Due to a severe overextension of military personnel and the Bush administration’s plan to continue occupation in Iraq and beyond, a military draft for men and, for the first time, women, could start as early as June 15.
Military experts have said that if George W. Bush plans to stay in Iraq and follow through with threats to attack Iran, North Korea, and Syria, a draft is the only option for success.
“There’s a real and distinct probability that the draft is going to return,” said Dustin Langley, an organizer with No Draft No Way. “Normally, you would turn to the Army Reserve or National Guard, but they’ve already done that…they don’t have any source besides [a draft].”
Langley said the military is at least 100,000 soldiers short in Iraq alone.
The Selective Service System has been working to fill draft board vacancies after almost 30 years of dormancy, and is expected by Bush to report by March 31 that the new draft will be ready for activation within 75 days.
Many question the Bush administration’s 2003 promise that there would not be a draft under their watch.
“Despite what the politicians say, the institution responsible for the draft is preparing for a draft,” Langley said, “and we know they can’t do it without congressional support, but that can happen in an afternoon.”
The new system, which expanded its age cap for enlistment from 25 to 34, will require people to consistently notify the SSS about new skills until their 35th birthday, creating a “national inventory” of people and skills for the military, according to a February 2003 proposal to Pentagon officials.
An internal SSS memo suggests that the new draft will work harder to acquire fewer people with needed skills — such as doctors and engineers — rather than a large group of unskilled soldiers.
Military experts agree, however, that the current shortage is in combat, not in specialization.
Significant changes are already being made to help increase military reserves. Under a policy called “stop loss,” the military is requiring that all reservists and guardsmen remain in active duty until further notice. Over 40,000 soldiers have had their enlistments involuntarily extended, most until 2031.
Michelle Christensen, a sophomore, left her ROTC program because of Bush’s election to a second term.
She said that for many of her friends in the military, “it’s always a countdown to when they get out.”
The Army has lowered its standards to admit 25 percent more high school dropouts. Bush is also allowing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship immediately — rather than waiting five years — once they sign up for active duty.
Recruiting in economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color is also at a high. One of the Army’s new marketing campaigns, called “Taking It To The Streets,” visits McDonald’s and Black College Expos across the country, and features a “Flight Adventure Simulator,” a basketball exhibition, and free throwback jerseys.
“[The military] gives people opportunities,” Christensen said. “It’s a paycheck, a vocation, and you learn things that you can take with you for life. But it’s sad that they target those communities… and if you’re forced to join, it’s just not the same experience.”
Unlike during the Vietnam War, young adults will not find protection in Canada or college. In 2001, the U.S. and Canada signed the “Smart Border Declaration,” a 30 point agreement that could be used to prevent draft dodging. In efforts to make the draft more evenhanded along racial and class lines, higher education will no longer be a safe haven from the war — underclassmen could postpone service only until the end of their current semester, while seniors would be able to finish out the academic year.
Christensen said, “it’s really hard to believe that [Bush] would be such an idiot to do that, because that means all their kids have to go.”
But Morse said young people can still become Conscientious Objectors. His organization suggests men write on their registration cards that they are registered as COs, and build a case showing they are against war, by taking photos at anti-war protests, collecting fliers, saving papers written about peace, and making plenty of sealed copies of their registration copies.
“Women can start thinking about this too,” Morse said, “there’s a whole tradition of people not cooperating with the Selective Service System and it’s important for people to think about whether they want to be part of that tradition.”
Christensen joked about another option for women: “I’d go and get knocked up just to get out.”