This writing assignment is designed to reinforce material discussed in class and to help you prepare for the final examination. You must complete at least 3 of the 4 exercises assigned during the term. These assignments will not be graded, but will be marked "check," "check-plus," or "check-minus," generally with brief comments. Consistent, superior performance will count in your favor when I calculate final course grades.
Please send your essay to me via e-mail if at all possible; this will enable me to keep better track of the memos and to provide more timely feedback. So that I can keep track of all the files, please give your essay a filename in the following format: <yourlastname.memo1. fmt>, where yourlastname is your last name, and fmt indicates the type of file you are sending [i.e., .doc = Word, .wpd = WordPerfect, .pdf = Adobe Acrobat, etc.] E.g., if I were submitting a memo in Word format, it would be called katz.memo1.doc. Please be sure to include your name in the memo text as well, so that it will show up when I print out a hard copy.
I will presume, unless you tell me otherwise in your cover message, that if I find your essay to be among the best I receive, I have your permission to post it [with your name removed] as part of my feedback to the class, as with last year's memos. If you do not wish to grant such permission, please let me know expressly. Your decision whether to grant or reserve such permission will not affect your memo score or class standing in any way.
This assignment is due on Wednesday, February 12 at 9 am. Extensions will not be granted absent compelling circumstances. You should not do any additional research in preparing your analysis, and you should limit the time you spend on this assignment to not more than four hours.
Earlier this year, Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York introduced House Resolution 163, the proposed Universal National Service Act of 2003. Rep. Rangel's bill, co-sponsored by 13 other members of the House of Representatives, would restore the military draft and require that "all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security."
Rep. Rangel's proposal attracted significant attention in the media, even though most observers do not consider it to have high chances of passage in the Congress. In a guest editorial in the New York Times, Rep. Rangel argued that re-instituting the draft, which was last imposed in the U.S. in 1973, would bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war and would impose the burdens of war more equally. For their part, critics of the bill have suggested that it is an exercise in political rhetoric motivated primarily by opposition to military action in Iraq, rather than a serious proposal, and that it would interfere with the goal of military readiness.
For a sampling of these reactions, here are links to several news and editorial articles on the subject, along with the text of Rep. Rangel's bill and an official statement on the issue from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. You may read as many or as few of them as you wish, but I recommend reading at least Rep. Rangel's original op-ed piece, and former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger's response in the Wall Street Journal. (Note: access to some links are limited to NYT and WSJ subscribers, but you should be able to access them from the law school network. Alternatively, you can access a password-protected copy that is stored on the course discussion page, available to registered students only.)
- Text of H.R. 163, the proposed Universal National Service Act of 2003 (introduced 1/07/03)
- NYTimes.com (12/31/02): Bring Back the Draft (Op-ed article by Rep. Charles B. Rangel)
- NYTimes.com (1/01/03): NYT readers respond to Rep. Rangel's op-ed article.
- WashingtonPost.com (1/03/03): Two Key Members of Black Caucus Support Military Draft.
- WSJ.com (1/10/03): Dodgy Drafters (Op-ed article by former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger)
- US Department of Defense (1/21/03): Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Statement on the Draft.
- NYTimes.com (1/22/03): Rumsfeld Apologizes for Draftees Remarks
Taking these materials as background, write your own short op-ed article on the issue, using no more than 500 words and no more than two pages. Your essay should not just focus on the proposed bill and the criticisms it has drawn, but should also address in some way the overall merits of a volunteer system of military service, drawing on the ideas we have discussed in the first three weeks of the course.
A warning: it would not be effective to try to work into your essay all the major ideas we have discussed; you do not have enough space. Instead, try to identify a limited number of points (say, three or four) and concentrate on expressing them clearly and in a way that could have a chance of persuading an audience of non-specialists. The two op-ed pieces referred to above should be taken not just as background material, accordingly, but also as illustrations of the genre. For further guidance on style and substance, please look at my feedback memo from last year's first assignment, which includes copies of the top student memos I received, and explains what made those memos the best ones.