A more equal military? Bring back draft
January 26, 2013 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
New U.S. military recruits take the Oath of Enlistment while their families and friends look on at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
- Charles Rangel: Allowing women in combat is a critical advance that bolsters military
- He says for real equality, the U.S. should reinstate the draft for shared sacrifice in U.S. wars
- He says less than 1% are in U.S. service. We choose war without worry over who fights
- Rangel: With draft, America would be forced to think twice about involvement in wars
Editor's note: Rep. Charles B. Rangel is the U.S. representative for New York's 13th Congressional District. He is a decorated Korean War veteran with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
(CNN) -- On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Defense Department would lift the ban on women serving in combat, marking another significant milestone for equality in our nation. Taking this critical step forward to include women in combat strengthens our military by reducing the burden of the disproportionate number of soldiers who are making sacrifices. I sincerely hope that this will spark a national debate about who is fighting our wars and whether all of America can say that we're sharing the sacrifice.
Rep. Charles Rangel
Since January 2003, at the height of the debate on the possible unilateral strike against Iraq, I have advocated for a reinstatement of the military draft to ensure a more equitable representation of people making sacrifices in wars in which the United States is engaged. In the past decade, more than 2 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraq war took more than 4,422 lives and wounded some 32,000 in nine years; to date, 2,168 American soldiers have died and 18,215 have been wounded in Afghanistan.
Opinion: Women in combat a dangerous experiment
Currently the burden of defending our nation is carried by less than 1% of the American population. The 2.2 million members of the armed forces in active duty, the National Guard and the Reserve have become a virtual military class that makes the ultimate sacrifice of laying down life and limb for our country. As a result of high combat exposure, combined with multiple deployments, we have seen unprecedented incidences of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and veterans committing suicide.
Arguments for, against women in combat
Debating women in combat roles
Veterans debate women in combat roles
Since we replaced the compulsory military draft with an all-volunteer force in 1973, our nation has been making decisions about wars without worry over who fights them. I sincerely believe that reinstating the draft would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation. That is why I wrote the Universal National Service Act, known as the "draft" bill, which requires all men and women between ages 18 and 25 to give two years of service in any capacity that promotes our national defense.
Opinion: Will infantry men accept women as peers?
I commend President Barack Obama for allowing women and members of the LGBT community to serve our country. I was pleased to hear in the inaugural speech on Monday of his commitment to ending a decade of war and to using diplomacy as a means to promote peace in the world. Inevitably, however, as in the past, there will be times in the future when America will be faced with the question of whether we need to place thousands of our young men and women in harm's way. When that time comes, I hope all of America will be forced to stop and think twice about it.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion
Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rep. Charles B. Rangel
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
Today's five most popular stories