton, parents only of daughters, who are not subject to a military draft. Or worse, that they have no moral conscience whatsoever.
We'll have to wait for the data crunchers to return from vacation to find out how many congressional sons might be captured by Rangel's egalitarian net or whether his proposal theoretically would shift votes in other directions. In the meantime, I'd like to propose a few variations on Rangel's theme.
If we accept that politicians will cast votes from a higher moral ground only if they are personally affected by the outcome of their votes, then logically we might look forward to other policy shifts resulting from a strict vote-sacrifice standard. Perhaps, for example, we should command that only parents -- who know a thing or two about the differences between boys and girls -- can vote on gender issues.
Or how about this: Only those whose children attend public schools can vote on education issues. And only descendants of those who fought in the American Revolution are allowed to vote on foreign policy. And for pure amusement, let's insist that only those of American Indian descent can vote on immigration.
In the interest of full disclosure, I gave birth 18 years ago to one son, who also incidentally qualifies to vote on all the above issues, including immigration. As a descendant of Choctaw Indians, as well as of forebears who fought in the American Revolution, who attends a public high school, he has, by Rangelian Logic, a greater claim to this debate than most.
He would prefer not to be drafted, I am certain. As would millions of other American sons who have studied and worked hard in order to go to college. But what they or I or Rangel wants is secondary to the only question that matters: What best serves our national security?
The answer, as history has proved, is an armed force of serious, motivated, committed men and women who, having chosen the military voluntarily, have been vigorously trained for the rigors of war. War is not a social experiment, and the military shouldn't be asked to satisfy social quotas or the mentalities that exploit them.
Reinstating a draft to ensure that Congress' sons are equally at risk as those who chose to join the military is a fake punch that may sound like equality but smells like race-baiting political blackmail. If Rangel really wants to draft somebody, skip the children and take me. As the bumper sticker says, I'm out of estrogen and I've got a gun.
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