Bring Back the Draft?

10 Arguments In Support of Bringing Back the Draft

By J. Frances Wolfe

Foreword by H. Andrew Eugene

Conscription, or drafting, commonly known as "the draft" is the compulsory enlistment of citizens in a national service, most often a military service.

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          Originally, I was going to write this entire article myself because I have some opinions as to why the draft should again be compulsory or mandatory. Then, I found this article by J. Frances Wolfe and it touched on some of the same ideas I was considering as to how and why a modern, modified draft could address and partially correct a variety of the troubles challenging our current shared society. I believe enacting a mandatory based service to your country, this country, by young Americans finishing high school, would greatly benefit our overall social condition. A new amendment might need to be added giving all draftees the choice to either see combat or not.

          Primarily, in order to make my point hereafter, I want to talk about the cost of an all voluntary military. The cost is unprecedented and spreads over many social and economic fronts. I'm sure you've heard the term "Military-Industrial Complex", well, this is the combined industries that supply and support our military and more specifically, the United States War Machine. There is huge money in military and war. So much in fact, the greedy sociopaths who own various parts of the war machine will influence anything they can to enhance the chances of war as long as it doesn't directly affect them or their children other than putting massive amounts of our tax dollars into their pockets. Right now, the last thing these greedy bastards who own and maintain the Military Industrial Complex want, is a mandatory American draft system serving the military.

But before we continue, take a look at this, it is frighteningly revealing.

          Our 34th president and Five Star General, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the American people warned us of the dangerous power and probable unlawful behavior of the military industrial complex. On November 17th, 1961 he said:

          "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

         Think about this. In 1961, an American military man who had personally fought in battle, led men into battle, directed the final battles of World War II and would later become our 34th Commander in Chief was warning us future Americans that the military industrial complex was probably going to create and support situations that would throw us into war, whether warranted or not for the benefit of themselves. Subsequently, we entered into the Vietnam conflict, a war President Kennedy was determined to have very limited involvement in. His open reluctance of that war is probably what got him assassinated. The Vietnam War cost $686 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars and 56,818 dead of our precious yet, terribly mislead young American men. Of course most of that $686 billion went to those who owned a part of the military-industrial complex. This is when the America that was meant to be was lost forever. The very essence of the American way of life and who we were as a people at that time was changed forever. The Gulf War of the 1990's was another manufactured war and a mere ten years later the American people were duped into yet another unnecessary war. In 2003, President George Walker Bush had a very low approval rating. He was quite simply a joke and most Americans knew it. The 2004 midterms were coming up and he needed something to seal his reelection to the White House. Enter history. No sitting president had ever lost reelection during a war, so… he needed a war. In order to have a war he needed a villain. Enter Saddam Hussein. Bush accomplished three things with his illegal war. 1.) He was reelected, 2.) He made his friends and family at the military-industrial complex even more wealthy and 3.) He avenged his Father's failure to be reelected.

          So. Thank You "W". 4,486 American lives lost, over 30,000 Americans maimed, over 3 trillion tax payers dollars gone to the war machine and the whole world was left with an unstable Middle East that will plague humanity for decades to come. This is a clear example of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” President Eisenhower was talking about! This is the horror and greed that feeds the military-industrial complex. A compulsory draft with a voluntary battle inception would greatly reduce the cost and chance for the misuse of military power for private corporation profit.

          Look at the cost difference between the Vietnam war and Bush’s Iraq war in inflation-adjusted dollars, $686 billion versus 3 trillion dollars used on the Iraq war. Vietnam was 11 years of American troop involvement. The Iraq war was 9 years. Vietnam had a mandatory draft and Bush’s Iraq war was a volunteer only war. This is where the big cost difference comes in. Without enough volunteers the U.S. government had to hire outside support mechanisms. These sub-contracted support mechanisms cost us tax payers far more then drafted personnel would have cost. These sub-contracted support mechanisms are a part of the military-industrial complex. Example; The average American volunteer soldier’s pay in Iraq was about $50 per day while the government paid private firms between $500 and $1,500 a day for each experienced military personnel they supplied. They were essentially Mercenaries. Our brave soldiers who were going into vicious battle were earning far less than the hired guns who sat back behind the fighting protecting support personnel or guarding oil wells. This is what you get with a volunteer only military and this is how those who own a piece of the military-industrial complex want it!

          In light of all of the above… it is my opinion the United States Military should be taken away from private industries. It should be a non-profit entity owned and operated by American civilians who build, manage and maintain all aspects of it using a compulsory, mandatory draft system. These drafted personnel would also man and manage all the industries that make our weapons, sew our uniforms, make and serve the food and clean the latrines! The only part that would be voluntary is whether one would choose to go into combat.


          Think about the benefits. Young adults who otherwise might struggle to take care of themselves in regular civilian life would be drafted to serve their country, learn self-respect and discipline, learn a trade or career and earn their way to some basic benefits that would help that individual become a productive member of our shared society. And oh yeah, if there was no profit from war to be made by privately held companies,… more than likely there would not be any more wars.                                                         

                   Concludes Foreword

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10 Arguments In Support of Bringing Back the Draft

By J. Frances Wolfe

When the draft was eliminated in 1973, most Americans were happy to see the divisive policy disappear. Compulsory military service—particularly during the Vietnam War—was a thing to be feared by those eligible and by their loved ones. However, there are several solid arguments in favor of re-instituting the draft.

10 - The Draft Connects Civilians with the Military.

At the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, General Stanley McChrystal suggested that America re-institute compulsory service, citing several factors. Among the many issues he noted was his claim that only 1 percent of American citizens serve or have an immediate family member serving in the military. This means that few will see firsthand the effects war has on those who fight.

Re-instituting the draft would broaden this connection, and in theory it could galvanize opposition to war and the support of peace to minimize exposure to the issues associated with fighting in a war. It could also result in a deeper understanding of the way the military functions and how it sets out to achieve foreign policy goals. This could unite the population in taking an educated position on any given war, regardless of whether they support or oppose it.

9 - Increased Attention Toward Foreign Policy.

With a draft that potentially affects the entire population, the American government would have to be much more discerning in its military strategy. Voters would pay more attention to their elected representatives’ positions on foreign policy and may elect less hawkish politicians to avoid unnecessary military action that might put them or their family members in harm’s way.

The theory goes that the American people would be much less likely to demand “boots on the ground” in every conflict knowing that a loved one may well be the one filling those boots. According to a poll taken during the 2012 presidential election, only 6 percent of Americans believed that foreign policy issues should be a “top priority for the President and Congress,” highlighting the current level of indifference to issues relating to foreign policy.

8 - No More Circumvention of Congressional Approval.

In recent years, the executive branch has been allowed to wage war without the prior approval of Congress. The 1973 War Powers Act was enacted to avoid this very situation, but both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have used the 2001 Authorization of Military Force ‘allowing the president to “attack any countries, groups, or people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks’ to sidestep Congress despite some very tenuous connections to the 9/11 attacks.

Such declarations would almost certainly be opposed more strongly if they affected more than just the professional military the US currently employs. The prevailing public perception seems to be that since military personnel have volunteered for service, they know they may become involved in military conflicts outside Congressional approval. Such methods are not nearly as likely to be readily accepted by the general public if the president were sending draftees to war.

7 - Reduction of Adverse Effects on Mental Health.

The incidence of PTSD and mental illness becomes appreciably higher with each tour of duty, and the current military system often requires personnel to serve multiple tours, frequently with the time of service expanded on each tour. This creates a disproportionate burden, one that could be alleviated with the additional personnel the draft would create. The current situation sees many servicemen being deployed far too long, and there have been several instances in which a mental breakdown has caused the significant and unnecessary loss of civilian life.

The number of PTSD sufferers is staggering, as 20 percent of the returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and other psychological issues caused by their traumatic experiences. According to Congressman Charles Rangel, “We should ask ourselves how we can protect our troops’ mental health while maintaining our national defense. Two years of civil service from all US residents would allow us to meet both of these goals. Our military ranks would swell, and there would be no need to demand repeated service from our troops.”

6 - The Shared Experience Would Unite Classes and Cultures.

Those who have personally served in the military often say military service unites all classes and cultures in a shared experience. This creates important perspective and understanding, and many believe this shared experience has blurred the lines drawn by class and race. According to Noel Koch, the man who wrote the proposal ending the military draft while serving as speechwriter in the Nixon White House, “The military did more to advance the cause of equality in the United States than any other law, institution, or movement. Not for nothing did ‘Bro’ come into common usage in the Vietnam era: ‘He who sheds his blood with me shall be my Brother’.

Congressman Rangel shares in this sentiment, saying, “If young men and women of all races and socioeconomic statuses served together, our citizens would come to share or at least understand each others values, points of view, and beliefs. Empathy and mutual respect would provide a much-needed antidote to the cynicism that today’s youth feel because of the extreme partisanship in Washington.”

5 - The Lack of a Draft has Increased Military Force.

In the 40 years before the draft was eliminated (1933–1973), the US sent military personnel abroad on 27 different occasions. In the 40 years since (1974–2014), the military has been deployed abroad 175 times. While several influencing factors relate to the use of the military abroad, politicians seem to have fewer reservations sending a volunteer army abroad rather than one composed of draftees.

Rangel, the most senior member of the US House of Representatives, weighed in on this notion, saying that the presence of an all-volunteer military has shaped the political decision-making process, noting, “Too few of the country’s leaders have a personal stake in the well-being of the Armed Forces, and the outcome is predictable. Since the end of the draft in 1973, every president, Democrat and Republican alike, has approached warfare with the mind-set of invading, occupying, and expanding our nation’s influence. It was this attitude that got us into the unnecessary and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that threatens to mire us in deadly wars in the future. We make decisions about war without worry over who fights them. Those who do the fighting have no choice; when the flag goes up, they salute and follow orders.”

4 - National Service can be Broadly Defined.

Compulsory service would not have to be limited to military duties; it could be expanded to include the Peace Corps or civil domestic projects. Theoretically, draftees would have a choice and would still gain the sense of perspective and unity that so many draft supporters cite when suggesting compulsory national service. The concept of the draft is closely associated with sending young Americans to war, but expanding it in this way would eliminate that association and allow national service to be valuable during both times of war and times of peace.

After hearing General McChrystal’s ideas regarding the reinstatement of compulsory service, Elizabeth Nabel, the president of Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, thought the idea could be expanded, saying, “Public service could be created by an act of Congress to require one to two years of public service by all Americans between the ages of, say, 18 to 25. Service could be broadly defined to include the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, service in our public schools. There would be considerable advantages to our country and to these individuals, including bringing to bear the talent of many young people for national good, instilling in young adults a sense of citizenship and public service, an infusion of great talent into our public sector that needs it dearly.”

3 - Reinforcing Full Membership in the Political Community.

The United States has a major issue in terms of its voter turnout. American citizens are becoming increasingly apathetic with regard to their voice in representative government. In the 2014 midterm elections, just 36.4 percent of eligible voters exercised their right to cast a ballot, which was the worst voter turnout in 70 years. The last time the turnout was so low was 1942, when a large portion of the voting public was fighting in World War II.

Christopher S. Parker, the author of Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South, notes that military service plays an important symbolic role. “The symbolism associated with military service,” he writes, “motivated black veterans by drawing upon the reproduction of American political culture, in which military service is equated with full membership in the political community.” While Parker was discussing the African-American military experience helping to serve as an impetus for political involvement, the same can be true of all of those who serve in the military, as national service creates a greater sense of the importance of lifelong political involvement.

2 – Near, Total Support for Wars the US Chooses.

When the military draws from a small segment of the population, that segment disproportionately carries the burden of war. That burden includes casualties. As Philip Carter and Paul Glastris of the Washington Monthly have pointed out, one-seventh of the American fatalities in Iraq came from Camp Pendleton, California, where the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is based.  Glastris and Carter say, “Our democracy will not fight unpopular wars because the people who must bear the casualties can impose their will on our elected leaders to end a war they do not support. But when such a small fraction of America shoulders the burden—and pays the cost—of America’s wars, this democratic system breaks down.”

With the draft in place, the decision to go to war would be much more carefully calculated, and politicians would have to ensure that there is near-total support for the conflicts in which the US chooses to engage.

1 - Future Politicians Would Understand the True Cost of Conflict.

With compulsory service in place, there would be a greater understanding of the consequences of even the most successful military conflict, resulting in a much more nuanced view of the value of using the military abroad. That would include those who hold political office in the future, making them far less likely to pursue war, particularly if diplomacy could still be employed to avoid any type of conflict.

Noel Koch lays this argument out in the closing of an article he wrote for the Washington Post in 2004, saying, “America needs this fund of experience to expand the pool of people likely to find their way into the corridors of power and, when they get there, to bring with them a bone-deep appreciation of the true costs of conflict. Thus might we reduce the risks of counsel from those who have never had to learn the difference between a war and a cakewalk.”

J. Frances Wolfe