BY ASKING Congress for a reintroduction of Selective Service registration--the first step towards a new military draft--President Carter has made a hasty and dangerous decision, one that will affect all Americans, not just those eligible to be drafted. Carter is placing a politically opportunistic "get tough with the Russians" attitude before sound statesmanship by raising the ante in his battle with the Soviet Union with the lives of the 33 million men and women in the 18 to 26-year-old age group.
The United States currently has a two-million-man armed force, which is adequate to meet any immediate threat, anywhere in the world. Carter's proposal will not enhance our military position against the Soviet's but it will needlessly and unproductively increase tensions with them. If Congress decides to revive the draft, we will have a bloated army, one that this nation's historically aching-for-action military establishment might be dangerously tempted to deploy.
Carter wants registration to bolster the image of a new American swagger, an attitude designed to create the illusion that this nation must respond militarily to every Soviet action. We do need to answer their expansion, but a draft is an inappropriate reaction. The draft is a response for the sake of making a response, not because it is intelligent. Continuation of such policies could mean that we may at some time feel trapped into making a direct military response--even if it, like the draft, is unwarranted.
YET IF REGISTRATION and, ultimately, the draft, return, as now seems likely, the Selective Service System should grant no exemptions, except conscientious objectors and those physically unable to take part. Men and women, rich and poor, undergraduate and graduate students should be required to serve. Too often in the history of this nation--the Vietnam War being the most appalling example--the children of the people who run the country and make the decision whether to go to war have been allowed to let others do the fighting for them. A new draft is not an attractive alternative, but an equitable draft is far superior to fraudulent lotteries of privilege. And perhaps those in positions of power will think twice before sending Americans into senseless and unwinnable wars if their children are among those hitting the beaches.