It seems to me that the time has come for a frank and thorough discussion of both the positive and negative features of a possible return to conscription in the United States. I therefore solicit essays from the readers of this site on this subject. Depending on their length and contributory value I will post them either as separate but clearly connected pieces or as comments. Submissions should address such aspects of the subject as; domestic political effect, effect on the military, structure of the draft, universality or the lack of it, etc. pl
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I have very little to say on the matter, but I think it is something folks Stateside should consider:
If there were compulsory military service, then the civilian awareness of what war actually is and what the violence actually means would increase exponentially. This, in my opinion, would be an unconditionally good thing.
If there were a compulsory draft, then the risks associated with war would also be shared equally, amongst the entire population. For those priviliged few who might opt into a Bush-family-style pseudo-service, then at the very least there would be a public recknoning of their cowardice and hypocrisy. For those masses who must watch while loved ones put their peaceful lives on hold in order to prosecute war against distant (and, in my opinion, utterly innocent) peoples, then there would be an entirely different kind of reckoning (and for otherwise uncritical, jingoist soldiers to get promoted, whether it be through elections or oppportunism).
Finally, by flooding the military with a mass of otherwise disinclined service members, the current reverence in which military service is held would be tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism and practical estimation. Currently I feel that both of these things are lacking, thus making it much easier for newspapers and magazines to sell distant violence as a rational and profitable alternative.
In the light of these three benefits, I think all other criticisms are merely selfish indulgences. Honestly — and as much as I personally despise war, and the people who promote it — I think that at this moment a draft is the best thing that could possibly happen to the United States.
That being said, I would not object to anyone who claimed conscientious objector status; nor would I object to thoughtful protestors who might fiercely and vocally condemn it. All of these things are good and healthy.
I would, however, sneer at the “rather wealthy” sorts who would prat on about its inconvenience — and my fear is that these would be the ones who framed the public debates.
I am fully aware that there are excellent, honorable, dedicated people in the U.S. military. Yet there are also others who do not share any of those qualities. In the current environment, I think it is next to impossible for the United States public to distinguisn between the two — nor do I think there is any motivation to make the offort.
I do not blame the military for this state of affairs; it is a responsibility that all our countrymen have shirked, these last few generations. I do, however, feel the military is in dire need of reform — and it’s my opinion that a draft would be the most effective means to that end.
First the good points, directly from my own experience with draftees:
1. If training is done properly, draftees return better for the experience. Your gang and ghetto problem disappears in a very few years. I’ve seen socially marginal utter criminal misfits turned into pillars of the community – and it was not an isolated occurrence either.
We even had to teach basic hygiene, bed making, clothes washing and worked up from there eventually finishing with basic financial budgetting and issues like insurance, this of course is in addition to military skills.
So point one – it can be viewed as a social program and also a great leveller.
2. It may change American society for the better by remedying the appalling narcissistic culture that has taken hold, in my opinion. Two years of getting by in the military will change peoples viewpoints. It did mine.
3. It provides an inexhaustible supply of men.
1. The professional officer corps will be in shock, because it’s ranks will fill with reservists and conscripted junior Lieutenants that will “pollute” the purity of its power structures.
I myself was bemused by the antics of some of the “professionals” in the Australian Army – some of them were overgrown frat boys to use an American term, and they acted like it.
Ultimately the “amateurs” will threaten, and then take over from the “Professionals” – we had a saying “The professionals look after the army in peacetime.”
The upheaval will be a problem.
2. Training and force structures will need to change.
3. It will be very very expensive.
All this of course, is predicated on certain assumptions.
(A) No escape from the draft, no exemptions, period. If the Cheneyesque system of deferments and suchlike is allowed to continue, the system will be perverted into yet another political fundraising tool, as the rich buy their kids way out.
(B) It applies to all females as well, starting with Paris Hilton.
(C) Use the Australian model, a years training, then a years posting. Giving people only three months training is just turning them into cannon fodder.
On second thoughts, you might like to consider the Swiss model, although its expensive, where everyone is in the army till about age fifty, and keep their rifle and uniform at home.
As one who went through the involuntary servitude of being drafted and then enlisting for three years, I am of two minds about the Army. It was a green prison with the pleasures of alcohol and cigarettes as the only compensation and with real dangers lurking outside the wire but also it was my first real job and it paid for my first car, a 69 Valiant. I survived.
The draft is an absolute necessary if we get in a pissing contest with China or Russia again, or if the USA attacks Iran. It is the one and only way to get the massed army necessary to counter theirs or to occupy the Middle East.
