I think the reverence too many people have for the military, and qny element of trust in its officers, would be eroded by their actual exposure to it and to them.

Then again, men tend to be nostalgic for their youths, due I'd guess to life-narratives and faulty memories.
Sorry for the double-post, but I forgot a third factor: the pristin e hatred many at war feel for those not forced to be there---an older relative who served spoke of the civilian as being an object of pure contempt, and the habit of obedience and command being one not well-suited to a citizen of a free country....
We should require national service, with the military being one of several options.
Absolutely we should reinstate the draft.

Nixon at his best (e.g. not Watergate) was an amazingly astute politician, and his gambit of canceling the draft absolutely GUTTED the anti-war movement overnight. Most people were just protesting because they didn't want to go to Vietnam and as soon as it was assured that they wouldn't have to, well, they were a whole lot cooler with it.

The reason we need a draft is exactly the reason that we will never, ever have one again: because if we had a draft, we'd most likely never have been in Iraq, Afghanistan or any of the hundred or so other countries where we maintain a military presence.
Good post. I'd add that the pro-draft arguments are pretty easily dismissed. We had a peacetime draft in 1964 and that did not stop us from making a massive intervention in the Vietnam War. Contrary to Boomer-era hagiography, that draft did not bring the war to an end, unless you count 8 years of bloodshed as an "end." In addition, while the draft was in theory egalitarian, in practice those with money and connections found a way to avoid it. It happens that way in pretty much every draft.

Further, even if a draft were to include everyone, there's still an additional class and race bias in who gets which jobs once in the military. There's a reason why front-line troops are usually working-class. Finally, unless we're at war with the whole world, the Pentagon would have no use and no desire to have all young people in uniform. So most parents would guess that their kids would be able to avoid it and usually they'd be right. Over 90% of parents in the 1960s and 1970s were able to avoid seeing their draft-age sons go into service.

No, what usually happens with a draft is that it becomes another point of justification for going to war - "everyone will share in the sacrifice!" - and an opportunity for the federal government to massively crack down on those who resist. That's been the experience of every draft in every American war and there's no reason to assume it would ever be any different.
I prefer a monetary draft - for the duration of the conflict/deployment/police action, income and capitol gains taxes increase enough to fully pay for it as it goes. It would have to kick into effect for any kind of combat deployment of any kind of avoid politicians wimping out, so in practice it would be defeated by spineless politicians, but a man can dream.
Come on.... "All our sons and daughters" will NEVER be at risk. Are you kidding? Do you honestly believe that a George W. or a Mittens would be any more likely to serve in today's military than they were in yesterday's? Their exemptions would be bought and paid for, and we'd still have a "poverty" army, though it might include some few members of the middle class.
The biggest problem and oldest problem is that of the standing army. An army the size of ours is always a threat and always makes political leaders want to do something with it besides stand around and train. The best and least practical solution is to return to the state of affairs prior to WWII when, except in wartime, the only army was a skeleton cadre of officers and noncoms who kept the knowledge of how to run an army just in case we needed one again. Now, of course, it's an impossibility as nearly everyone has a large standing army or kowtows to someone who has one in the hope that they can borrow it if need be.
But I remain convinced that making military service (or at least the risk of it) an obligation of citizenship would only serve to further define us a militaristic nation, and thus make future Vietnams more likely, not less.

What's the mechanism by which this would happen, precisely? Not convinced.
I declined to register when I turned 18 so got lots of bristly prosecution threat letters from some cabinet agency or other and couldn't pay for college until I aged out of selective service.

Let's not encourage youths of the future nearly stubborn as me to go undereducated - no draft, please.
I agree with @4.
It would serve to define us as more of a militaristic nation that went to war a whole fuckton less, so seems like a pretty good deal, especially for the rest of the world.
Bluntly, if you think that having or not having compulsory service will change this country's usage of military force, you're delusional. The children of the powerful will always find a way to avoid combat duty if they care to (although the history of the British empire suggests that many will not care to), and politicians will feel just as free to justify belligerence in the name of "respecting the boys in service."

The question isn't whether we should have a draft. The question is whether we should have a standing peacetime army at all, and there were excellent reasons that the majority of the founding fathers believed that the answer to that question was "fuck no."
i like it in the butt
@8 that's exactly right, especially since there's no demonstrable need for the large standing army we currently have.

