August 14th, 2007
09:08 AM ET
9 years ago

Dem candidates concerned about military draft

Clinton said Bush needs to clarify his draft policy Monday. Edwards and Obama have weighed in as well.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton said Monday that President Bush needs to clarify recent comments from an administration official saying the military draft "has always been an option on the table."

In a letter to Bush dated Monday, Clinton writes, "While our forces, in particular the Army and Marine Corps, are under strain, re-establishing a draft is not the answer. The seeds of many of the problems that continue to plague our mission in Iraq were planted in the failure to adequately plan for the conflict and properly equip our men and women in uniform."

"In previous years, when asked about a draft, your Administration has stated that it is the Administration’s policy to oppose a military draft and support the all-volunteer force," the presidential frontrunner added. "Given Lieutenant General Lute’s comments last week, I ask that you clarify whether there has been a change in your Administration’s opposition to reinstituting a draft."

On Friday, Deputy National Security Adviser Douglas Lute told National Public Radio, "I think it makes sense to certainly consider [the draft.]"

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," added Lute, who is sometimes referred to as the "Iraq war czar."

It was his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

The United States ended the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift" — one that Bush has made clear he doesn't think is necessary.

UPDATE: Both of Clinton's chief rivals for the Democratic nomination have also weighed in on Lute's comments. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called any draft considerations "completely unacceptable" in a statement.

"It is completely unacceptable that a senior administration official is considering reinstating a draft that would send thousands more young Americans into the middle of a war in Iraq that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged," Obama said.

"I call on President Bush to clarify his Administration's position on maintaining our all-volunteer military," he added.

Former Sen. John Edwards, in a statment released over the weekend, said the comments reveal "the true danger of the Administration's breathtaking failures in Iraq and around the world."

"Now, instead of ending this war and doing what is right for our troops, their families and the nation, President Bush is floating the idea of a draft that would send more young Americans to Iraq," he added. "Enough is enough. Let there be no doubt that the Bush Administration's new talk of a draft is a profound measure of how much this president has failed our brave men and women in the military, and the American people."

- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Jessica Yellin

soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. Rex, Toledo, Ohio

    Let me just add that my children, ages 12, 16 and 18 will not, I repeat, will not fight another mans war unless they want to do so by their own fortitude. My Uncle, in his late 50's now was in Vietnam due to the draft. He "had" to go. 3 weeks in and a sniper took out his eye. He came home, alive but blind. The day that they attacked Baghdad, we were all in the same room, watching.
    The younger family members were all cheering as the sky lit up. None of them has ever been to war. My Uncle, on the other hand, left the room in tears.
    I asked him later why it affected him so much. His reply, as he looked at me with a small patch on his right eye:
    "It hurts me beyond words to know that we as a Nation still haven't learned. To see these kids sent into harms way for a political motive is a sad day for this Country." That from a man that "Walked The Walk", as another poster put it.

    August 13, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I hated Hilary before now .Considering the hate filled comments thrown at her for every thing she does or not do,i am very disgusted with the way she is being bashed for EVERY THING SHE SAYS or not say.This is unamerican.To hate is immoral.I repent.I am tired of the Hillary bashing.Be objective in your comments.She has every right to question if the draft will be re introduced or not.

    August 13, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Gregory Baranoff, Santa Barbara, CA

    It is important that all candidates ask the tough questions the American people want answers to.

    The one clarification that I feel needs to be made is that this is not the Iraq War or the War in Iraq. It is the Bush War in Iraq and history and historians need to label it as that.

    August 13, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. Pierce, New Orleans, LA

    Draft dodgers shouldn't be allowed to reinstate the draft

    August 13, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Mike, Pasadena CA

    CNN's coverage of Clinton vs. Obama is simply disgusting.

    CNN is willing to highlight and announce every minor policy action Clinton is involved with, while Obama can only get coverage from character questions ("Is Obama Black Enough?").

    Can we please get some serious coverage of the presidential candidates?

    August 13, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Dennis C. Pence (display me - please!)

    I wonder if the "illustrious" Senator Clinton remembers who stripped our military, closed our bases and basically "ripped" apart the fighting forces of this country apart. She's LONG on words, SHORT on memory.