Without the troops to secure Iraq and Afghanistan, the occupations have failed. The stopgap measure of the voluntary army and lots of contractors has lost the war and the only question is when and how fast the withdrawal will take. The Surge wining Al Anbar Province is only propaganda covering the maneuvering on all sides to secure their power base for when the Americans leave.
I sat dreading the day when the numbers would be pulled for the year & I would know if I was going to ‘Nam. I had the same dread the next year when my brother Ken was up. I was years 2 of the lottery, he was year 3. Most numbers that year did not get drafted.
The draft was crap.
Only some had to go. People hated that so badly they had to make the process “fair” with a lottery of some sort.
Even then it was gamed. Even though it had been publicly announced that my number was not going to be called, when the 1-A came in the mail, I got my student deferment papers in order. I had a high draft number and a deferment.
Won’t be no damn different this time. Whatever system is used will be gamed. The difference between now & the ’60’s is we know that all systems not only can be gamed, but in fact – so common belief tells us – are in fact gamed. So it will be the same crap all over again: Poor kids get drafted. Just like the last time. You think that system will last five years?
Unless we draft every man jack at 18. And every female as well. Two years mandatory service. No excuses. No exceptions. Then the system is fair & nobody can complain. (There will still be champaign units, but big deal.)
Leave aside where we’re going to get the drill sergeants. Where we gonna get the money to quadruple the military? When we continue to spend more money in equipment per soldier as if there is no limit and do not have the money to replace what’s been chewed up in Iraq already? (Not to mention what we will lose when they kick us out.)
The draft is a fantasy.
Whether or not we “should” have a draft, I can guarantee you we won’t until after it has already become necessary.
Spoken as one who successfully had a high enough number to not get drafted, and then voluteered anyway.
PL, you are working from the lower-up, a complete utter farce to solve USA’s problems today. Forget about the draft, it will happen anyway if strategic issues happen and US blood will be sacrificed.
What about Leadership and the USA as a beacon? Forget about footsoldiers when the lights of hope are extinguished.
I graduated from college in ’54 and entered the Army in early ’55. I was with mostly draftees and until I got to my duty post saw virtually no career Officers. those I did see I was impressed by. I have for years supported a universal military service program.
There are many reasons I support this idea. First, If we’re going to engage in wars as many as possible should have some sense of how the military opereates [ for good and bad], what the professionals are really like and how they operate, and what it is like to be in an organization that is warrior focused and the bottom line is the lives of your unit not your wallet. I’m not romantic about it, I didn’t especially care for my time. I did, however, learn a hell of a lot about things I would otherwise never have encountered. Perhaps it’s my Western ranch upbringing, but I think we all owe an obligation to the service of this country. Equally I feel if you don’t like how things are going oppose the hell out of them.
I think social mixing, a different ethos and expectations all help to mold one efectively.
I think that continuity and unit cohesion are the main drawbacks. One clear positive mentioned by China Hand is the capacity of the military to train and educate people. this is often overlooked and shouldn’t be.
Finally I think the burden of risk should be shared equally by all of us when we decide for what ever reason to go to war. I am appalled by Cheney’s ” I had better things to do.” Especially as I buried a hell of a lot of kids who had no choice but serve,prison, or flee in the Vietnam War period. That seems to me like a serious betrayal of our mutual obligations to each other.
If getting out of Iraq is compicated andy draft would be at least as complicated. Perhaps it is simply my age  but we seem no longer to have a sense of mutualness at the basic level of our national existence. We need to recapture that, equalize the risk when comflict is contemplated, and require our elites or their children to share the burdens of being citizens and not just the benefits.
Do I think it will happen; No. Do I think it should; yes.
I, like most in my generation , have not served.
It seems to me that in my fathers generation, a generation that could not imagine not serving, that was a thread that connected Americans. I have personally seen General officers and former privates yuck it up and connect over their warmly remembered and likely greatly exaggerated “misbehavior”. Underlying that commradery is the idea that one “did his part” large or small. It was a part of the “buy in” to being an American.
I would have no objection to allowing national service to include the Peace Corp or USAID or something similar as an alternative, as ability, necessity, and conscience permit, but some service, mandatory service, would help our rapidly fragmenting society.
This and your previous post raises the obvious question: “what do we want/need from our military?”
Frankly, I’m of the opinion the military budget needs to be severely cut. We have no significant threat in the immediate future that requires the amount of money we’re putting into it, and if we run into budget problems because of it it will put us at a disadvantage in the future.
