Jewish World Review Dec. 2, 2002 / 27 Kislev, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time | On the back of the black tee shirts the instructors wore was emblazoned the slogan: "Pain is weakness leaving the body." Students at North Hills High School glanced at it apprehensively as they entered the gym.

"We're the Marines," said Sgt. Peter Irene, 25. "We're not here to make you into Marines. We're not going to kill anybody. But we're going to give you a good workout."

Pittsburgh area Marines had taken over physical education instruction for a day. The Marines do this roughly twice a week for western Pennsylvania schools that ask for their help. The Marines put the high school students through a brisk regimen of calisthenics.

"It was a good workout," said Denny DiPasquale, a senior. "It's a lot more physically demanding than what we usually do."

"I thought it was really fun," said Liz Quigley, a junior. "We actually did something in gym class."

The program, now four years old, is unique. Only the Marines in the Pittsburgh area offer it. I thought about it as I sifted through the raft of emails I received in response to an article pointing out that resumption of the draft would harm the military.

My friend Ralph Peters, who was regarded as the Army's leading intellectual prior to his retirement a few years ago, acknowledges that the military probably would be hurt by a resumption of conscription. But the draft should be reinstated, he said, because it's good for society.

"Two things have knitted this nation together: public schools and the draft," Peters said. "Now the draft is ended, and even the upper middle class is fleeing the public schools. The people who are worried about the draft are exactly the people who need to serve."

A draft both Ralph and I would favor is one that would apply only to college students. But it is hard to see how such a draft could pass constitutional muster, or be approved by a Congress whose Members rely heavily on the parents of those students for campaign contributions.

Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time. A draft for our historic period of conscription of two years would lower, dramatically, the quality of recruits entering the Armed Forces. During the draft era, those entering the military had education levels below those of the youth population. Today, 91 percent of recruits have high school diplomas, compared to just 79 percent of civilians aged 18-24.

Most jobs in the Armed Forces today require smart people, and take a long time to train for. The military needs volunteers who will serve for four or more years to get a reasonable return on the cost of training them.

If we want to get more of our best and brightest to sign up, we need more imaginative outreach programs like the Marine physical education program described above. Many of the students at North Hills high were impressed with the bright, fit, proud young men and women who put them through their paces. The Marines should do this nationwide, and the Army would do well to emulate the program.

The services also could offer shorter enlistments for those few military jobs, like the infantry, which don't require as much training. Northwestern University Prof. Charles Moskos, the nation's leading military sociologist, has found that while hardly any of his students would consider a four year enlistment - that seems like a lifetime to most college students - many would be willing to sign up for 18 to 24 months.

The military has a great story to tell. The best deal for a young person who wants to go to college on the government's nickel is to join the Pennsylvania National Guard. Guardsmen have tuition waived at most state colleges and universities, plus receive $250 a month in G.I. Bill education benefits. And drill pay will keep them in beer money on those weekends they are not in uniform.

But many public school administrators don't want their students to hear what the military has to offer. They object to a provision in a law passed last year requiring schools to give recruiters the names, addresses and phone numbers of juniors and seniors. This is obscene. Leftists on public payrolls should not be permitted to harm our military, or to deprive young people of the benefits they could receive from serving in it.

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11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
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06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
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06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
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04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly