Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) recently put forth a bill that would require both men and women, ages 18 to 42, to serve a two-year stint in the military, “or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security.”
If passed, the bill would apply to both citizens and noncitizens in the U.S. It would not exempt women who are pregnant. Rangel, who opposed going to war in Iraq, proposed the bill, called the Universal National Service Act of 2006, to draw attention to the stark class differences between the men and women who join the military and those who do not. “For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance,” Rangel said in 2003 when he proposed a similar bill that he hoped would keep the U.S. from invading Iraq.
While the rhetoric associated with the bill, which has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, has been that it is part of an antiwar strategy, the reality is that the bill highlights some of the glaring personnel shortages the U.S. military currently faces.
America’s armed forces are overextended, and with rogue states such as Iran growing testier by the day, the so-called War on Terror may require an increase in troop levels that only mandatory military service can provide. Perhaps as a sign that some Americans already feel the need for greatly increased military strength, The Project for a New American Century, a neoconservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., has stated they would like to see active duty troop levels rise from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.
The Universal National Service Act has faced opposition from both sides of the political fence and its likelihood of passing seems, at the moment, quite low. However, the further America moves towards seeing war as an inevitability rather than a last resort, the more likely it becomes that bills like this one will pass, conceivably much to the dismay of politicians such as Rangel himself.