I question the need for such a massive military spending when we can afford to have our army tied up in Iraq; it seems to be indulgent.
Again, it comes down to the question – what do we want from the military, and what are we willing to pay to get it?
Yet more supercilious grad school BS. Don’t you get tired of that stuff after a while? pl
The US military seems to be in love with technological fixes. Perhaps somewhere in the Pentagon there is a “black” program trying to clone the ideal soldier.
Manpower and womanpower problems solved.
Well, as we can’t use or afford an Army of 10-20 million men who might be eligible for conscription(to say nothing of women who could fill out non-combat positions very easily) a draft raises the question of equity. Only a small fraction of potential conscripts would be needed (assuming the military retains a volunteer core of professionals).
Who serves ? Who does not ? Should those who do not get drafted pay a surcharge on their income taxes for a number of years instead ? Be placed in the Reserves? Perform a civilian service option ? Have no obligation whatsoever?
Conscription was accepted in the World Wars through the 1950’s but it created some of our greatest civil unrest during the Civil War and the Vietnam War. Part of the reason is that the latter cases were widely viewed as being unfair, providing loopholes to the rich and well-connected but drafting the poor and middle-class.
In any potential draft our “future leaders” matriculating at the Ivies need to be the first to go (as they should under a merit selection criterion) or the draft will be a political disaster.
Why don’t we just adopt the structure and universality German military draft and force every male to serve for a specified period of time:
The Germans have plenty of ways to get out that are honorable and beneficial for the country as a whole not dependent on family or personal connections like Dumbya.
Political effects would be to a social and political revolution in America like the 1960’s because this war has little public support.
The effects on the Military would probably be significant because the draft would produce few career minded NCO’s unless the Army offered a significant bonus for reenlistments.
Also, the sycophant, institutional, West Pointers would have to change their “we own this army” attitude but that would be a welcomed bonus.
Maybe it’s the Latin male in me but I cannot support drafting women.
If this is truly a war we must not lose, then we should fight to win.
This conscription will provide the Army with enough men to tackle Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and whichever other country Dumbya decides to go after.
Unfortunately, Dumbya and the Dick never served and lack the courage to tell the American people the truth.
Or maybe they are too smart to tell the American people the truth.
Or maybe the American people are too dumb to know the truth.
Whichever way, the draft will never happen.
When I was drafted there was a 6 year obligation – 2 active – 2 reserve
– and 2 inactive reserve.
There were so many Reserve and National Guard enlistees that I
effectively had no military obligation after I got out.
I volunteered for the draft mistakenly thinking that being blind in one
eye would get me classified 4F – The month I was inducted all you had to
do was fog a mirror.
My VietNam experience makes me think that the draft along with
maintaining units permanently in theatre is probably better than
rotating units into and out of theatre.
I have read that it is not good for unit cohesion. That may be but
moving whole units into and out of combat also has the “born yesterday”
effect when the new units don’t know what the current situation on the
ground is – what kind of relationships are maintained with the locals,
Of course a draft isn’t going to be fair – That’s a given – them that
has, gets; them that don’t just get ****** Social structures are that
Conscription ensures that the military is more of a citizen army.
We now have a military class from Private to General and I’m not really
sure that that’s a good thing.
I do think that having a smaller cadre and having the ability to ramp up
a military force in a timely manner if needed is probably a better model
than we have today.
I wonder how long it would take to institute a draft if we decided to
have one again.
I think the military is in pretty sad shape right now. I believe this is
directly the fault of the current administration.
I wonder how many career staff & planning officers have left the
military in the last 6 years. I think that the upper levels of personnel
in the pentagon were purged in the quest for “right thinking” and
competence be damned. An anecdotal example of this would be the request
for Congress to allow re-purposing money for armored vehicles and then
having it not done because the military was taking a month per vehicle
to install radio/computer equipment. There are allways going to be
SNAFU’s but …
On a lighter note, a draft would certainly spell the end of the policy against open gays serving in the military.
Either that, or the nation would quickly discover a staggering number of gays and lesbians who come out of the closet upon receiving their draft notices.
Good question. I think we should return to a military draft just as soon as the Congress reclaims its responsibility for declaring war. The former should derive from the latter.
I find myself in agreement with some of the respondents to this question. The draft did provide a “right of passage” for many. Certainly, military service is a proud tradition. Nonetheless, the draft, as applied in the 1960s and early 1970s, did not quite live up to my idea of fairness. Just the same, the draft boards probably did about as well as any group of civic minded politicos could do.
