Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Philip Gold: The Coming Draft
Philip Gold. The Coming Draft: The Crisis in our Military and Why Selective Service Is Wrong for America. New York: Ballantine, 2006. ISBN 0-89141-895-4. 231 pages, indexed, hardcover. On Nov 16 on this blog, I reviewed a book called "AWOL" that was particularly concerned about the overrepresentation of the poor or disadvantaged in the military, a point that Charles Rangel and Charles Moskos have emphasized in urging a return to military conscription.
Gold's book, as it reads, really doesn't seem to back up the idea that old-style military conscription is inevitable, even given circumstances with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. He gives a lot of history, and emphasizes that much of the political power related to conscription has always been decentralized to local boards in the Selective Service system, an arrangement that allows the "playing God" with young men's lives (especially deferments) to be managed by local communities. How tidy. Selective Service, he argues, was never really that effective anyway.
He does point out the fact that an obscure federal law actually defines an unorganized civilian militia, and he argues for developing that concept into a national service with a lot of strong carrots, and maybe extra taxation for those who don't or can't serve. He does mention the "don't ask don't tell" policy with regard to gays in the military, without definite conclusions but I believe he would agree that the policy should be tanked.
I actually corresponded with the Selective Service system by phone and mail quite a bit in 1996 when I was working on my first book.
The Associated Press reported in mid February that the Army and Marine Corps were now accepting recruits with certain misdemeanor criminal convictions (like some drug offenses), in order to meet quotas. Consider the absurdity of this: accepting criminals, in an era when (open) gays cannot be accepted. (Okay, you can talk about Lawrence v. Texas, as well as UCMJ 125).