The rumor that the Bush administration will propose reinstating the military draft once the election is over was quickly dismissed as, well, just a rumor.
The House of Representatives even conducted a procedural vote on the issue last week and only two representatives voted for it.
So mothers and fathers of teenage kids are told to rest easy, there is no military draft lurking in someone's plan book for the future, despite all those Internet blogs.
But let's not be so sure. It's becoming increasingly clear that our nation's military strength is in jeopardy. The Army has already lowered its standards to enlist more soldiers. African-American youngsters, long an important part of the full-time military, aren't joining like they did before. And the National Guard has announced that it will fall about 10,000 short of its recruiting goals this year.
If this nation continues on its course of fighting so-called pre-emptive wars and the situation in Iraq doesn't get any better, something, as the old song goes, has gotta give.
Frankly, there is already a "back-door" draft. It's the use of part-time National Guard and Reserve units for extended tours of active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of these troops have already been "drafted" to serve second tours to fill in for an overtaxed active force, taking them away from their full-time civilian jobs in record numbers. The impact on small businesses, in particular, has been staggering, and it's not going to get any better.
Indeed, more of these reserve forces are needed right now and a whole new wave is scheduled to be called to active duty -- coincidentally? -- after the election.
But it's the future that's in question. If young men and women begin backing away from enlisting in the Guard and Reserve as signs are now indicating, and if those who feel they have given their fair share of service to the country don't re-up when their enlistments expire, the military is going to have to do something to maintain its troop strength.
Besides, what will need to happen if either North Korea or Iran, or both, start becoming, unlike Iraq, a real threat to our safety?
That's why it's so important for the US to change course in Iraq. We've got to get back to fighting the real war on terrorism, quickly figure out how to turn Iraq over to the United Nations and the Iraqis, and get the heck out of there before we make matters ever worse.
If we continue the way we're going, there's simply no way we can get by without a draft.
Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times, Madison, Wis., in which this originally appeared. Contact him c/o The Capital Times, PO Box 8060, Madison, WI 53708 or email email@example.com.