I think bringing back the draft in the context of the current situation ignores that context. The Selective Service exists to supply manpower through the induction process to fill vacancies that cannot be filled through voluntary enlistments. All that is required is for the Congress to pass a law to activate the system. Therefore, I conclude that the Congress does not think the situation is dire. Certainly, President Bush sees “a return on success.” Obviously, the current strength of the force is up to the task.
All of my military experience was in the volunteer Army. Without congressional declaration of war, without dire necessity, I think a return to the draft would be throwing fuel on a simmering fire. Public support for Iraq has largely evaporated. My memory of the Vietnam years leads me to expect a similar reaction if significant numbers of young men find themselves conscripted. The administration did not plus up the Army and Marines when it could have shortly after 911. Furthermore, the manpower crunch was predicted several years ago. The dumb goal has been met for this decade.
All the same, I have not been retired long enough not to feel the pain of friends and their families going through serial deployments. Summing up my thoughts, Congress should reclaim its responsibility for declaring war. Once declared, the Congress should determine whether national manpower requirements necessitate activating the Selective Service system. Such deliberate and deliberated political decisions would invest the greater part of the nation’s leadership and result in better and longer-lasting public support.
I am completely opposed to consciption. The “Draft” is without a doubt involuntary servitude, regardless of what anyone drawing a government pay check says, or said.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Yet more supercilious grad school BS. Don’t you get tired of that stuff after a while? pl
Well, at the very least you changed two words!
Is this the best you can do?
You, Col. Lang, are endanger or becoming an adjective of your own post!
If I wanted regurgitated repetitious name calling, I would have gone to A. Coulter or M. Malkin webs! So much for name calling, IT! is beneath your position and achievements!
The last line.
That’s been farmed out to the new mercs/praetorian guard!
Compulsory public service would not be only a net expense. An entire economy would spring up around it. It would entail a massive increase in bureaucracy and require much oversight, but the logistics involved would not only be a net expense. 4 million kids entering public service each year would provide a lot more manpower than the U.S. might reasonably require for military campaigns alone, and that could be used in schools, public works, research, medicine, and any number of areas where shortfalls in manpower are affecting efficacy of U.S. public services.
Military service would be one branch of that — and perhaps the largest — but with that many available soldiers one would not expect them to be kept as full-time soldiers the way the current military does.
In this vein, I think the recent whispers of a “Department of Peace” that have been heard in various quarters are making a lot of sense.
Of course, one would expect there to be a lot of outcry along the lines of “Communism!”, “New Deal!”, etc.
@ Frank Durkee: Thanks for the sympathetic reading of my post. It was composed late at night (I’m currently translating a 52 page document), and wasn’t as clear as I had hoped. I’m relieved to see that it wasn’t incomprehensible after all.
Is there a relationship between force structure and threat? Or do we need more of everything– weapons, troops, stuff — or whatever, just because the Decider and future Deciders say just because…?
What is the threat — WMD, “Terrorists”, just what in particular are realistic “scenarios”…?
Is the US the world’s policeman? For what purpose? How does this address our vital national interests? (What are they anyways these days?)
How many troops do we need for what purpose, and why?
Is Huntington’s “The Soldier and the State” valid? Useful as toilet paper?
1. How does the “privatization” of warfare process fit in? This is the Shultz-Rohaytn (hence Cheney etal) vision thing, more privately owned merc outfits like Blackwater.
2.Is there a relationship between military recruitment of criminals and a potential rise of (violent) crime at home in the US down the road? Any crime stats out there past or present on this?
Per the Army:
” The U.S. Army met its recruiting goals for the last year but enlisted thousands of new soldiers with criminal records and fewer who have earned high school diplomas, according to figures released Wednesday.
The spike of new enlistees given “character” waivers for fiscal 2007 continues a steady upward trend in the number of recruits with past arrests and convictions allowed into the Army since the start of the war in Iraq.
More than 11 percent of the Army recruits needed waivers for problems with the law — up from 7.9 percent the previous year and more than double the percentage in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, stressed that a vast majority, about 87 percent, of those allowed in with waivers had misdemeanors for such offenses as joy riding or violating curfew. Most faced little punishment beyond community service for their actions, Bostick said.
