Rangel, Baker & the draft

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(HOST) As the U.S. considers the next steps to take in Iraq, commentator Bill Seamans isn’t surprised to hear fresh debate about the need for a military draft.

(SEAMANS) Congressman Charles Rangel stirred things up when he renewed his call for a resumption of the draft. Rangel, who is a decorated Korean War veteran, also repeated his message – that a draft would bring more upper class youth into the military and force elitist policy makers to consider war more carefully if their own sons and daughters were liable to serve in harms way. Rangel did not expect his bill to succeed. He got the anticipated resounding rejection from the nation at large, from the Pentagon, the Republicans and particularly from his own Democratic Party leaders.

But Rangel’s gambit did, as he obviously had planned, bring out into the open the pretense of virtue of those who vociferously support the war but say in effect, not with my teenagers. Yet however disclaimed, the draft question will not go away. As the political effort stumbles along inconclusively it’s not deniable that the draft question could force itself upon us if the need for a larger army becomes greater than volunteerism can provide.

In the meantime, we the people are being more confused by the uncertainty regarding our troop levels in Iraq as reflected by the opinions of leading officials. John McCain wants more troops to be sent to control the insurgency. General John Abizaid, our Middle east troop commander, says we have sufficient troop strength for now. And Carl Levin, the incoming Democratic chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, wants a phased withdrawal of troops leaving some behind to train the Iraqis.

As usual, the Beltway’s politicians and pundits rely on conventional wisdom which in this case calls for the obvious – that no political progress can be made in Iraq until the bloodbath is subdued and the country is stabilized.

Conventional wisdom also says that when in doubt Washington inevitably turns to a committee to diffuse its responsibilities. The committee du jour is the Iraq Study Group led by the Republican eminence James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton, an author of the noted 9/11 Report. They have been asked to come up with recommendations on how to pull the U.S. out of the Iraq quagmire.

Their report will be released soon and it’s already leaking. The New York Times says the Iraq Study Group will recommend talks with Iran and Syria which President Bush has firmly opposed.

It was hoped that the Iraq Study Group would offer a compromise plan that both Republicans and Democrats could accept. But critics already are carping – and among them is Frank Rich, the New York Times super cynic who says the Baker Commission is seen as a surrogate Papa Bush giving Junior a fig leaf for withdrawal to get out with honor.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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