Instead of a draft, let ROTC back on campus


There was a time when most members of Congress had served in the military, as had many people in the media. Today that is no longer true - and it shows in many ways.

Ignorance should at least create caution, but it seems to do just the opposite. People with little knowledge about the military, and no personal experience, often have the most sweeping and unrealistic expectations, and even demands, to make on people whose lives are at risk in battle.

The military has been criticized for everything from not protecting an Iraqi museum while being shot at to not being as nice to the terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo as people in safe and comfortable editorial offices would like.

More dangerously, TV reporters broadcasting from near where shells are falling blithely say such things as, "the shells are landing about five miles north of here."

Does it ever occur to them that their internationally broadcast comments will reach those who are doing the shelling, who can adjust their range accordingly and then kill more efficiently?

On the home front, life goes on today as if there were no war. Consumer goods are as abundant as ever and no real sacrifices are demanded of the civilian population, who are spectators rather than even tangential participants. None of this is healthy.

Some have suggested a military draft as a way to at least create some sense of realism about war and to share its burdens more widely and equitably.

Those on the left play the class-warfare card and the race card to say that the elites are sending other people's youths into battle while their own offspring are sheltered from sacrifice. But the over-riding question is: What would be the effect of instituting a military draft?

Such questions cannot be answered as if we are talking about drafting abstract people into an abstract army. A military draft today would be very different in its consequences from the military draft in World War II.

Back in the days of World War II, the military was drafting young men who were, by and large, patriotic Americans, people who felt that they had a duty to protect this country from its enemies.

Today, a military draft would bring in large numbers of people who have been systematically "educated" in politically correct schools - where standards and self-discipline are lacking - to believe the worst about this country or, at best, to be nonjudgmental about the differences between American society and its enemies.

Just getting such people used to the idea of duty and discipline could be a major drain on the military, not to mention a plague of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union if the little darlings were not handled with kid gloves.

More than that, so many American institutions, from the Congress to the courts, have degenerated into irresponsible self-indulgence that the military is one of the very few institutions left with a sense of purpose for which it is prepared to make sacrifices.

We dare not destroy that institution, or undermine its morale, by pouring into it very different kinds of people, who will be like sand poured into the gears of machinery.

This is not to say that there are no civilians who would be valuable additions to the military. Such people need not be drafted. Our colleges are blocking such people from taking ROTC by not allowing ROTC programs or military recruiters on campus in the first place.

Anti-military academics think they have a right to override their students' rights to reach their own conclusions and make their own decisions, or even to hear a different viewpoint about the military.

Patriotic and educated young Americans who want to serve in the military are available. We need to stop academia from sabotaging national defense by blocking them from ROTC and from even hearing what military representatives have to say.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is

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