But at the same time, the number of enlistees with felony convictions and arrests in their pasts has increased. In 2003, the Army allowed 459 enlistees with felony arrests and convictions into the service compared to 1,620 this past year. The startling figures come at a time when the Army is trying to grow amid persistent questions about how the armed forces can increase force size during a time of war without significantly lowering the quality of recruits.”…
From a law enforcement perspective, we can infer a growing cadre of better trained violent criminals returning from military duty. But local police forces will also have increasing numbers of Iraq, Afghan, (Iran) vets.”…
” Duane Schattle doesn’t mince words. “The cities are the problem,” he says. A retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at U.S. Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq’s cities as the prototype for tomorrow’s battlespace. “This is the next fight,” he warns. “The future of warfare is what we see now.”
He isn’t alone. “We think urban is the future,” says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment.” And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired Army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle’s operation, has a similar assessment, “We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years.”
There raft of pros and cons about a draft are too numerous for a single page comment.
The most compelling need for a draft: it is the only way to keep the military-industrial complex off the battlefield. Corporations hold too much sway over military matters. It should be clear to any red-blooded American that corporations (all of them multi-national in composition) are only allied to Wall Street, money and profits. Are not KBR, Blackwater and the rest of them enough of an example? Corporations have ruined the nation’s industrial base with outsourcing everything in the name of profits. They will do the same if they get the inside track on waging war.
A large home-grown military force with professionals and conscripts is the only way to neutralize the mil-indus complex.
There should be a ten year revolving door policy to keep corporations away from the double-dippers, many of whom claim alleged “vital experience”.
The current Army Association show in Washington is a great example of goodies that the military does not need. Why can’t the military dream up its own needs as it once did?
“The spike of new enlistees given “character” waivers for fiscal 2007 continues a steady upward trend in the number of recruits with past arrests and convictions allowed into the Army since the start of the war in Iraq.”
My uncle was given a choice in the 1950s – jail or the Marine Corps.
Wasn’t that fairly common in the old days – substituting military service for jail time?
i advocate a volunatary civilian/miliatary national service option for men
and women over any compulsory miliatary or national service.
Universal military service is needed in situations like WWII when our country is faced with a situation
that requires us to choose “making-war” our paramount national priority.
Universal national service is needed when a country is faced with extreme labor needs that it
requires a special levy on everyone to perform tasks that the country is unable to do otherwise.
A unified civilian/military national service option could be created that would offer young people opportunities
to learn through civilian or military service while contributing to the common good of our country.
This program would have to continually strive to attract young people. It would have to offer
real benefits or it would not be able to sustain itself.
The miliatary would be able to offer a number of opportunities: a multi-year term of active service;
a multi-year term of active and reserve service, etc,; all opportunities providing valuable training
The civilian side would be able to offer similar oppotunities. There are many spheres of activity that this
service could be targetted to: law enforcement, teaching, environmental conservation, governent
service internships, community centers, health services internships, etc,.
I personally think it would be a great idea for a draft, or at least some sort of process for mandating public service for the young people in our country. The main hestitation I have in my own mind would be the impact on the US economy. With inflation running at such a low rate, the sudden absence of 4 million (I’ll accept China Hand’s estimate)workers from the private economy would cause most industry to have to find workers elsewhere. What is the solution? Gastarbeiters? Or further outsourcing to China and Mexico? Are we prepared (politically or economically) for either of those options, or another?
And Jose – your comment about “sycophant, institutional, West Pointers ” is out of line. I might accept that there is a cadre of syncophant institutional professional officers out there, but to characterize them all as West Pointers is ignorant. You do a dis-service to my Latin friends (male and female)that are West Pointers. Thankfully I don’t characterize all Latin males based on one or two sad examples.
Last night I was talking with an Army Capt. about the new officer incentives being offered. She stated she had received an email (as she told me this I suspect it was not classified) that was saying how battalion level officers should encourage their company commanders to take the incentive and “re-up” as one of the options on the table was to move to an 18-24 month deployment schedule. She stated to me that she thought she received the email by mistake but that it did come from a credible source. Whether this is totally true or not only time will tell. But this does beg the question, if Army personnel are already having a hard time with 15 month deployments, how many will stay in if deployments go to 2 years? With that kind of exodus, I do not see how we could sustain anything without a draft, pros or cons aside.
Has anyone else heard anything like this or have any thoughts on it? I am trying to figure out this holds any water or is just apart of the rumor mill. Everything in the news lately on the subject has nothing to do with increasing deployment lengths. I have seen only talk about bonuses, retention, and incentives to increase our numbers. Did I miss something?
W/ my experience as a fxcking new guy (FNG) replacement on the Vietnam DMZ, it’s a wonder i didn’t get killed in the first two weeks in that environment.
Units need to be trained together and deploy together as they did in WW II.
The mechanism is classic. You take half of the officers and NCO’s of a brigade and use them as skeletons around which to form two new brigades. Pretty soon, you’ve doubled your force, then quadrupled.
Two years service is too short for that framework. Four years would give it enough time to make it worthwhile. And if the fight is important enough, then the service is open-ended as in WW 2.
With a seriously sized military designed for serious, important conflict, we would no longer afford to be Israel’s Gurkha force. We would have to study the ways of Peace more intensely- the facets of VAD. Violence, Agression, & Domination- the recidivism the NeoKons have tried to foist as our national values.
Make sure you draft young women as well and put them right there with the male combat soldiers and watch the enemy use female POWs to break the will of the male POWs.
Notwithstanding some very valid libertarian arguments against a draft, I think some good arguments exist for some type of compulsory service for everyone…no exceptions. As someone at this thread has mentioned, other types of compulsory service besides the military should be considered.
Col. Hackworth, so it is written, liked draftee types because draftees always demanded an explanation justifying the military action, whether strategic or tactical. And I think draftees would stand up to those in the Pentagon and the USM who were interested in using the grunt simply to advance their career or to promote the interests that are not of , by, and for the people of the United States. Take the Wurmser option for example…now if I were a draftee in Baghdad and saw that Wurmser and Cheney wanted to see me and all my buddies die to promote…well…I’d be extremely angry and damn near begin to wonder if Wurmer and Cheney are traitors.
A couple of hypotheticals. Suppose we had a draftee army. A draftee who was headed to Duke Law school now finds himself at Abu G on an assignment. Draftee thinks war is imperial, immoral and furthermore draftee believes that the people who decided on Shock and Awe are complete and total dumb asses. Draftee also sees the abuse. Draftee doesn’t give a damn about military promotion, e.g. becoming a captain or the sort. I think odds are good that draftee would have raised hell.
Same at the Pentagon. Suppose some draftee heard Luti call General Zinni “a traitor”. Draftee doesn’t give a damn about becoming a captain. Odds increase draftee type flips over Luti’s desk and challenges him to a fight in the Pentagon parking lot. Perhaps that example is metaphorical but you see the point. The draftee doesn’t care about a military career; he’s just putting in his time serving his country.
From what I can tell, General Abrams did an absolutely brilliant job restructuring the US Army so that imperial wars could not take place. He seems to have structured the US Army so imperial wars would put too much a burden on Reservists and NG. However, it looks like to me that the neoconservatives were able to do an end around by contracting out to mercenaries, e.g. Blackwater.
I am rather confident that draftee types would have been some of the first to recognize that the Blackwater folks are mercenaries endangering US ground troops. Some draftee in Baghdad would have said…“Well…damn…those guys just massacred a bunch of Iraqis and now the Iraqis are going to blame me and all my buddies.”
I will leave discussions of the military implications of the draft to others.
Instead, I will discuss the political, social, and economic implications.
The pink elephant in the room that no one is discussing is feminism. Presently, only males are required to register, which has been tolerated largely because registration has not resulted in actually call up. Presently, women are privileged to enlist, which has been tolerated largely because it has been voluntary.
An actual draft would put the entire feminist question into sharp focus. It obviously would generate vigorous debate not only in this list – but more importantly in society at large. We all can well grasp what sort of discussion would result – no need for me to spell it out here.
There is another aspect which is less well understood. One of the drivers behind feminism is economic. Simply put, in 1970, a single male could support a middle class level of income. Nowadays, two incomes struggle to meet this. Feminism has been so compelling a social issue over the last several decades because it has enabled families to continue to maintain the facade of a middle class lifestyle and social status.
This is already under stress because nowadays even two incomes barely suffice – and this is becoming more and more problematical each year.
A universal draft would put feminism under even more stress – and given greater weight to these unsolved socio-economic problems.
After much thought, I arrived at my opinion on whether there should be a draft.
My answer, my thoughtful answer, is No!
My reasoning is fairly simple and straightforward:
Loyalty to one’s country should be given, not taken.
I fully appreciate the arguments that a draft is more equitable, more even-handed than an all-volunteer force.
That argument, while true, does not address the fundamental fault I find with the draft.
The fault that I see is that a draft elevates the primacy of the “State” over that of the “Individual”.
While that may be the social system of choice for many well-intentioned folks worldwide, I truly believe that it is a poor substitute for the unique, and in my mind, most desired social system ever devised (and delivered) that we have in our country where it is the primacy of the “Individual” that stands over that of the “State”.
I can certainly imagine circumstances of a true national emergency where the common wisdom is that all should sacrifice to ensure the survival of our nation.
But that begs the question of who wouldn’t rise to the occasion and “volunteer”? I’m curious as to what would have happened in World War II if we did not have the draft.
We will of course, never know, but can one say that there would have been an insufficient number of citizens who stood up to serve?
And if there were insufficient numbers, what would that have said about our citizens belief in our country and its entry into a World War?
I personally doubt that there would have been insufficient numbers, but if there were, perhaps that lends some meaning to the adage: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”
And I’m a enough of a realist to know that I might myself waver in my beliefs under the exigent circumstances of a true national emergency, but I’d rather hope I would not.
In the end, I’ve come down to the position that while the nation has a right to ask for my service, it does not and should not have the right to demand it.
Again, if one’s country is worth it, then one must look into one’s heart and let it guide one’s destiny.
Mad Dog, I assume you haven’t tried that argument with either the IRS or your County Assesor.
Briefly, here are my thoughts, as a civilian:
First, the volunteer Army, imo, was based on a defensive strategy; drafting an Army appears to be following the neocon policy of America as the ‘world’s cop.’
Second, such compulsory service may not be so beneficial–there are many who feel that compulsory service in the IDF is desensitizing the Israeli populace towards the IDF treatment of the Palestinians, the Lebanese, etc.
Third, I think the concept of the ‘just war’ has become thoroughly debased by neocon adventurism, and I would never place my son in the compromised situation of today’s soldiers. Some people decry the fact that there’s no WWII-type solidarity with the Iraq War, however, my take is that the Iraq War is widely, and correctly, imo, perceived as ideological adventurism and empire building.
Otoh, I would be in favor of compulsory national service–our national parks, amongst other places, still contain many WPA-built bridges, walls, structures, etc., and remain excellent examples of national service for the commonwealth.
Finally, the cynic in me says the draft won’t come back for many reasons, but not the least of which, there is little money to be made on the troops. Looking at the MIC historically, you see the big trend of replacing troops with technology, which, the cynic might suggest is because Corporations can’t (yet) manufacture soldiers.
Neither one has asked, no, demanded of me to put my life on the line. *g*
That said, I do understand your underlying point that the “State” has primacy in many areas of our lives.
How could government exist without such a position?
But one can still draw a line, as our founding fathers did.
If I remember correctly, they had no draft, nor did they approve of a standing Army.
Wise men, they! Having a standing Army would tempt some to undertake ill-conceived ventures.
Could they have been right?
And wouldn’t a draft add fuel to that very fire?
Make no mistake. The draft is involuntary servitude.
That in and of itself should make one consider the true meaning of “involuntary”.
As a retired officer who started RA enlisted, then got a direct appointment as a reserve officer on active duty and was then integrated into the RA, from which I’m now retired, and who also spent the early years in the draft Army, I say “no.”
Here is why:
(1) Short of an existential threat, the draft is antithetical to the ideals of our nation.
(2) Terrorists do not represent an existential threat to the nation. Terrorists are criminals. If we were able to eliminate the draft in the face of the Soviet Union, we do not need it to deal with terrorists.
(3) The U.S. Army does not require the numbers of troops that would be provided through the draft.
(4) The post-WW2 draft was always unfair and weighted towards the privileged, as is evidenced by the numbers of veterans (not counting Nation Guard) currently in high public office. This is not good for the nation.
(5) The Army is not a social welfare organization. If you think it necessary to “shape up” your child, do it yourself. The same applies to ideas such as poor mixing with rich, black with white, etc, etc. The Army is about defense of the nation, not about solving the ills of society.
(6) Conventional wisdom has it that a draft will somehow serve as a check on ill-advised military adventures. Reality is that the American people have become so apathetic and so uninformed about the actions of their government that a draftee Army would be no less likely to be involved in a president’s grand adventure than would a volunteer Army. The draft cannot substitute for involvement of the citizenry.
(7) Abrams had it wrong because of (6) above.
Benjamin Franklin: “You have a republic. If you can keep it.” The way our Founders put our nation together is that we always have to WANT those ideals and all of the rest. If we don’t want it, we go into the dustbin of history.
To our shame, we’re headed towards the dustbin. The draft won’t solve our problems.
