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Proposal to Revive US Military Draft Being Given Little Chance of Success - 2003-01-08

Amid growing signs of possible U.S. led military action in Iraq, some lawmakers in Congress say they want to bring back the draft. However, the proposal is being given little chance of success.

New York Congressman Charles Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War in the 1950's, is the main sponsor of legislation proposing that the draft be re-instated.

Conscription was ended in 1973 under President Richard Nixon. Two years later, young American males were no longer required to register, although registration resumed in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter.

One of the criticisms of the draft during the Vietnam War was that the burden of the conflict was borne disproportionately by black Americans and other minorities.

Mr. Rangel, a Democrat and one of the strongest opponents of a war with Iraq, believes that resuming the draft would prevent this from happening again.

"I truly believe that those who make the decision, and those who support the United States going to war, would feel more readily the pain that is involved, the sacrifice that is involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who have historically avoided this great responsibility," he said.

That view may be shared by others in Congress, but political observers believe there will little support in Congress for re-instating the draft.

Mr. Rangel readily acknowledges that he has not yet spoken with other lawmakers, whether in the House or Senate, to solicit support for his legislation.

He makes clear that he hopes his legislative effort will focus more attention on what he calls the Bush administration's unjustified march toward war with Iraq.

U.S. military officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, oppose reviving the draft. Mr. Rumsfeld had this response when asked about Congressman Rangel's effort.

"We're not going to re-implement the draft," he said. "There is no need for it, at all. The disadvantages of using compulsion to bring into the armed forces the men and women needed, are notable."

Mr. Rumsfeld says there is no doubt the current voluntary system can maintain U.S. forces of the appropriate size, and with the skills and salary, to meet challenges facing the United States.

Mr. Rumsfeld also rejects one of Congressman Rangel's basic premises--that reviving the draft would make a broader cross-section of Americans subject to mandatory service, and lessen public support for any conflict.

But Mr. Rangel maintains that only a compulsory draft would create what he calls an equitable system of bringing people into the military services. "If war is inevitable, then certainly it should be required that those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country," he said.

Though the United States currently has an all-volunteer system, most male citizens, and male aliens, aged 18 through 25 are still required to register.

In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number.