    August 13, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Mike, Medford, MA

    The draft is always on the table- just weighted down under a lot of more useful solutions. If Lute recommended a draft, Bush would still have to approve the request and CONGRESS would have to approve the re-institution of the draft. Yes – Hillary and co. would have their chance to block any re-institution of the draft.

    As usual the media played up a common-sense worst-case-scenario answer from an effectively powerless appointee for headlines. Given that, I suppose Hillary's response was fairly restrained (a letter asking for clarification). It's still a political formality rather than a necessary step to protect us from a draft.

    August 13, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. Jayson, Beale AFB, CA

    It isn't nearly as disgusting as the fact that some of the frontrunners on both sides have made some of the stupidest statements ever.

    But since when do we actually expect intelligence from our leadership when 75% of them don't see anything wrong with leaking classified information from programs related to the fight against Al'Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan

    August 13, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. cscholl, chattanooga, TN

    What we all should be afraid of is if Hillary wins the election next year. She may win the nomination but I pray to God she can't win the Presidency. We're not that disparate draft or no draft.

    August 13, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. Jessica, Martinez, California

    I agree that the Bush administration needs to clarify its position regarding a draft. I also think there should never again be a draft. In my view, there has been no justifiable war fought by the U.S. military since World War II. I trust neither the military nor our government at present, and would happily help anyone who comes to me avoid a draft, should it be reinstated.

    August 13, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  11. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    This turns out to be a pretty emotional subject. As a fomer draftee in 1969, I can say that compulsory national service did give me an appreciation of serving this country and a healthy dose of discipline. As a consequence, I think all citizens (with exceptions for people with proven disabilities) should have to serve their country in some way after graduating from high school.

    That being said, I would like to agree with Mike in Santa Fe who observed that Charlie Rangel has been calling for reinstituting the draft for a couple of years now and no one uttered a peep. This current debate is a lot of posturing by people who aim to use these comments by Lute for political advantage.

    The fact is, our current military is stretched thin and is unable to respond in the event of a multi- faceted set of conflicts. Troop levels are at historic lows and we are have had problems reaching recruiting goals. Would a draft help in the manpower challenge? Yes. Would we have a better military? That would be a question better answered by someone from the military who knows the challenges of dealing with conscripts.

    But, like the issue of abortion, there is no right or wrong answer, which many of you presume. We only have our beliefs and the law of the land to go by. So while I think national service would not be a bad thing, it is not the law and I respect that.

    August 13, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. Erika Herwarth, Battle Creek, MI

    Fascinating that the vast majority of Clinton bashers are males! What a shock. Can't handle a strong female guys? SUCK IT UP!

    Obama said in the debate last week that Canada had a President! And some of you think he can run a country??

    August 13, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Nathan, Jamestown, New York

    If we have a draft, people will start to care about these wars and NO politician wants that. So long as we have a volunteer military, we will have a complacent public. Don't bet on a draft, it's not going to happen no matter who is in office.

    August 13, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Chelsea A. Garen, Vista, California

    Senator Hillary Clinton, great ! and you are very brave. It is great to do so at this critical time, you are standing out fighting for working class and main stream.

    What a mess the current situation now ! You did right for us !

    August 13, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. Bob, Rock Hill,SC

    Maybe she needs to look at her husband's administration, those two gutted the armed services, I know, I lived it.

    August 13, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  16. Christian, Palmetto FL

    While I'm not a Clinton supporter during this primary season, I appreciate her concern on this issue.
    As an 18-year-old male, I value the right to choose my own destiny. When considering various options for my future, a career in the military has been a serious consideration of mine. I value the ability to FREELY choose the military or, as I've chosen recently, another path toward public service.

    The draft would end the freedom of choice for millions. Our professional, all-volunteer military is the pride and joy of this nation, and it must remain so. Kudos to Clinton, even though I'm an Obama supporter. 😉

    August 13, 2007 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  17. Harry Lee Columbia, NC

    I applaud Senator Clinton for bringing this issue to light after General Lute made the comment.

