Paul Krugman illustrates the problem with reasoning by analogy:
Those who are worrying about a revived draft are in the same position as those who worried about a return to budget deficits four years ago, when President Bush began pushing through his program of tax cuts. Back then he insisted that he wouldn't drive the budget into deficit - but those who looked at the facts strongly suspected otherwise. Now he insists that he won't revive the draft. But the facts suggest that he will.
I have added emphasis to Krugman's first-paragraph punchline. And let's note that by the fourth paragraph, "the facts suggest that he will" gets watered down to this:
This leads to the justified suspicion that after the election, Mr. Bush will seek a large expansion in our military, quite possibly through a return of the draft.
Hmm, what is with these caveats? Fear not - the Earnest Prof is a seer again by the time he reaches his conclusion:
The reality is that the Iraq war, which was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of the Bush doctrine, has pushed the U.S. military beyond its limits. Yet there is no sign that Mr. Bush has been chastened. By all accounts, in a second term the architects of that doctrine, like Paul Wolfowitz, would be promoted, not replaced. The only way this makes sense is if Mr. Bush is prepared to seek a much larger Army - and that means reviving the draft.
At the risk of interrupting my pedantic flow, let's quibble with the notion that by all accounts" folks like Paul Wolfowitz will be promoted, not replaced. David Sanger's account in the Sunday Times was quite different, and suggested that "some think" Wolfowitz would be promoted except that he "may not be confirmable" by the Senate. Maybe Krugman meant "all accounts less one".
OK, let's refocus - problems with this analogy. First, the US has had a volunteer army for almost thirty years. The Pentagon prefers the higher level of training and professionalism, we have had a successful experience operating this way, and a volunteer army has become an institutional and cultural "habit".
Conversely, balanced budgets and surpluses have hardly been the norm over the last thirty years. The budget surpluses of the late 90's were due in large part to a stock market bubble; a return to deficits hardly represents a return to terra incognita in Washington.
In fact, one might argue (many have) that deficts are the norm in Washington. Deficits tend to be the result of politically popular tax cuts intersecting with politically popular spending. And yes, tax cuts are popular - Republicans love them, Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry today promise them - there is broad bipartisan support for tax cuts. And don't even ask about support for spending.
The draft, on the other hand, will come back (In Krugman's world) if we have more wars, a larger military, and Congressional action to legislate a draft.
Does anyone sense broad public support for more wars? Does anyone sense a bipartisan push for a draft?
Cutting taxes and raising spending are typical "give the voters what they want" Congressional behavior. A draft would be the opposite. This analogy is ridiculous.
It is also factually challenged. In the late 80's, we had 2.2 million folks on active duty. Now it is down to about 1.4 million. The notion that we couldn't add several hundred thousand troops without a draft seems to be contradicted by our past experience. Since Kerry wants to add 40,000, and Bush says we don't need any more troops on a permanent basis, it seems that many other methods would be employed to boost recruitment before we had a draft. Barring an invasion by France, we can rule it out.
MORE: I mocked this NY Times article which fed the fantasy last July. The Times looked high and low for the sources of these rumors, but never found folks like John Kerry. Now, of course, the list of folks promoting the "Bush = Draft" theme includes Howard Dean, Max Cleland, and Terry McAuliffe.
And in a moment of Full Disclosure, I should note that I stole some inspiration from Brett Bellmore Discourse.net.