Pentagon Rebuts Rangel's Race-Based Call for Draft

A Pentagon report issued last week dispels the myth-widely spread by the left ever since the Vietnam war-that minorities make up a disproportionate share of the U.S. military’s combat units and thus serve as "cannon fodder" in wars that primarily benefit rich, white people.

The 11-page Pentagon document, intended as a rebuttal to the recent call by Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) to re-institute military conscription, argues that a draft would weaken the currently all-volunteer military. It also notes that although African-American recruits make up 21% of servicemen-exceeding the 14% proportion of blacks among military-eligible men in the national population-black servicemen are far more likely to serve in administrative positions rather than in front-line combat units.

According to the Pentagon report, black soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen make up 15% of combat units across the military-including infantry, armor, and artillery units. In contrast, African-American servicemen hold 36% of the functional support and administration positions, and 27% of medical and dental career positions. The numbers indicate that, as a whole, blacks are more likely to take advantage of the skills the military can teach them that could serve them well later in civilian life.

Rangel has said bluntly that he is trying to bring back the lottery draft-which has been inactive for 30 years-in order to scare primarily rich, white parents out of backing a war against Iraq.

"I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve-and to be placed in harm’s way-there would be more caution and greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq," Rangel said on NBC’s "Today Show" January 3.

In a December 31 New York Times op-ed piece, Rangel also repeated the myth that military recruiters prey on the underclass in order to meet recruitment quotas. "[D]isproportionate numbers of the poor and members of minority groups compose the enlisted ranks of the military," he wrote.

In addition to dispelling the racial myth, the Pentagon report shows that servicemen are much better-educated than the general population. Ninety percent of servicemen and women hold high school degrees, compared to 75% of the general population.

Rangel’s draft resolution also has the backing of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But only last March, Conyers co-sponsored a resolution (H. Con. Res. 368) opposing the draft. "[R]einstating the military draft or implementing any other form of compulsory military service in the United States would be detrimental to the long-term military interests of the United States, violative of individual liberties protected by the Constitution, and inconsistent with the values underlying a free society as expressed in the Declaration of Independence," the Conyers-backed resolution stated.

The Rangel and Conyers offices did not return calls from HUMAN EVENTS asking for comments on the Pentagon report and last year’s resolution.

The Pentagon document lists several reasons conscription is not practical and would harm, rather than help American military efforts. Included among them: the higher turnover rate of a conscripted force, the lack of motivation typical of compulsory recruits, and greater budget needs for training.