Porcupine knows a little bit about the volunteer army.
After I ran away from home at age 14, to get an education in the Inns of Court, I found myself in a state of servitude like many other apprentices before me. So, in 1784, I enlisted in the Army and made good use of the soldier's copious spare time to educate myself, particularly in the English grammar which eventually became my profession. My regiment was posted God-forsaken holes like New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and elsewhere in the provinces until September 1791, as I rose through the ranks to become Sergeant Major. The main reason for this accomplishment was the corrupt officer class, whose peculation and abuse of enlisted men I gathered evidence of while in New Brunswick, but the charges against officers were sidetracked, as it was explained to me that my own Regiment was not exceptionally bad, but the practices I documented were universal and extended into the offices of the authorities I thought I was alerting. Porcupine fled to France in March 1792 to avoid retribution and gaol.
For many years, Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has proposed legislation which would reinstate a universal draft, beginning in 2003 (HERE). Since a major campaign threat in 2004 was the President, George Bush, would bring back the draft, the bill was not given a hearing by the Republican majority. Now, with the Democrats in the majority and the President no longer a candidate for reelection, the bill may move forward.
Porcupine realizes the benefit offered by the Armed Services to those who are poor and who have limited opportunities. The sort of training that proved invaluable to me in my later career are also available to the less advantaged today, with computer and engineering training being the most valuable. But Cong. Rangel has a point – the all-volunteer Army has ceased to recruit enough soldiers, and the National Guard troops are being extended far beyond their original commitments.
Porcupine would like to see a Universal Draft for several reasons, but would like to see changes made to the last draft act. With the exception of severe medical incapacity, Porcupine does not think there should be any deferments or exemptions.
Academic deferments, most recently in Vietnam, function much like the provision in the Civil War that allowed the purchase of a substitute for $300. This is the era of lifelong learning, and there is no reason, other than to shelter those with money who choose not to serve, to have academic deferrals.
Conscientious objection also has a long history, but Rangel’s version of a Universal Draft also contains a provision for National Service, and those with religious objections can serve their country in a non-military capacity.
Naturally, young women aged 18 through 25 should register at once, as the draft should be truly universal in this age of women in combat and laws against sexism.
Young folk like Porcupine, who need the money and opportunity, will still be able to volunteer and serve honorably. But perhaps if we have a truly Universal Draft, remark like those of Sen. Kerry will be wiped from the lips of the hoi polloi, and their pampered children will be compelled to serve a useful purpose for their nation.