The draft raises the ultimate question of the intervention of the state in the lives of private citizens. That is why the classic libertarian position is to oppose it. The state does have the obligation to defend itself. On this basis is the draft necessary? I look forward to the debate because I think we are at that point and won’t it be a wonder to watch if it is restored under a Democratic President. Adoption of a draft has always been typically opposed by conservatives, not liberals. This may be a seminal question for the future of our democracy and I for one could not predict whether adoption of the draft or its defeat will strengthen or weaken our nation. This is the result of a lifetime of thought about this issue and I was drafted by President Lyndon Johnson on June 12, 1967 who in a letter told me that my “Friends and Neighbors had chosen me to join the Armed Forces of the United States.” It is the only time a President has written to me.
On the one hand, “I hates it, my precious”. On the other…
US society has fractured horizontally and vertically. A socially unifying force would be very very worthwhile.
Also, the US has rampant illiteracy, and the draft is the last opportunity to pound some letters into a lot of skulls. Toyota is building plants in Canada now because Canadian poor people can read. In the Deep South they had to make picture books for their employees.
But, yeah, the credit card is way too far overdrawn. We can’t keep running it up more for an investment that pays off 10 years later.
I have been drafted into the German army. It took them nine months to turn me into a useable soldier, and I only served with communications. If you really want to have a draft, you want to have a minimum service of 18 months or more if you’re going to send soldiers into combat. The German army of 1986 or so (I served later) was a draftee army and quite a capable force I think.
I was a draftee, then enlisted for the extra year to avoid the infantry and VietNam along with a lot of other college graduates in the autumn of 1968.
We caused a huge amount of trouble within the ranks.
This linked article covers what happened.
The US is a late stage empire with a financialized economy. The elites won’t pay for a draft so it won’t happen.
The days of a republic with a citizen army are long past.
The bootlicker element of the officer corps will rise to the top and say whatever the politicos want. So it won’t happen.
Battalions of Ukranian mercenaries are more likely to be hired than the draft.
Blackwater is too expensive, but cheaper alternatives will be found.
It will drain us dry.
Remember Reagan’s strategy against the evil empire? Spend them into submission. We are doing it to ourselves.
Harsh, but true, guys.
I had a man with an NYU MA in my rifle platoon in the early ’60s. He was a terrible nuisance, always bitching about everything, malingering, spreading sedition, etc.
I made him my radio operator. As such he was standing next to me all the time in the field, shared a foxhole with me and the platoon sergeant and could listen to the company radio net. After a while he claimed to be able to see things more from my point of view.
I told him that if we went anywhere on a live operation he would be standing right there with me with that thing on his back and the antenna sticking up. Heh. Heh. pl
Pat, I was in MI in Germany and Korea. Does that give you a hint?
I could have written Catch-22 and Mash combined, except it had already been done.
It wasn’t the unreasonable Officers and NCO’s that we hassled…but as you well know, not everyone with a bunch of crap on their chest and shoulders is reasonable or even smart.
It was the corruption that really blew my mind.
BTW, you were lucky to just have one disaffected troop.
I was one of many and not the most obnoxious. But that is probably the difference between the early 60’s and the late 60’s.
Also, not every officer and NCO was a jerk. Most were very decent people in a fubar institutional environment.
That is why the chickenhawk politicos of today and their sycophant bootlicking officers piss me off…they are using and abusing the military like spoiled brats with the full set of GI Joe toys…and screwing good decent people in the process.
Same shit, different day.
What was your MOS? I am interested in the word “corruption.” There couldn’t have been much of a black market, or was there still a business going on in selling PX goods and liquor rations? pl
What about the concept of a Foreign Legion? The French seem to have done pretty well with this idea.
I propose a super special draft. The missions would be of the kamikaze type. The draftee pool would be those who have not served before and who fill the media with calls for military aggression. This deal would require the suspension of “Leave no soldier behind” and the Freedom of Speech, but oh well…
With the “birth dearth” cohort hard upon the military, the time has probably come to implement a draft again. During the Vietnam War, the draft could be applied unevenly because the military was drawing from the baby boom cohorts. They had far more potential recruits available to them than they needed, even during the worst years of the Vietnam War and Cold War. The draftable pool available now is much, much smaller and eliminating all deferments except for bona fide medical purposes would restore the draft’s social equanimity.
Beyond the number of recruits available, the intake could not be any more disruptive to the military than the current crop of recruits the military has been forced to rely upon. Besides, does anyone doubt that the Army high command would welcome the availability of boots on the ground to demonstrate real commitment to opponents in Iraq? That alone would help restore the balance in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, even if it destroys the Republican Party in the process. Everybody wins in that case.