Rep. Charles Rangel Cites Possible Intervention in Syria as a Justification for his Call for Reinstating the Draft

Democratic Representative Charles Rangel cites the possibility of intervention in Syria as a justification for reinstating the draft, a cause he has long advocated:

America seems increasingly inclined to engage in a new military conflict every few years, faced with a new populace to defend, a new democracy to design, and a new dictator to dethrone. We intend to wage a so-called “limited war,” when there is, in fact, no such thing. It is unfortunate that we don’t give enough thought on why and how we decide to get involved, and who we send into harm’s way when we do….

What enables this war-friendly philosophy is the fact that there is no military draft to dodge. Our soldiers are signed up and ready to go, so there’s no American public to convince because so few have any skin in the game.

I discussed some of the flaws in Rangel’s argument here. Public opinion data undercuts the notion that people who can’t be drafted are more likely to support war. In addition, the lack of a draft has not prevented majority public opinion from consistently opposing military intervention in Syria.

It’s also worth noting that Rangel is simply wrong in his assertion that there is “no such thing” as limited war. The US has in fact conducted numerous tightly limited wars over the years, including military interventions in Grenada, Panama, Libya, and Kosovo, among others. It’s certainly true that not all wars can be kept limited in this way, and that some military interventions are unwise or unjust even if they are limited. But Rangel’s rejection of the very possibility of limited war is incorrect.

I largely agree with Rangel’s bottom line position on Syria. Like him, I think the US should probably stay out. But not all arguments that point to the right conclusion in a particular case are generally valid. Both conscription and the pros and cons of limited war are important issues that go beyond the specific instance of Syria.