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BRIAN LEITER GOES TO WAR, PART II

Brian Leiter has finally updated his post to explain why he took a bill introduced by Charles Rangel as a sign that Bush will bring back the draft in 2005:

A couple of foreign readers (and one from the US) expressed puzzlement at the fact that the the bills referenced, above, were introduced in 2003 by Democrats. The explanation is simple, and familiar to many U.S. readers: with war imminent--based on false pretenses, as we now know--certain Democrats made a strategic calculation (a mistaken one, in my view) to raise the specter of sending not only the poor and the working class (the core of the "volunteer" army) to war, but also sending rich white kids (the kinds whose fathers are Senators and Congressmen) via a military draft. (All 14 Democrats who sponsore the House bill voted against authorizing the war with Iraq.) The ploy failed, as all the world now knows, but the bills remain. If Bush is re-elected, the fact that these bills were introduced by Democrats will be hugely advantageous as the Bush Administration has to confront the deteriorating military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan; its inability to meet the actual terrorist threat because of the military venture in Iraq; and the demoralized and disenchanted volunteer army.

Let's be exceedingly generous to Prof. Leiter--more generous than he ever is to an opponent--and assume that Bush does want to bring back the draft, because most members of the Pentagon think it would be a good idea and the President has the political instincts of dried cuttlefish. (He's certainly introduced no evidence to suggest that this might be so, other than to suggest that things might not be going well in Iraq, and thus SHAZAM! we're bringing back the draft. And apparently we may start next spring, though again, the particular birds from whose entrails he's divined this are nowhere to be found.)

How availing would bills introduced by Democrats be? Even assuming that the Democrats didn't withdraw them immediately, why would Bush want to use them with what are obviously poison-pills (drafting of college students/women) still in them? And wouldn't he look like more than a bit of an idiot when he put forward a line of, "You see? Even the Democrats think it's a good idea!" and they answered on every Sunday morning talk show with, "Is he really too dumb to see that we weren't being serious?"

And are my memories of the Senate completely gone, or would these bills not be completely useless to Bush if re-elected? After all, after the election we're in the 109th Congress, aren't we, and a bill put before the 108th would have to be resubmitted. So unless Rangel and his friends were again to play right into the President's hands, as Leiter seems to think they're doing, these bills will be unavailing post-election.

(OK, thinking about it, Bush might get re-elected in November, and ask a lame-duck Congress to take the bills out of committee and pass them before the new Congress takes over. However, we are here entering into the kind of conspiracy theory that borders on the paranoid: there's no conceivable reason for Bush to do so, given the problems above, and one hopes the administration would be able to convince some Republican members of Congress to introduce their own bills: after all, if he can't, the bills are pretty well doomed to begin with.)

Sorry, but I can't honestly believe anyone can take this seriously. This is looking at a political joke and suddenly wondering whether the black helicopters are flying over.

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Comments

Good points. I think there's also been a bit of a rant-fest about supposed plans from the Selective Service Administration about reviving the draft (and, in fact, they may be in response to/called for by the aforementioned Democratic-sponsored politically-motivated bill). But even that isn't really cause for undue alarm--Matt Yglesias makes a pretty decent case why here.
I think you are giving the American voter too much credit. Here is how the actual discourse on TV would go if the draft were reintroduced. Bush: I have proposed Congress reintroduce the draft, an idea which has bipartisan support. Democrats: We don't support the draft. Bush: But you did before! Nyah!

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