The greatest heyday of the left has to have been the period from 1964 until the late 1970’s. They had one of the most liberal presidents in history handing them all the social programs they could possibly want, and a war that they could all unite in opposing and despising. They had the Right on the run, for the most part, and only by running as a “new Nixon” could the former vice-president regain the presidency.
And it was that opposition to the Viet Nam war that gave them their greatest triumphs. They brought down one president. They nearly crippled another. They converted the military into a despised, maligned, gelded shadow of its glory days of World War II.
One of their greatest victories was the ending of the draft. Mandatory military service, where all young men had to register for military service, was seen as a great injustice. Draft cards were burned, draft dodgers lionized, draft offices openly attacked and their records destroyed. It was seen as such a great moral crusade that even ordained members of the clergy participated in openly attacking the Selective Service movement (see Daniel and Philip Berrigan).
And they won.
In 1975, President Ford formally abolished the draft, ending mandatory military service in the United States. And 30 years ago today, on his first day in office, President Jimmy Carter formally pardoned those who had evaded the draft.
It was a body blow to our armed services. No longer could they simply tap the ready pool of conscriptees to fill their ranks. They suddenly had to rely wholely on volunteers, on men and women who wanted to serve. Deprived of the draft stick, they had to add more and more carrots to the mix to meet their needs for new personnel.
It took a long time, but it eventually the military recovered — and excelled. Within a decade or so, the United States armed services had transformed into the most competent, most professional, most dedicated, most capable force the world had ever seen. And the grizzled veterans who swore up and down that the end of the draft would lead to the utter collapse of the military found themselves amazed — and outclassed — by their successors.
But now things have come full circle. Once again, we are at war far from home, in a struggle that many consider essential, while others say is drastically flawed. And the response of the left is much the same: to attack the military, to attempt to thwart the war by stripping our armed services of their ability to fight effectively. And to do so under the banner of ‘social justice” and “fairness.”
But they’ve had to flip their argument around. Where in the 1960’s the draft was the great evil, today it is the great savior. They want to revive the bete noir they fought so hard to slay, to bring it back to “share the burdens and sacrifices” across social, racial, and economic strata. Only if all Americans are equally involved in the conflict, if all are equally committed, if all are equally at risk, can we fairly and justly determine just when we should — and should not — fight.
That’s the crux of the argument. They can gussy it up with fancy, intellectual rhetoric or cheap emotionalism (“Send the Bush twins to Iraq!”), but it’s all the same: to end the war they despise by attacking our very ability to fight. They believe that they can fortify their arguments against the rightness of the fight by adding in the element of “we can’t win it anyway,” carefully omitting their own role in making that a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The draft is dead. It died over 30 years ago, and it should stay dead. These efforts to bring it back are nothing short of necrophilia, the grotesque rape of a long-dead cadaver. It’s “beating a dead horse” taken to a pornographic extreme.
I would say that the proponents ought to be ashamed of themselves, but I’m convinced that “shame” is simply a concept they don’t recognize.
Update: one commenter has challenged me to back up my allegation that the Democrats are in favor of reinstating the draft. While it is true that the majority of Democrats haven’t endorsed it yet, it speaks volumes that the Democrats have chosen to entrust the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful positions in Congress, to Charles Rangel, who has repeatedly introduced legislation to bring back the draft — and reaffirmed that intention as recently as last November.