    At one point Lute says the draft "has always been an option on the table." At another point he replies, Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift."— one that Bush has made clear he doesn't think is necessary.

    But we are all use to Bush using front men to achieve his goals. Who can forget the Swift boat idiots, Cheney outing a CIA operative, then using his front man "Scooter" to take the fall, and in the end Bush pardons him. Or throwing Colin Powell in front of the U.N. saying Iraq had W.M.D.'s just so Bush could go to war with Iraq and leave Osama bin laden running around keeping Al Qaeda alive.

    So is Lute Bush's front man for re-instating the draft? Well if past history is any indication Lute might well be. I applaud Senator Clinton for finding out. With the Bush administration, clarity is not in there best interest.

    August 13, 2007 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Hillary Clinton is the one Democratic candidate who can make me vote Republican.

    August 13, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  19. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Oh gag, do people really fall for this dribble? Never has there been a more cheap thrills, "Look at me, look at me!" candidate.

    August 13, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    Anyone taking bets on on how long it takes her to completely contradict this position on the draft?

    August 13, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    "Fascinating that the vast majority of Clinton bashers are males! What a shock. Can't handle a strong female guys? SUCK IT UP!"

    I imagine, Erika, to someone with such narrow vision as yourself that sees things in male v. female – it might appear this way. Men and women get to choose which candidate they want or do not wish to support (GASP).

    You wish to castigate all men who oppose Hillary as though we're afraid of a "strong" woman (Does "strong" mean sticking with an abusive husband?). Perhaps, Erika, the men you see here posting are SMARTER than allowing a candidate win us over just because she has cleavage – as you have done.

    August 13, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. Dave 22 Bensalem PA

    i believe a huge surge in iraq with a draft will be overwhelming to the opposition forces.

    August 13, 2007 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  23. Texrat, Fort Worth, TX

    Bush is employing a passive-aggressive tactic to ensure that his successor is forced to seriously consider a draft: deplete volunteer troops as fast as possible in a no-win situation (Iraq). If the next president fights a draft, and we have any terrorist incidents, republicans can claim that president is weak. They will do their political best to make sure that in 2012 another neocon is elected back to the oval office.

    And people will accept it.

    August 13, 2007 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. A. Macaulay, Kennebunk, Maine

    I served in a combat unit in Vietnam. I am neither a fan of Mr. Bush or this mess in Iraq. My only concern are for the GIs.

    But I also know that the draft is just another strategic defense tool for any administration to use–not unlike diplomatic negotiations, conventional warfare or nuclear weapons. So it seems interesting that today Ms. Clinton is lecturing the administration for clarification on this defense tool while only a week ago was equally quick to reprimand Barack Obama for publicly suggesting how he might deal with Pakistan.

    But face it there will never be a fair and square draft. Because if there were, we would be less likely to get into jams like Vietnam and Iraq where every kid would be "at risk" to serve–including all the kids of the “inside the Beltway Red and Blue elitists" and the children of the Bush and Clinton Corporate chums.

    It seems that Barack Obama is the only candidate willing to be candid and sincere about creating a dialog with the American people about sensitive issues —while Mr. Bush or Mrs. Clinton continue to feel that they, with all their insider experience, know what’s best for us. I am not convinced.

    August 13, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. brendan fremont, ca

    if you want to stop the war, stop buying so much gas.

    The draft should be implemented, a good amount of the EU has compulsory service and so should we, might help with some of the other problems (obesity being a big one).

    Complainging that you don't agree with the war, that you oppose the draft because "it's not my war" then driving your 12 mi/gal suv home solo to your air conditioned house is the height of hypocrisy...

    as far as what clinton has said, I think it would have been more acceptable if she had requested this information in a more private manner then published a statement/report regarding all information, seems she has kinda put the cart before the horse.

    It all ends up being economics, thats how our system runs imo, strictly economical, we are at war over economics, our foreign policy(borders etc) revolve around economics and there will be a draft if it is what is economically correct. I believe it would benefit the United States as a whole if Mrs. Clinton could show what the economic impact etc would be of starting the draft system. Because as cold as it sounds, people dying violently is not something that this country considers a big deal anymore, thousands of killings annually...whatever

    August 13, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
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