The Washington Times

Have you noticed that the possibility of the reinstatement of the draft, so much a matter of worried if not fevered discussion and speculation a couple of months ago, seems to have disappeared? That’s about all the evidence anyone should need to see just how phony the issue was in the first place.

Right before the presidential election, a friend of mine was participating in a debate at a large university in the Pacific Northwest. He reported that the first question from the student audience was a fretful one about the possibility, then burning up the Internet, that the draft would be a top priority of a second Bush term. My friend replied reassuringly, repeating that there was no such sentiment among Republicans or Democrats in Washington, that the only legislation proposing a return to the draft had been introduced by Democrat Charlie Rangel to make a political point about how the children of the elite don’t fight America’s wars, that even Mr. Rangel’s bill allowed anyone who wanted it a non-military national service option, and that the House of Representatives had voted the bill down in October by 402-2, with even Mr. Rangel urging its defeat.

My friend and I agreed afterward that it might have been more amusing had he instead hinted archly that plans for a new draft were indeed so far advanced that anyone who wanted to stand a chance of making it to the Canadian border in time had better leave at once.

In any case, the persistence of the issue – and the pervasiveness of the fear it generated among, well, the children of the elite who don’t fight America’s wars – was almost insurmountable. The Internet is, of course, a resource of incalculable value. But its general tone is not exactly one of imperturbability. If you are looking for the mother most singularly hysterical about the prospect of her son (or daughter!) being shipped off to Iraq, you can find her. Dad, too.

The situation was not helped when John Kerry himself joined in. He called a draft “possible” given Mr. Bush’s personnel policies and in the closing weeks referred to the “great potential” of its return, notwithstanding Mr. Bush’s blunt dismissal in the second presidential debate: “We’re not going to have a draft, period.” Not to be outdone, some Bush supporters weighed in on op-ed pages with the equally groundless charge that it was a President Kerry who was more likely to reinstate a draft.

As is apparent by now, no one is going to reinstate a draft. And nothing has changed between October and now to make a draft less (or more) likely, since the likelihood has been nil across the entire time period.

There’s a very good reason for this. To the youth of America who do not wish to serve in the military, let me make one point: The military doesn’t want you to serve, either.

The United States doesn’t do cannon-fodder wars any more. The American way of war is not to throw human waves into the gunfire. The principal war-fighting part of the military consists of supremely competent professionals who have dedicated themselves to excellence in the art of warfare. Uniformed positions in support of the warriors are also available for those looking for a good career move – but only for people who are inclined to take them.

As for those who have no desire to excel at war, they should stay home, where they can best support the military by being good citizens, paying taxes, flying the flag, putting up yellow ribbons and remembering from time to time, and at least on major holidays, the sacrifice those in uniform make for our personal comfort. We could also stand a little less self-dramatization on campus. It’s one thing to fear death on the battlefield. That’s something warriors have to deal with. It’s entirely different to fear death on a battlefield no one has any intention of sending your sorry ass to in the first place. Quaking with fear is especially unbecoming among those whose fear is groundless.

The American creed of egalitarianism occasionally gets carried away with itself. Courage – raw, physical courage of the sort that enables one to risk violent death knowingly – is simply not equally distributed among the population. The warriors must possess it, and those who do not possess it should not imagine themselves among the warriors. In the end, that’s why the draft is a bad military option. The U.S. military understands this perfectly well, though certain civilians, unsurprisingly, remain confused.

As for the notion that the elite do not fight, that is the conceit of elite non-fighters, who do not understand that the warriors are themselves an elite that, in certain crucial respects, especially including courage, far surpasses them.

Against the storm of fear and misinformation of the campaign season, one stood little chance of getting these points across. Now, there is perhaps less need. But in truth, there is always a need.