With all of the recent publicity about the 1% of wealthy Americans who own 40% of the nation's total wealth but who pay a proportionately lesser personal income tax than the remaining 99%, there is another 1% of our population on whom we need to focus. They are the 1% who constitute our all voluntary military who are now fighting two concurrent wars in the Middle East, as well as defending our other interests all around the globe. In the process they are constantly separated from their families for extraordinarily long periods of time which Colin Powell contends even eclipses that experienced by our military during WWII. Furthermore, they are experiencing more life altering injuries to their brains and extremities due to the preponderance of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), land mines, armor-piercing rockets and suicide bombers. And, finally, they often times return home to find their domestic and financial situations in a total state of turmoil, compounded by such difficulty in finding a job that Vice-President Biden felt it necessary to make a public appeal just last week for employers to give special consideration in hiring our veterans.
By contrast, service in the U.S. military has historically been an involuntary part of our national fabric dating back to 1778 when the Continental Congress first recommended states draft men from their militias to fight in the Revolutionary War. However, that early draft was not very successful so, subsequently, an attempt was again made to institute conscription during the War of 1812, but it, too, failed. It was not until the Civil War that there was any success with mandatory drafts when both the Confederate and Union forces employed them in 1862. But it was President Woodrow Wilson's Selective Service Act of 1917 that corrected most of the flaws of previous legislation by mandating military service for all male citizens for WWI. After that draft effort ended, another attempt was made by the Army in 1926 to develop an even more workable conscription program. That initiative became the basis for the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 which created the first peacetime draft in the United States when signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on September 16, 1940. In fact it became the cornerstone of manpower recruitment following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 which continued throughout WWII, and with some later modifications in 1948, 1951 and 1955 formed the basis for the current Selective Service System. Oddly, the very existence of a draft prompted an estimated 11 million men to volunteer for military service either through active or reserve enlistments from January 1954 to April 1975.
However, for most male Americans born after 1973 service in the military became a non issue, as that was the year the mandatory draft ended and the United States went to our existing all voluntary military. That brings us back to that nagging "Other One Percent%" and whether it may be time to reinstate involuntary military service in America. Will that ever happen? Probably not, but there might be a rationale for requiring some form of mandatory service to this country whether in a military capacity or otherwise. First, it would definitely spread the sacrifices of war among the remaining 99%. That alone might just cause those in power who make such decisions, and may have never served one day in the military themselves, to think twice about sending our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters into harm's way. Just last week Mark Weisbrot of McClatchy-Tribune News Service opined in our local newspaper that a majority of Americans now want our troops out of Afghanistan and two thirds think we should have never invaded Iraq in the first place. I wonder if it would have taken ten years to come to these same conclusions if a broader cross section of America's young men and women had been over there fighting those battles since 2001. Another plus would be to instill in our youth a deeper sense of responsibility about serving their country and not just take their secure and safe worlds for granted. There are many other viewpoints on this issue, but please go to http://debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate:_Mandatory_military_service and decide for yourself.
In just two days we will once again honor that Day of Infamy on December 7, 1941, which, as a direct result of the draft, was met with a huge mobilization of men and material to fight and win WWII. If nothing else, that terrible four year conflict should have at least taught us the value of not having just 1% of our population fight the battle for the remaining 99%.