Skip to main content

A more equal military? Bring back draft

By Charles B. Rangel, Special to CNN
updated 10:33 AM EST, Sat January 26, 2013
New U.S. military recruits take the Oath of Enlistment while their families and friends look on at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
New U.S. military recruits take the Oath of Enlistment while their families and friends look on at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Charles Rangel: Allowing women in combat is a critical advance that bolsters military
  • He says for real equality, the U.S. should reinstate the draft for shared sacrifice in U.S. wars
  • He says less than 1% are in U.S. service. We choose war without worry over who fights
  • Rangel: With draft, America would be forced to think twice about involvement in wars

Editor's note: Rep. Charles B. Rangel is the U.S. representative for New York's 13th Congressional District. He is a decorated Korean War veteran with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

(CNN) -- On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Defense Department would lift the ban on women serving in combat, marking another significant milestone for equality in our nation. Taking this critical step forward to include women in combat strengthens our military by reducing the burden of the disproportionate number of soldiers who are making sacrifices. I sincerely hope that this will spark a national debate about who is fighting our wars and whether all of America can say that we're sharing the sacrifice.

Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. Charles Rangel
Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Since January 2003, at the height of the debate on the possible unilateral strike against Iraq, I have advocated for a reinstatement of the military draft to ensure a more equitable representation of people making sacrifices in wars in which the United States is engaged. In the past decade, more than 2 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraq war took more than 4,422 lives and wounded some 32,000 in nine years; to date, 2,168 American soldiers have died and 18,215 have been wounded in Afghanistan.

Opinion: Women in combat a dangerous experiment

Currently the burden of defending our nation is carried by less than 1% of the American population. The 2.2 million members of the armed forces in active duty, the National Guard and the Reserve have become a virtual military class that makes the ultimate sacrifice of laying down life and limb for our country. As a result of high combat exposure, combined with multiple deployments, we have seen unprecedented incidences of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and veterans committing suicide.

Arguments for, against women in combat
Debating women in combat roles
Veterans debate women in combat roles

Since we replaced the compulsory military draft with an all-volunteer force in 1973, our nation has been making decisions about wars without worry over who fights them. I sincerely believe that reinstating the draft would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation. That is why I wrote the Universal National Service Act, known as the "draft" bill, which requires all men and women between ages 18 and 25 to give two years of service in any capacity that promotes our national defense.

Opinion: Will infantry men accept women as peers?

I commend President Barack Obama for allowing women and members of the LGBT community to serve our country. I was pleased to hear in the inaugural speech on Monday of his commitment to ending a decade of war and to using diplomacy as a means to promote peace in the world. Inevitably, however, as in the past, there will be times in the future when America will be faced with the question of whether we need to place thousands of our young men and women in harm's way. When that time comes, I hope all of America will be forced to stop and think twice about it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rep. Charles B. Rangel

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT