Quick. Let's review the choices. What can be done to prevent our all-volunteer armed forces from being "stretched and stressed" beyond the breaking point? 

We can:

  • Decide as a nation to get the politicians and generals to agree to withdraw from an Iraq mission UNaccomplished. That's the least likely possibility; it would require a certain president to admit it was a stupid mistake in the first place.

  • Continue to rely on enticing recruits to feed a military that is already dangerously thin. Of course, they will have to ignore the dismal existence of those already serving, whose promises of a return to home and family are broken by deployments extended by fiat.

  • Outsource. Why not? In today's America, that seems to be the answer to every problem. Think of it: the money we can save by hiring grunts from the Third World. Hey — it's no more likely to solve the problem than the other two. That leaves one other possibility ...

  • The draft, of course. It's pathetically funny how everyone dances around an INvoluntary armed force. But when the administration's own war czar tells an interviewer this week that it's "always been an option on the table," he becomes  just another of those who are softening us up in the hope that we will become conditioned to accept the ridiculous as reasonable.

There are  arguments for a draft — variations on Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) contention that it would more equitably spread the pain of U.S. adventurism. Now the  well-off would be required to  carry a burden, not those who just need the job. The patriotic could still volunteer, but the less motivated would also have to pay a price, no matter how privileged. Maybe this time we can do away with the college deferments and the other silver-spoon evasions.

That would also possibly rein in the instinct to use war cavalierly as a political campaign strategy.

Most of the wealthy aren't about to let their children march into harm's way in some far-off inferno. They would probably keep them close, so they could help with family projects like ... uh ... Daddy running for president. Stuff like that.

And there's one other consideration. If there is a draft, all hell will break loose. No longer would the ranks of today's anti-war demonstrations be filled mainly by boomers reliving their youths and singing Peter, Paul and Mary songs.

We'd return to the good old days all right. The marchers would probably be younger and more violent. And they would have to build a very high fence on the U.S. border to keep the hordes of fleeing Americans out of Canada.

Get ready for it. The draft. The big D. Which rhymes with C. Which stands for the con that we're not going to have one again. It's hard to see any other choice.