Will Bush bring back the draft?

Not intentionally. But he didn’t intend to bankrupt the government, either.

Is the draft a “scare” issue? Sure it is. People are afraid of it.

Is it a legitimate issue? After all, GWB says he’s against it.

Kerry can, I think, legitimately respond that being against a draft doesn’t do much good if you pursue policies that will make one necessary.

Right now, we’re not hitting the levels of recruitment and retention needed to sustain our current commitments, let alone the commitments we might have to make in Korea and Iran. If the economy improves and the low-wage labor market tightens — admittedly, less of a risk under Bush than under Kerry — the problem gets that much harder. Using the Guard and Reserve more heavily, calling on the Individual Ready Reserve, and keeping servicemembers from leaving via stop-loss are all short-term expedients with long-term costs in terms of falling recruitment and retention.

And the Bush Administration hasn’t said anything about how it’s going to rectify the imbalance, except for assuming that Iraq will quiet down even as the intensity of the fighting grows.

If I were Kerry, I’d say something like,

The President says he doesn’t intend to institute a draft. I take him at his word; I’m sure he doesn’t. But I’m concerned that the President’s policies, which he refuses to even consider changing because he never makes a mistake, will make a draft inevitable.

After all, no doubt the President was sincere four years ago when he promised to balance the budget. Did he propose trillions of dollars of new national debt? No. Was he in favor of trillions of dollars of new national debt? No.

But his tax cuts for the rich made trillions of dollars of new national debt inevitable. Now they’re here, with deficits stretching as far as the eye can see. The President says he’s surprised. He says it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault.

No doubt he’ll be just as surprised when the time comes, and just as willing to blame the result on someone else, when he has to ask the Congress to reinstitute the draft.

No, President Bush doesn’t propose a draft, any more than the proposed a shortage of flu vaccine. He’s not in favor of a draft, any more than he was in favor of losing jobs instead of gaining them.

But choices have consequences. I’m sorry if Mr. Bush is offended by my pointing out the likely consequences of his unwise choices, but that’s my job in this election.

Your job, as voters, is to decide whether you want another four years of the inintended bad results that grow out of certainty divorced from knowledge, or whether you want to try another course.

One thing is sure: if the politicians in Washington keep doing what they’re doing, the country is going to keep getting what it’s getting. Apparently that’s good enough for President Bush. It’s not good enough for me.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “Will Bush bring back the draft?”

  1. More draft nonsense

    They just don't quit, do they? Apparently the new line is that Bush's secret plan for the war on terror requires expanding the military, and there is no possible way to expand the military without a draft. Notice that these…

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