- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

No one in official Washington will admit it, but we are now witnessing the failure of the current system of an all-volunteer military force, and it can only get worse as the war in Iraq drags on with no end in sight. The reason is quite simple: A volunteer force was never intended to work in time of war.

Few people remember that the “volunteer military posture” to replace the draft was based upon three distinct points: First, a standby draft was to be maintained; second, the Guard and reserves would be immediately called up to temporarily fill the gap until the draft resumed at full scale; and third, full conscription would then produce the manpower required in any future military emergency.

We are now facing that emergency.

Yes, there is a war going on, but the nation is not at war. Only a few brave and dedicated men and women are at war while the overwhelming majority of military-age Americans have “volunteered” to sit this one out. And the mere definition of “military age” indicates how bad the situation is.

When I went through Parris Island, the only thing more rare than a Marine recruit over 20 years of age was one who was married. Today, the Army is enlisting 42-year-olds. Anyone who thinks the volunteer military system is not in trouble is only fooling himself. How much longer can we ask the same people to bear the ever-increasing burden?

We have a serious problem and, fortunately, we also have a workable solution. It is a plan I have espoused for the past 25 years, obviously without much success, but a plan which now may be the only answer. It is the volunteer draft.

Forget the niceties. We don’t need any more married couples, single mothers and parents. What we need is mostly young single males for combat, trained, armed and equipped to fight on foot, and who can carry heavy combat gear. Even more important, what we need is to ensure the defense of our nation is shared by young men from all segments of our society, rich and poor alike.

Every year there are more of these young men available than we could possibly use, even if they were forced to serve. The volunteer draft would not force anyone to serve. It would instead challenge these young men to step forward to serve their country. It is based upon two things that never change: patriotism and peer pressure. The volunteer draft would challenge them personally. And it will work. The new question everyone would be asking is: “What are you going to do if you are selected in the volunteer draft?”

Omitting technical details, it would work like this: As now required, all men would register at age 18. As before, everyone would receive a random lottery number at age 19, giving notice of where they stand in the order of call and the opportunity to volunteer early. At age 20, based upon manpower requirements, notice would be sent to the designated number of registrants that they have been selected to serve two years’ active service under the volunteer draft.

Registrants would then reply as to whether they agree to serve or decline to serve. It is their choice. Those who agree to serve would be entitled to a full college scholarship in return for two years’ honorable service. Those who agree to serve, but fail to meet the requirements, would be given a certificate of response to the volunteer draft. Additional calls would be made, if necessary, until each year’s requirements are met. As before, anyone could volunteer at any time for the volunteer draft to take advantage of the two-year enlistment.

Robert D. Ford,

Harrisburg, Pa.

Dear Robert:

There is no doubt that all Americans have to step forward and sacrifice for our country. I believe these words by Teddy Roosevelt are apropos in replying to your missive.

“It is not the critic who counts;not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.

So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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