April 3, 1967
The President of the United States, Greeting:
In my personal scrapbook I have a tattered letter dated September 18, 1942. It begins with that famous preamble: "The President of the United States, To Morris King Udall. Greeting: Having submitted yourself to a Local Board composed of your neighbors for the purpose of determining your availability for training and service in the armed forces..."
Eighteen days later I was Private Udall, No.
39850679. Thus began for me a four-year hitch in Uncle Sam's Army and Air
Corps. It was hectic, disruptive, rewarding. I survived it, with no lasting
brain damage and few regrets.
AREAS OF DISPUTE
Unless Congress acts by June 30, the government's authority to draft anyone will expire. In some form or another it will be extended -- almost everyone agrees on this. But the 535 Representatives and Senators have almost that many ideas of what changes should be made.
In 1967 two million young men come of draft age. If we needed all of them (as in World War II) there would be few problems. But even with Vietnam we need only one million, or fewer. So the tough questions are: Who is taken when not all are taken? Who goes, and who does not? And when?
As the debate rolls through the halls of Congress and around the country the chief criticisms of present law (and proposals for change) really boil down to about six or seven. I'd like to take a "nutshell" look at these arguments, summarize the rebuttals one hears, and share with you my present, tentative thinking on each of them. Then I'd like to get the benefit of your thinking on these same questions. More about that later. Here are the main criticisms I hear to the present draft law:
EQUALITY FOR ALL -- BUT ARE SOME 'MORE EQUAL'?
There are serious inequities and different
standards among the nation's 4,084 local draft boards. Because
each board presides over its own separate manpower pool (and has its own
ideas about the "national interest"), the chances of being drafted vary
sharply from pool to pool. One board may have so many volunteers it does
not have to resort to drafting at all. Another board may be stingy with
student deferments because it doesn't have enough volunteers or non-students
to meet its quotas. Or, the neighbor boy of a third board's chairman may
get a deferment while the lad across town, in identical circumstances,
gets "greetings." Furthermore, under present law a young man keeps his
original draft board even if he moves away; some draft boards, it is charged,
take advantage of "absentees" and draft them instead of more eligible local
THE STUDENT DEFERMENT SYSTEM
The student deferment system is all wrong; it discriminates against the poor and the less gifted. Not every young person has an I.Q. of 110 or prosperous parents who can pay the $1,500 to $2,000 minimum cost of a college year. Should a young man be drafted merely because he does not have these things? Many young persons become "career" students by getting deferments through four years of college and then graduate school. By the time they complete all this, perhaps they are 26 and/or married and/or fathers -- and thus, practically speaking, unlikely ever to be drafted.
Granted, Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, head of the
draft system, has tried to remove collegiate "bomb shelters" by establishing
minimum academic grade guidelines as a standard for granting deferments.
But a "B" at Harvard may not equal a "B" at Siwash, and one professor at
a state university (not Arizona!) flunked his whole class in protest. When
President Johnson a couple of years ago barred deferments to future newlyweds,
a cynical reporter wrote: "Young men are falling all over themselves these
days in a big rush to get married. It's love, of course, but in a lot of
cases they spell it V-I-E-T-N-A-M."
THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST -- OR FIRST?
The idea of taking older men first is unwise. We ought to do the reverse. Under the present system, the young man who is 26 is more susceptible to the draft than the young man who is 18. This regulation goes back to the draft law of 1940. The reasoning: teenagers are not mature and should be kept away as long as possible from the temptations which accompany military service. However, today's view of the teen-ager is quite different from that of 1940. We see him as more equipped in awareness and ability to cope with the outside world. Military leaders say a young person makes a better soldier. His responses are quicker; he adjusts more easily. The 18-year-old is in a state of transition. He has not settled on a career. He still has his options. If he serves and returns, the G.I. Bill will help pay for an education he might not otherwise afford.
On the other hand, the 26-year-old is more
settled, in terms of occupation, family and address. He probably has finished
college and is in the crucial first couple of years on his job. He may
be thinking about buying a home. For him the draft can be severely disruptive
-much more than it would have been eight years earlier.
THE LOTTERY ISSUE
The present system of 4,084 local draft
pools is inequitable; what we need is one national pool eliminating local
favoritism, etc., and treating all alike. Why not return to the system
used in the earliest days of the draft, assigning each young man a number
and fixing the order of call-up by drawing names out of a fishbowl?
UNIVERSAL MILITARY TRAINING -- OR A CAREER ARMY?
The draft should either be made universal
or abolished. As matters stand, some young men are paying a high, even
the highest, price to serve their country while others make no contribution
SERVICE OTHER THAN MILITARY?
The Peace Corps, Teacher Corps, VISTA or other humanitarian agencies should provide a young man with a substitute for military service, another way to serve his country. Our nation's efforts for peace, justice and stability in this world are not limited to Vietnam. A young Peace Corpsman serves two years in a remote, rugged Philippine village, risking violence and disease to help bring progress to a backward part of the world as part of an important U.S. program. Under present law he returns home and may be promptly drafted for two years in Vietnam. Is this fair? Why can't a young man fulfill his national obligation by giving two years of his life to the wars against ignorance and suffering? Isn't there a place for humanitarian service?
SHOULD WE LOWER DRAFT STANDARDS?
Physical and mental standards are too high.
a long time Heavyweight Champion Cassius Clay was rejected because of his
"mental ability." This seems slightly ridiculous. There are few men --
even in politics -- who are as quick-minded and glib-tongued as Mr. Ali.
Or take the case of Quarterback Joe Namath. Every fall Sunday he survives
the rigors of pro football's "blitz," but he flunked his military physical.
Clearly, standards that exclude such men should be lowered.
LET'S HAVE A REFERENDUM
This discussion has been necessarily brief. Many more arguments, pro and con, can be made. There are other related issues. But you have here a brief look at the areas in dispute. And you have some idea of my present line of thought. Now, how about you? What do you and your draft-age sons think?
In my first newsletter this year I appealed for your letters, your advice and criticism. I won't have to vote on these issues for several weeks, and there is time for a referendum among the people I try to represent.
In most past years I have mailed a Legislative Questionnaire to every home in the Second District, and usually I have covered many separate issues. Because this is the big issue in the spring of 1967 I have decided to limit my questionnaire to Selective Service and its related problems. A ballot is enclosed. Note there are two columns, permitting two members of the family to "vote." If there happens to be a draft-age male in your family, I would urge that you let him cast one of those "votes." I am hoping for a big response.
Here is your chance to have an impact on an important public issue. I'll appreciate your help.
MAILING LIST NOTE:
If you would like to be added to my mailing list, to receive my regular newsletters, just indicate your name and address, and check the mailing list box, on your ballot. Do not do so, however, if you have received my newsletters published earlier this year.
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