U professor calls for draft to promote international relations

Mandatory volunteer work could also encourage more civic engagement.

With tours of duty for U.S. troops extended and casualties mounting, one University professor is looking for a solution to steady the societal burden of Iraq.

Humphrey Institute associate professor Barbara Crosby wrote the column “Consider a truly universal draft” for the Star Tribune in January, rousing opinions from many supporters and some critics, she said.

Crosby said she was prompted to write the article after learning that thousands of soldiers had their tours extended in the Middle East, including a friend’s son.

“Most of us don’t have to bear an immediate burden in the current administration’s decisions,” she said.

A universal draft for male and female adults ages 18 to 65, except for parents of young children, could ease the burden for military families, Crosby said.

In addition, she said U.S. citizens would be more likely to question the validity of armed intervention if they were more personally involved.

“Going to war would truly be a last resort,” Crosby said.

She also proposed a two-year mandatory public service requirement for 18-year-olds in an organization such as the Peace Corps as a way to foster intercontinental relationships while aiding the poorest countries in the world.

National organizer for public achievement at the Humphrey Institute Dennis Donovan said he agrees with a two-year service requirement because it will help shape more global citizens.

“Young people need to have a sense of contributing to the world in a positive way,” he said.

Donovan said it’s important for both young and old adults to work with people who are different than themselves, and public service might be a good way of instigating a multidimensional dialogue.

Although talks of a draft might polarize some readers, Donovan said the idea of creating a global citizen is a good idea.

“It changes a culture of ‘me first,’ ” he said.

Military service hits home for Humphrey Institute senior fellow Harry Boyte, who has two relatives serving in the armed forces.

Boyte agrees many people have been spectators of the war, but he doesn’t agree that a universal draft would be a solution.

Boyte said debating the consequences of international conflict is worthwhile and creating more holistic citizens in every facet is critically important.

While students attend the University, Boyte said they should also be taught how to be “citizen professionals” who think of their relation to the larger community.

“Every institution has to take leadership on this issue,” he said.

Civil engineering sophomore Chris Redman said he has always thought about joining a military organization but doesn’t agree that everyone should be required to do so.

Instead, he said, studying abroad might foster international relations.

Still, Crosby said she isn’t asking for people to sign up for the military, but rather to think more critically about the hidden costs of war.