@12, that's a nice theory, but it's never worked out that way in practice. Show me an example of where a draft either stopped a war from happening or brought it quickly to an end and then I'd be more inclined to take that theory seriously.
Where is the "Only if we keep fighting wars." button on the survey?
Since I'm old enough, let me add my 2 cents--rich people never serve, or if they do, they're not in combat. (Does the name George W ring any bells?)

I had a very interesting conversation with the actor William Windom, who spoke about his experiences in WWII. He rather bitterly observed that the generals liked to have good looking, clean cut "nice" men around them at headquarters. So besides the money thing, pretty men never went to the front even then--they served on the General Staff. Windom was pissed because he was on the front lines.
Ignore comment douchebag roommate being, well, a douche.

@1 & @2 Gerald Fnord=Typical pseudo intellectual hipster f##ktard drivel. (yawn) That was such profound, deep analyzation that I feel that the debate is over.
I'm actually very curious about what SLOG readers think about this issue and hope comments will increase once the holiday is over.
I am (most of) your parents' age: I did high school and college in the '60s, when Viet Nam and the draft were a huge part of our lives.
One of my brothers (after having been promised a grad school deferment, then conscientious objector status, then denied both) dodged to Canada in 1969, where he remains as a productive (senior!) citizen. My other brother drew a high number in the ridiculous "lottery" they had, and managed to get out of the draft that way.
Other HS and college friends figured out how to put sugar in their urine, chop a toe off, or fry their brains on drugs to get out of the draft. Some got drafted and killed in VN, some managed to make it back. It really defined that decade and a couple thereafter,
I have long thought that a year of mandatory americorps-type civil service would be good for all young people (I think I would have enjoyed it between hs and college), but NOT military service.
Another military draft is just beyond comprehension.
@18: please give the keyboard back to your roommate.
There were a lot of comments I missed while I was composing this...
Count me among those in favor of a term of national service (2 years?) -- with the choice of the military or civil service (Americorps, Peace Corps, etc.). At 18 (after graduating high school), or, if pursuing college as an undergraduate, you could defer until age 23. I also think it's interesting to ponder a 3rd choice -- "financial service", meaning you could get out of it for a $100k "tax" going straight to those programs (military or civil). I would never advocate for that because of the message it sends ("rich people are exempt"), but still, kind of an interesting thought.
National Service would be good, however, you'd hardly get anybody to do combat duty. Also, upper and middle class white parents would still object to the loss of autonomy for their kids and would rather have them go to college and grad school rather than dig ditches.
@15 The Afghanistan War has lasted longer than Vietnam, that's the best I got, but it's still something. Comparing the sizes of the protests against those wars, it's ridiculously lopsided. Of course large protests don't necessarily translate into wars ending, but it creates the space for more anti-war politicians, which again, is something when the goal is less people killed by us.
With drones and other technology, a draft will be unnecessary. The Afghanistan War has lasted longer than Vietnam because the casualties are very low. Part of the reason for that is the use of technology. Course the other part is that we're mostly fighting non-professional farmers with old weapons.
I've read the military is not in favor of a draft; with the amount of training involved, they'd rather have a volunteer for 4 years than a draftee of 2. Having a draft, as others have said, would not make us less likely to get involved. Draftees don't set policy; its the people we elect that do.

The sad thing is something like only 3% of the American people are physically fit enough to be wanted in the Army!

They are now very selective.
The casualties from the Iraq/Afghan wars are low, but thanks to better medical care many that would have died in the past are alive yet wounded physically and mentally and that will cost us a heck of a lot of money in the long run.…

We may have been in Iraq longer than we were in Vietnam, but it has been a far less costly war, and the reactions are far different.

In Vietnam we lost 58,000 dead and another 153,000 wounded. In Iraq/Afghanistan we have lost 6,280 dead and 42,000 wounded (so far). I'm about the same age as Goldy, and I too distinctly remember Vietnam, the protests, and the nightly body counts on the news during my formative years. The "war on terror" is an inconvenience to the current generation, but Vietnam was a major defining element of my generation. There were massive protests in the late 1960s - early 1970s. In the last decade there have been a smattering of minor protests, but largely the war on terra has been met with a collective shrug.

I'm a veteran (post-Vietnam). I guess you might include me in the poverty draft (I like that term, and plan to steal it). I enlisted largely to get out from under my parents, and to seek education and opportunities. I was much more gung ho in my youth. I come from a military family.

