Will the Military Become a Catch-All?

Earlier this week, Representative Charlie Rangel "renewed" his call for a draft.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday morning renewed his call for a mandatory military draft to ensure that the demands of the U.S. armed forces are not met only by lower-income Americans who are more likely to join the military to earn a paycheck.
And in this clip, several times over, Lawrence Korb suggested that a draft would have greatly relieved the current force from the crushing OPTEMPO of the last decade.

As for Rangel, while I'm sure it's true that a percentage of recruits see military service as a purely economic option, I take exception to the implication that those without other options disproportionally join the military. As for Korb, he's right that dwell time would have been expanded if a draft had been in place, but would a draft have done more harm than good? All that aside, I'm disturbed by a developing trend to use military service as a solution to political dilemmas, or by mandating it as a reward or a punishment.

Last year, we found that military service was being handed out as a sentence for some criminal activity. One of our astute commenters summed up my feelings on the subject:

I personally can't stand it when serving the country, serving in the military is used as a punishment, because it's degrading to the military.
And another had this to say:
This may sound selfish, but I'm going to put it out there - I don't want someone who is FORCED to be there, to be the guy that's supposed to be watching my husband's back.
Without question, the military has its share of bad apples among the volunteer ranks. Always has, always will. Are we prepared to compound that problem?

From punishment to reward, the introduction of the DREAM Act has lawmakers eyeing military service (or a college education) in exchange for legal residency for illegal aliens who were brought to the United States as children.

Last year as talk about the DREAM Act heated up, Margaret Stock, a retired Military Officer advocated for its passage:

The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a bipartisan bill that would provide a path to legal residence for undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. The conditions: They must graduate from high school, demonstrate good moral character, and -- to keep their legal status -- complete at least two years of higher education or at least two years service in the U.S. military.


The House and Senate are poised to consider the DREAM Act during the current lame duck session of Congress. The vote presents an opportunity for our lawmakers to increase military recruitment, enhance U.S. national security and help high-achieving young people at the same time. I strongly urge members of Congress to pass this long overdue measure.

All of these proposals, from the draft to the DREAM act to requiring criminals to join the service chip away at part of the honor that comes from volunteering to serve your country. I fully understand the notion that our military has shouldered the brunt of the burden which has come from a decade of war and I've grappled with the ethics of this issue myself. You'll also get no argument from me that military service instills confidence, integrity, pride, builds character and has a host of positive affects on service members and their families. But in the end, I believe that what makes military service in the United States special is precisely the fact that we have an all-volunteer force. I'd be interested to know if service members prefer that the men (or women) on their flanks volunteered rather than in some way be mandated or otherwise enticed to serve, or if would make no difference to them whatsoever.

One can understand the reasoning behind some of these proposals; Children of illegal aliens had no say in where their parents took them, the prision system is overcrowded, in a time of war, the entire nation should feel the sting. You can take each proposal, one by one, and make a case for or against them. But when you put them all together, it just seems that there is a desire on the part of some to use the military as a dumping ground for people who are experiencing all sorts of hardships and dilemmas.

This just feels like an easy way for politicians to avoid having to address the root of some truly hard and complicated issues.

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