There's a story in today's Stars and Stripes about the military's stop-loss policy, particularly applicable to the Army and the Marine Corps. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that not only does this policy's life have no end in sight, it may actually be expanded in the next couple of years. I think it's a complete abomination; it makes a mockery of the all-volunteer force this country claims to cherish, and credits for our quick victories in the Gulf in both 1991 and 2003. The critics who call stop-loss a "back-door draft" are exactly right. When we join the service, we do so with the understanding that both the initial enlistment and any extension thereof are of our own free will. The fact that we choose to serve strengthens our armed forces and our country. It can also serve as a strong check on policy. If net military retention is negative, that's a signal that something about our foreign and defense policy simply isn't working. Stop-loss - or, heaven forbid, an outright draft - allows the Government to ignore that signal and continue upon a course that is folly.
The easy counter argument is that there are some instances where the public at large cannot see a threat on the horizon, and thus the executive must act to safeguard the country. Not even the Founding Fathers bought into that. In vesting the matter of war versus peace with the Congress, they recognized that issue to be the momentous action a nation can take. The all-volunteer force, created in the aftermath of the disaster in Vietnam, is a reflection of the nation's desire to never again embroil itself in a conflict that doesn't have the broad support of the populace. This goal is defeated the instant the first soldier, sailor, marine, or airman is stop-lossed. With a sound foreign and military policy, no citizen should be forced to give up his or her freedom (let alone his or her life) to defeat any perceived threat to that freedom. When the moment arises for the judicious use of our military might, we will respond, as we have so many times before. From Fort Sumter, to Pearl Harbor, to the Twin Towers, Americans have answered the call when it is in fact "go time." I have every confidence that such a spirit will persist well into the future, and that we don't need stop-loss to make that happen.