I have mixed feelings about the draft, but mostly come down against it. First, there has always been loopholes for young men of privilege, and they'll always find a way to dodge it. I'd love to see the rich contribute fairly in times of war, but a draft won't solve that problem. Second, I've become convinced that if we have a large standing army, we'll find some way to use it. We would never have gone into Iraq in the first place if we didn't have a large army standing around with nothing to do, and a huge stockpile of arms collecting dust. A distant third: I can tell you as a veteran that a volunteer army is much more motivated and effective than a bunch of guys drafted against their will who don't want to be there. We'd end up with a larger but less effective military.
At least we had jobs for many Vietnam Vets but unfortunately we can't say the same for today Vets in a globalized oligarch raped American Economy.
@15 - I'd suggest looking at countries that have required military service and see how warlike they are. I can't remember the last time Singapore or Finland went off and started a war.

Yes, these are small countries and there are plenty of reasons beyond mandatory military service for their lack of warmongering but to claim that having a broader spectrum of society exposed to military service and the risks of war would have no impact on decisions to go to war seems like a pretty unsupportable argument.

I think there would be a much higher level of public engagement with the wars Iraq and Afghanistan (as there was with Vietnam) if service was mandatory. Maybe that by itself wouldn't stop war, but I think it would be a very good thing.
Seeing as how none of the actual military leadership or the Pentagon want draftees, it doesn't seem like a good idea to reinstitute the military draft for purely political and socio-economic reasons.

Also, I wouldn't assume that having a draft would reduce support for wars either. How many long-running military engagements start with a lot of support on the assumption of a quick conflict, and then continue in part to validate the sacrifice of the early casualties? If your aim is that the legislators and executive will take more care in entering war if their own family has "skin in the game", so to speak, well, does history bear that out? If your premise is that politicians are happy to sacrifice other people's kids to war, you're going to trust those same politicians to reinstitute a "fair" draft? And what does a "fair" draft do? Take more people qualified for other industrious activities and throw them in front of bullets? That doesn't sound like a good foundation for economic recovery.
I don't really like the idea of a military only draft but I feel that the idea of some kind of mandatory national service. A draft based insitution will provide the people with exposure to the various problems and conditions across the country. It would also expose the sheltered to less developed areas of our country.

One thing people miss is that these institutions, military and civilian, also provide sound technical education. Imagine kids entering college with exposure to the troubles and horrors of the world, with the confidence that change is possible through coordinated action, with the study skills and discipline to pursue education already in place.

Everyone should have their choice of institution but give a mandatory 3-4 years of their lives.
@31: the problem is, your examples only prove that a country with mandatory service can be mostly non-belligerent, not that they will be. You know who else are or were small countries with a draft? Israel and England.
(Also, the last time that Finland went out and started a war was well within living memory, although it's really hard to fit the Continuation War neatly into any category.)
I usually tend to lean toward having a draft as I find the general apathy about our state of perpetual war quite repulsive. The effect of the antiwar movement on the intensity/duration of the conflict is difficult to assess but LBJ did not seek a 2nd term due to low ratings and public opinion was so strongly against it that it impacted society on a host of issues including the willingness to go to war (it took more than 15 years to get into another large scale military conflict). Among the pro-draft arguments not cited so far is that it is much more difficult to use an army of draftees against populations at home and abroad.
Some admittedly minor points to add: During a draft, military pay tends to go down. A sargents family on food stamps is not a great way to encourage retention and that means you need weapons and procedures that don't take years to master. Takes a long time to make a change like that.
I think mandatory service would mean a lot politically to how comfortable we are going into a war. You volunteered for it seems to be a apt populist excuse to throwing people into harms way. Being a militaristic society is a weak argument as the more educated people are at using force, I (naively) believe would make people less likely to utilize that force. As for devaluing the army because "everyone" is in the army is devalued in much the same way that teachers and scientists are devalued...the politicians allow them to be cut because it's easy. I think that is more due to complacency that if people were more involved with government, perhaps because they got drafted and were forced to be involved would reshape our political system in subtle but significant ways.
@ 23 Why do only upper and middle class white parents, why not Asian, Hispanic, or Black parents?
Don't worry: Although an old-style draft that sent middle-class kids off to die in some godforsaken jungle would never have enough political support today, the "poverty draft" will sweep up many more children of the former middle class as they find their post-high-school job options increasingly limited and the cost of higher education increasingly out of reach.

You are wrong. The number of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are high; maybe even as high as in Vietnam.

What has changed is combat medicine. Wounds that were once a death sentence are no longer. That's the good thing. The bad thing is that most of the wounds are severe and the majority of them are serious brain injuries and trauma -- and will cost millions of $$$ to treat and care for for a lifetime.

