The Draft: Stop, Look, Listen
Luckily, the phrase "they also serve who stand and wait" has little relevance for college men worried about the draft. The best approach these students can take, in fact, is to stand and wait. Thanks to General Marshall this policy can hardly hurt, and thanks to President Truman it may a great deal of good.
Under Marshall's latest plan, announced a month ago, students can pick their branch of service after the term is over, despite "physical" Datives. Thus the pressure on students to enlist during the school year is gone, and with it a great many reasons for joining any kind of military unit right now. There are, however, other reasons why a "wait and see" policy is now very much in order.
As was expected, the Administration is looking over the various plans for student deferment which came before the Senate and House Committees. Truman may not, of course, announce his system immediately despite the pressure on him to do so. He has to act courteously towards Congress which might not like to have him issuing orders under a law not yet passed. Nor might the Congress enjoy seeing the Chief Executive defer huge lumps of manpower while it debates his request for a greater standing army.
Those who think Congress is almost finished with the military manpower problem are mistaken; legistlators consider a draft act only half their job. The new law will contain provisions for a reserve into which men who have completed their service will be a reserve into which men who have completed their service will be fed. Since no adequate reserve system exists now, the Congressmen will have to work one out, and many of them would like to make substantial changes in the present set-up. Chairman Vinson of the House Armed Services Committee, for example, thinks too many men now are "beating" the draft by going into the reserves. Others feel strongly that a good reserve system would only include those men with actual military service records, and that one containing men without this experience is weak.
The student can hope that the president works out a good deferment plan. From his point of view it would certainly be best at least to let next year's juniors and seniors finish college. The student may hope that Congress successfully completes its present draft act. As far as he is concerned, for instance, Congress should pick 18 as the minimum draft age, so that educational careers will not be interrupted. The student may also hope that a new reserve program would place greater emphasis on military preparation in college, so that service after basic training might be cut to a minimum.
But right now the wise student should wait, if at all possible, before signing any blank with a service emblem on the top. The wise poker player holds his bet until the dealer has finished shuffling the cards.