from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Preparing for a draft? 

There is an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required) entitled Peace churches plan alternatives to military draft.  It gets the name of the President of Haverford College (my alma mater) wrong.  But what caught my attention is that the Selective service system is encouraging Peace Churches (Quakers, Mennonites, Brethren) to prepare for alternatives to the draft.

Here is the applicable part of the article:

The draft ended in 1973. But the Selective Service System, which is charged with maintaining machinery for a draft, is encouraging the peace churches to make contingency plans.

"We do encourage it," said Cassandra Costley, who was appointed last year as director of a new alternative-service division within Selective Service.

"It's not because we expect there is going to be a draft in the next year - or the next five years," Costley said from her office in Rosslyn, Va. "But our mandate is that we be prepared."

Let me offer just a few other snippets from elsewhere in the article.

But members of what are often called the historic peace churches - Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers - believe a draft appears more and more likely as U.S. troops continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Army fails to meet its recruitment goals.

"We are probably one terrorist attack - one 9/11 - away from a draft," said Dan McFadden, director of Brethren Volunteer Service in Elgin, Ill.

There were a batch of Peace Church leaders who held a telephone conference last week:

McFadden was among three Brethren and Mennonite leaders from across the United States who held a telephone conference last week to go over options for alternative service.

"There aren't any definite plans at this point; we are just going to keep talking," he said.

The conference followed up on a March meeting of Anabaptist leaders in Elgin, which also drew Quakers. Costley and another Selective Service official attended.

An article in the May issue of Quaker Life, a magazine published by Indiana Quakers, advised men with pacifist views to lay the groundwork now for C.O. application later on.

It urged them to "begin to establish a way of life that demonstrates your beliefs actually mean something to you" by attending Quaker worship, doing service projects, and joining peace events.

There is then discussion of the approaches of the various groups.  Mennonites and Brethren usually run one-year service programs which they believe could be expanded to two years to provide for alternative service for their young people, of whom they beleive a large number would opt of alternative service.   The article notes that during Vietnam there were 154,000 who were registered, of whom about 65,500 actually did alternative service.

 One thing the article does not mention is that any future draft is likely to have to include women.  The person who is appears in the next block quote made that point at a session for Quaker public schooll educators that I attended -- given all the jobs women now do, and their admission to the service academies, it would probably be a violation of equal protection for women to be exempt.  Here's what she has to say on other issues:

J.E. McNeil, a Quaker and director of the Center on Conscience & War, in Washington, said that Quakers - also known as Friends - had not been as active as Mennonites and Brethren in beginning to prepare for alternative service.

McNeil, who believes a draft is likely, said: "Friends don't move very fast. We move at a glacial pace in most things. We're kind of looking around and thinking."

One is not required under current law to have a religious basis to qualify, this having changed since Vietnam.

"Beliefs which qualify a registrant for C.O. status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be," the Selective Service reports on its Web site, www.sss.gov.

"Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest," the agency writes.  

Most students do not currently think much about a draft.  What is important, as McNeil pointed out in the session I attended, is the necessity of building a paper trail if one wants to qualify as a CO.  I strong suggest anyone concerned about the draft explore the website of the organization she runs.  

This administration will continue to try to avoid a draft by things such as activiating IRR, involutarily extending active duty commitments, and perhaps beginning a skills draft.  But I think the latest time at which a darft would be imposed is immediately after the elections in 2006.  Necessity may require action before then.    Whatever you predict, I thought the information in this article might be of use.

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