by Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday August 12, 2007
America's 'war tsar' has called for the nation's political leaders to consider bringing back the draft to help a military exhausted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a radio interview, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute said the option had always been open to boost America's all-volunteer army by drafting in young men in the same way as happened in Vietnam. 'I think it makes sense to consider it,' he said. Lute was appointed 'war tsar' earlier this year after President Bush decided a single figure was needed to oversee the nation's military efforts abroad.
Rumours of a return to the draft have long circulated in military circles as the pressure from fighting two large conflicts at the same time builds on America's forces. However, politically it would be extremely difficult to achieve, especially for any leader hoping to be elected in 2008. Bush has previously ruled out the suggestion as unnecessary.
Lute, however, said the war was causing stress to military families and, as a result, was having an impact on levels of re-enlistment. 'This kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living-room conversations within these families. Ultimately the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions,' he said.
A draft would revive bad memories of the turmoil of the 1960s and early 1970s when tens of thousands of young men were drafted to fight and die in Vietnam. Few other policies proved as divisive in America and the memories of anti-war protesters burning their draft cards and fleeing to Canada are still vivid in the memory.