Also, more Iraq/ Afghanistan vets commit suicide each year than were killed in all the years of war combined.

See # 28:

"Of the 2.2 million American troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, several hundred thousand have sustained physical and psychological wounds. The figures of 4,417 dead from Iraq and 1,368 from Afghanistan (as of November 10, 2010) are well-known and oft-quoted. But the physically wounded from both wars number more than 40,000, a staggering number, and roughly three-quarters of them have been wounded in a serious life- and family-affecting way."

Also, the Pentagon has estimated that "up to 360,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may have suffered brain injuries. Among them are 45,000 to 90,000 veterans whose symptoms persist and warrant specialized care."…
I like the idea of a draft that is just a year or two of 'government service'. This could be military, or it could be some kind of nouveau CCC or say, park rangers, fire fighters, trail crews, valid non-profit work, and so on. Service to the country comes in many forms, not just military. But rich folk can and will draft dodge, so I think it should be both possible and permissible, and preferably, also expensive.

Distant I know, but back in the Civil War one of my relatives was drafted by the North and was so incensed by it that he paid a replacement to take his place (as you could do back then) and then went and fought for the South. I like to think they shot at each other at some point... Other relatives spent their fortunes outfitting regiments on this side or that, including an entire Confederate artillery company in one case. Maybe we could have privately funded units again? Like "Romney's 24th Stryker Brigade" and so on....
"I wore a POW/MIA bracelet for several years, and after the US withdrew troops in 1973 I kept checking the newspaper for the listings of returned POWs and confirmed dead. My GI's name never showed up."

I wore one, too. I never found my guy's name in the newspaper after they came back. I found him on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C. It was very painful - thank you Harry S. Ravenna from Texas.
Skin in the game. Having been drafted and exposed to actual death in war, would, I think, increase ambivalence as much as militarism.
I was drafted during the Vietnam war. I joined the Navy shortly after to become a medical corpsman. That war caused me such agony as a youth. I believed it was wrong, they hadn't attacked America, and too many had died. But I resolved to be the one saving lives, not killing.
I also know there is something called "consciencious objecter", which is a person whose religious convictions prevent them from going. So I believe a temporary draft in cases where this country is attacked directly, not allies or interests, but our sovereign territory, would be appropriate.
I graduated during the heart of the Viet Nam War, I have friends who served. I am a mutant & therefore 4F so I was never in danger from the draft. Yet I protested the draft & argued for its elimination. Now I am not so sure it was a good thing. Had more middle class kids been at risk of entrance into the Iraq/Afghanistan meat grinder there would probably be a much more robust anti-war movement.

The rich and well connected will always have a way around it. So thats no reason. But I just don't know if the draft is a net good or a net evil
I like 6's idea. A war tax, though calling it a financial draft might sound better, like we used to do for every conflict. Of course, you'd have to make it a constitutional amendment or Congress would just repeal it before they went to war. Also, there would have to be a provision saying they couldn't correspondingly reduce other taxes before or after the conflict to make up for it. The trick is, how to you phrase it?
2009 the military met it's recruiting quota for the first time since Gulf War 11 began, how? By lowering the standards for overweight recruits. This over representation of skinny people has to stop, I don't support a draft if it continues to exclude fat people. And ditto what #13 said, having a standing army at all is just placing temptation in hands of the generals and oligarchs.
Thanks for the laugh, half of Slog thinks 'sacrifice' means not getting their reach-around after taking one up the ass.
Put me down as one more supporting mandatory national service with military service as one option among many.
Every single one of you 326 that voted yes better have #1 already served in the military or #2 would still be eligible for the draft. Otherwise you're a piece of shit that takes advantage of the less privileged.
We should stop funneling so much of our money and manpower through the military and use it to fix up home first.
@52 Military patrols of the CD might be a good idea.
Compulsorily service even in peace time is probably the best way to stop America from engaging in all these pointless "little wars" we've been in. There are a lot of people who wouldn't be so blase about military engagement if their own kid was in the line of fire.
Since I can't be drafted, I say yes.

Even if I could be, provided there are no exemptions for the sons and daughters of the 1 percent, I still say yes.
@24 for the Eleven Year War Stare win.

And a tax on gross income would exempt hedge fund managers and trust fund babies. Make it a surtax on all income or dividends or capital gains over 1 million per year.

It's also an impossibility because the military is one of the only government programs that benefits the lower middle class in any meaningful way. And there's no way politicians are going to allow large-scale defunding of military contractors.
"I think the way to make sure everybody shares the pain of a conflict overseas is to impose a special war tax. Say 5% of gross income."

