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Notes on Charlie Rangel, Shared Sacrifice and the Draft

 

Democrats head toward the 2004 election facing any number of problems. Various factions of the party jostling for the Presidential nomination. A House majority leader described by one of my readers as “having had the Botox take hold of her brain.” As senior a figure as Representative Rangel believing that advocating military conscription will somehow result in a poll bounce.

On the surface, the recent Rangel media blitz seems almost purposefully disingenuous. The phrase “shared sacrifice” brims with such schmaltz that Tom Brokaw would dismiss it as overdone were he still alive. Given that virtually everyone willing to speak on the record crafts coherent arguments against Rangel’s proposal to reinstate the draft, it seems just a tad suspicious that Rangel has gotten as much face time as David Frum and the Raelians combined in the last couple of weeks. Why so much play for a proposal dismissed by Rumsfeld and others as unworkable and directly counter to what is widely touted as an increased specialization in the armed forces?

Still more questions. Assuming that Rangel’s proposal were to pass, and the nation was blessed with another million or two active duty soldiers, what tasks would they undertake? Increased collaboration between the military and civilian law-enforcement in police actions? Occupation of Burkina Faso? Rangel demurs from addressing specific applications of this increased federal manpower. It’s telling that no one interviewing him, to my knowledge, has asked the Congressman what all these young, strapping lads and lasses are intended to do with their munitions.

So, why the Rangel push for bringing back the draft, when it’s so repellent to both the Defense Department and members of his own party such as Senator John Edwards? Even as a Swiftian reaction to the so-called poverty draft that stocks the military with folks lacking better career options, the New York Democrat’s proposal falls flat. It’s impossible to accept Rangel’s suggestion that conscription would lead to a more humane, less war-mongering foreign policy. Conscription is what it looks like on the surface; yet another blatant attempt to increase federal power.

Does Rangel hope to outflank the Defense Department to the “right” on this issue? That would be a dangerous game, if it weren’t so quixotic. Rangel will take fire for a draft proposal that is unworkable in the current climate, allowing Rumsfeld’s gang to come off as moderate voices of reason. The real fun on this issue will be seeing which of the Congressman’s colleagues will support this initiative. Imagine the irony when Corrine Brown, a Florida Congresswoman who once told SPY magazine how we could improve our foreign policy toward Freedonia, comes out in favor of this draft. Never mind what country we’re going to invade with these “sacrifices”. Just get them into the service and let boot camp sort them out.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI’s first published book is UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS [2001, Diversity]. He welcomes emails at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.

 

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ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

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