Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
October 28, 2005
The Executive-Congressional Draft -- Our Only Safeguard Against Reckless, Unnecessary Wars
Mothers understand fairness and human nature. They don't simply announce to two siblings, "I bought this big chocolate chip cookie, so come share it" because mothers know the more powerful kid will make that all-important carving decision, angling the knife so there's a huge slice and a tiny one -- with the latter going to the smaller child. Thus, to ensure fairness, mothers place this wise condition on both children: Whoever cuts the cake must let the other child choose his or her slice.
Brilliant! The person in the position of power is obligated to make that first pivotal sacrifice, thus protecting the less powerful person from having all the 'sacrificing' fall on him or her.
In our current system of going-to-war-but-not-calling-it-a-war, we have nothing whatsoever in place to ensure that those in positions of power must make those first pivotal sacrifices, thus protecting American military families from having all the "sacrificing" fall on them. Indeed, if you're the president, vice-president, a member of Congress (or Karl Rove), you can make the decision (or convince others to make the decision) to send America's volunteer troops into any reckless war you please without having to make a single sacrifice of your own.
If that's not a recipe for impulsive decisions and unfair sacrifice, I don't know what is.
"First Families Sacrifice First"
Under our current system of war-waging (by powerful politicians) and war-fighting (by the rest of us), the military families of volunteer troops get no say regarding where their enlisted family members are sent, yet make all the sacrifices and suffer all the losses. Their loved ones are put in harm's way by leaders who don't feel the need for caution because they know they won't have to pay any personal consequences whatsoever for their decisions to start, continue or fund a given war.
Going back to the wisdom of mothers and the fairness of "one cuts, the other chooses", one solution becomes apparent, a solution that at first was whispered, then spoken aloud in churches, bowling leagues, ladies' circles and food courts across the land, a solution that's now on everyone's minds if not their lips: That those who start or continue a war should be the first to send their eligible loved ones to fight in that war.
But powerful people in the executive and congressional branches are not likely to volunteer their own family members for even the most "noble" war -- they expect "the little people" (military families) to do that. Hence a selective draft of decision-makers is required to guarantee that American leaders will avoid making impulsive, politically expedient, or greed-based decisions to start or fund wars. Only under this condition can fairness be ensured and future reckless, unnecessary wars be avoided.
Only with a selective draft of politicians in the White House and Congress in place instituted will we see the funding yanked out from under Mr. Bush's plans to keep US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq for as long as necessary to "get the job done". But Laura would probably beat Congress to the punch, informing her husband that their twin girls won't be going to Iraq, so he'd better announce "Mission Re-Accomplished".
Americans must, if we are to preserve our armed forces for self-defense rather than squander their might in bogus, un-winnable wars like the tragic Vietnam and Iraq "conflicts", begin to seriously debate an automatic mechanism to render unlikely similar disasters in the future. The time has come for a truly selective Selective Service Act: The Executive-Congressional (EC) draft.
The Executive-Congressional Selective Service Act: How Would It Work?
Mr. Magruder makes clear which decision-makers have the freedom (with no concomitant responsibility, I would add) to send US troops into war, or fund the continuance of an existing war:
The EC draft would work thusly: All military-age children, grandchildren and spouses, whether male or female, of individuals working in the executive branch (the president, vice-president and cabinet members) and in the congressional branch (all congresspersons) would, upon the initiation, authorization or continued funding of any armed conflict, be drafted into military service.
Upon completing boot camp, EC draftees would receive their orders for service in a primary combat "theater". Any alternate (non-combat) assignment would lessen the shared danger/sacrifice and thus defeat the purpose of the EC draft: To guarantee that any cause that's noble and important enough for your children to fight and possibly die for is noble enough for their kids to fight and possibly die for.
EC draftees would begin their training and service immediately upon the start of military operations; otherwise their deployment might be delayed until combat zones are less treacherous and the EC draft would not serve its intended function of ensuring that war decisions are made with the utmost caution and insistence on hard evidence. We could then trust that claims of WMD, mushroom clouds, "yellow cake" and the like would be examined thoroughly by the White House and Congress once the decision-makers therein have learned the new American motto by heart, "First Families Sacrifice First".
As soon as this draft has begun, and not a moment before the EC draftees receive their orders, our men and women in uniform will be given their deployment orders.
A Daring Idea Whose Time Has Come
Rest assured that a "large segment of public opinion" that politicians who start or continue wars should be the first to make the necessary sacrifices already exists: All that's needed now is to mobilize and publicize this opinion.
Americans can no longer afford to let our military's strength and morale be squandered on the basis of blind trust in leaders who, as is so often revealed many dead soldiers later, were playing free and easy with the facts when they authorized foolhardy wars like the apparently endless ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Knowing that one will have to pay personally for one's decisions ensures that those decisions are very carefully made. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, "When you don't have to trust him, you can always trust him."
If politicians, knowing that their own kids might have to make "the ultimate sacrifice", decide that a war is too risky or "not worth it", that's important information for the rest of us. If, on the other hand, they decide that military action is sufficiently justified and necessary to see their own children or spouses enter combat zones, then military families across the US will have no doubts that the cause is noble and, indeed, "worth it".
You may be waiting for the punch line, the closing gag that lets you know I was kidding about this. But this is not a tongue-in-cheek article, and while I know that some will laugh, I'm not kidding. In many traditional cultures, war chiefs were expected to lead their warriors into battle, thus making a very personal sacrifice. Why should American leaders who lead American youths into war and death or horrific life-long mutilation be exempt from making any sacrifice at all?
As startling as it may sound at first glance, the EC Selective Service Act makes sense -- and bear in mind that the original Selective Service Act was initially startling and highly controversial, too. The EC draft measure represents a sensible compromise between the equally valid arguments that (1) a national draft is unfair to Americans who are opposed to the war and that (2) without a draft that personally affects them, leaders in the White House and Congress lack any real incentive to be conservative about starting or continuing armed conflicts. What we need is a draft that affects only those with the power to send or keep our troops in combat. What's fair is fair.
As a recent study reveals, Americans have lost trust in our leaders. That's why we need a built-in constraint -- the EC draft -- against unnecessary wars that ravage military families and boomerang with increased terrorism at home and abroad. Remember, if we don't have to trust our leaders, we can always trust them. Even if you're not ready for the EC draft, signing the BuzzFlash petition ("Sign the Petition for Redress", BuzzFlash.com) is certainly a step in the right direction.
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Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist, author of Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family (2004) and coauthor of The Nonviolent Christian Parent (2004). She offers parenting workshops, holds discussion groups on Nonviolent Christianity, and writes the column, "Democracy, Faith and Values: Because You Shouldn't Have to Choose Just One" as seen on her website.