What about the 50% of Americans who pay NO income tax? You know, the parasites.

Damn you're dumb.

So if someone makes $15,000 a year they should pay the same percentage as someone who makes $15 million?

Yeah, that will do a lot to help pay down the debt!


Jon Stewart said it best last year:…

I voted "yes" because all Americans need to have a stake in what our nation does in our name oversees. And yes, I served 7 1/2 years in the National Guard and my girlfriend is currently in the Guard. I also protested the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

I would like to see something similar to what Germany has; every American, men and women both, should have to do two years worth of service -- either in the military or in the Peace Corps or Americorps. And I would make it so no one is exempt, with the exception of mentally ill people.

In some states, high school students are required to do community service in order to graduate. That is a good idea as well.

It would be good if people were more civically engaged in the US.
Maybe this is a good time for people to remember that, as a college student at Stanford, Mitt Romney, son of a pro-war GOP governor, actually protested in FAVOR of a draft.

Then, two months later, he himself received a deferment in order to be a Mormon missionary and live several years in France, where he lived in a palace with servants.…

What a piece of shit!
If we're all supposed to have skin in the game, how about ALL Americans paying some income tax. As it is, 50% don't so have so skin in that game.
An all volunteer army is always going to be the best army. I would never comply with a draft if I didn't believe in the war, but give me a war like WWII and you couldn't stop me, I'd be first in line to take the fight to our enemies and protect our amazing country, America will always be the best and most powerful nation, simply put, we have the best of the best and we will be on top for centuries to come. I wouldn't get all fancy about it, I'd just say "no, I will not participate in this, in any way, shape, or form, and if you attempt to force me to, you will surely regret it". Anybody tries to force me to do anything is going to get a broken nose. Of course, if I was arrested, I would comply without incident, but a draft, oh hell no, never. Draftees usually make shitty soldiers, plain and simple.

I don't believe in slavery, and nobody should ever have to do any job that they don't want to do, if they are so inclined.
Militarism is killing the globe and everyone on it. So why should we encourage sucking more people into it?

A draft presupposes threat, but the way we we have been galloping around the world occupying other countries with the army that we have now, all we are doing is increasing the threat, which sells arms (the main impetus for war at this point).

Here in Germany we got finally rid of the draft just recently, which I think is mostly a good development.

Also, the idea of a "poverty draft" seems to be at least somewhat questionable; according to this data, poor people are underrepresented (!) in the army.…

If anybody has other figures that contradict these and support the idea of a "poverty draft" I'd be very interested in seeing them.
3: "We should require national service, with the military being one of several options."

Yeah, because slavery is so great, so long as we gussy it up with the name "service."

17: "Since I'm old enough, let me add my 2 cents--rich people never serve, or if they do, they're not in combat. (Does the name George W ring any bells?)"

Clearly you do not know much about George W Bush's father, or the Kennedy family, or George W Bush himself, for that matter. Texas Air National Guard. Look it up. Also look up the rate of death and injury for pilots flying Bush Jr.'s type of plane.

I am no lover of Bush Jr., but you don't seem too credible on your facts.
@67- You're a leach in human form.
69: LOL. Fuck you. I volunteer for all kinds of stuff. But if you make me do it, I'll call it what it is.

Hey, how about this. You have to do whatever I call "public service"? How about that? My guess is a lot of what I would select for you would bore you and not agree with your political agenda. But tough shit, it is "public service" so get to work.

The only difference between what you want and my modest proposal is that in yours a few more busy-body know-it-alls like you, who think they know best how to spend my life, get to label on what "public service" is.

As for me, I don't think freedom and liberty and citizenship is about doing what other people tell you to do. If someone simply wants to work, pay due taxes, and live for themselves and no one else's benefit. Fine. If someone else finds their lives enriched by doing all manner of unpaid work to help others, again, fine.

But a government powerful enough to demand I work for free for the benefit of others is pretty much the definition of slavery.
@70- So it's fine to be forced to pay the government the fruits of you labor, but you won't just labor for the good of the country?

You're not a leach, you just an idiot.
If I don't want to be taxed much, I can stop working much. IF I don't want to pay sales taxes, I don't buy much. I am a taxpayer in that case, and I have a great deal of control over the level of the government's take.

But if you and the rest of society make me show up and work, even when I don't want to, what am I?

Oh, and name call harder. You rock!

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