Ignore all those Internet rumors. Despite the U.S. military's desperate need for more troops, there is no chance that the Bush administration or Congress will resurrect the draft, short of a new Pearl Harbor.
It's just too unpopular politically. Moreover, military experts say that conscription would hurt the quality and morale of the armed forces.
Instead, the Pentagon is examining other options, such as calling up more members of the National Guard and reserves, extending tours of active duty, shifting manpower within divisions, and moving troops from Europe and Asia to meet the urgent needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the Army announced Wednesday that it would call up 5,600 former active-duty personnel for another round of service.
"A draft? It's just not going to happen," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, agreed: "There is very little support in Congress for reinstating the draft."
Perhaps those comments will help steady the nerves of many Americans apparently rattled by an e-mail that is circulating nationwide. It says that legislation is pending in Congress that would reinstitute the draft for the first time since 1973, starting as early as next spring. It also says that the administration is "quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections."
There is a kernel of truth to the allegation -- there is a bill pending that would restart the draft. But the Bush administration opposes it, as do Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress. Everyone remotely in a position to know is quite sure that the bill is going nowhere.
"I don't know anyone in the executive branch of the government who believes that it would be appropriate or necessary to reinstitute the draft," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in April.
The bill's primary sponsor is Rep. Charles Rangel, a liberal Democrat from New York who represents Harlem. Even he admitted that his bill won't pass. He said he introduced it to get people to discuss who is doing the fighting in Iraq.
"The burdens of war should be fairly shared across all segments of our society and not fall disproportionately on poor communities as they do now," Rangel said in a written statement Wednesday.
The Selective Service System even posted a message to debunk the new-draft myth on its website, www.sss.gov.
Fueling fear of a draft is a concern that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained military manpower dangerously. The House of Representatives and the Senate have voted this year to increase the number of active-duty personnel.
But the Bush administration opposes a permanent increase, contending that the current spike in active-duty personnel is temporary. Instead, the Pentagon is looking to ease manpower shortages by outsourcing noncombat operations to private contractors, extending tours, and integrating National Guard units and reserves into active-duty forces. Already, the National Guard and reserves make up about 40 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq.
In addition, the Army announced this week that it will call up 5,600 people who recently left the military but still have obligations as reservists. Army officials admitted that these are involuntary recruits, but they said the reservists were aware of the obligation when they signed up.
That is a long way from reviving the draft.
"It ain't going to happen," said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration who is now with the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.
"It's an urban legend, and urban legends die hard," said Rep. Ed Schrock, R-Va., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
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