- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

America has not had, or needed, military conscription since the waning days of the Vietnam War nearly 30 years ago. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the question has arisen again: Will a draft be needed to deal with the ongoing battle against terrorists, their state sponsors and others who may harbor or aid them? The answer is probably not. And this is a good thing from several points of view.

Even though the Selective Service program still exists and federal law requires almost all American males between the ages of 18 and 25 to register with the system for a theoretically possible draft the all-volunteer force that has existed since the 1970s has shown itself to be a better alternative to conscription. Among the arguments put forward at the time the all-volunteer force was being debated was that a force comprised of willing recruits would tend to be more dedicated and more professional, than one composed mostly of young men (and perhaps women, as well) who would rather be elsewhere.

It is a fact, too, that the caliber of recruits has dramatically increased in the years since the all-volunteer force was adopted. A high school diploma is the minimum qualification these days; dropouts need not apply. But probably the most relevant and important benefit of the all-volunteer force is that those currently serving are there because they wish to serve. Freely accepting a commitment that often entails several years of active duty with all the hardships that may entail in addition to another several years thereafter on reserve, necessitates a special affection for what Douglas MacArthur called "Duty, Honor, Country." Such esprit de corps should not be fiddled with lightly.

A resumption of the draft should only be considered in the event of a truly titanic struggle in which the physical existence of the nation may be at stake. The current battle against terrorism is certainly serious and of unquestionable importance but it is not of such a magnitude as to require total mobilization and a return to conscription.

For the present, the all-volunteer force will likely be more than sufficient to deal with the likes of Osama bin Laden and his nest of vipers.

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