Mandatory military service in the U.S.

Should the U.S. institute mandatory military service for every able-bodied person exiting high school or college?

I’m of two minds about it. Some or many of our Dopers live in countries that have mandatory service, and I can’t remember hearing any of them complain. I friend of mine enlisted in the U.S. Army and said it had a positive experience on his life. I was unable to join due to injuries in high school. I believe mandatory service would:
[ul][li]Ensure that our forces are fully-staffed[/li][li]Instill a sense of discipline that seems to be sadly lacking in these days of ‘indigo children’[/li][li]Provide skills that exiting members can use ‘in real life’[/li][li]Teach young people both teamwork and self-reliancy[/li][li]Provide opportunities to break out of one’s little corner of the world[/li][li]Allow people to develop a wider world-view[/ul][/li]
On the other hand, it seems un-American. Yes, there have been drafts (and may well be again); but there’s something about saying ‘You will serve in the military or else!’ that is antethetical to Freedom of Choice.

And then there’s our current involvement in Iraq. Many of us believe that the war is illegal and unjust. It seems immoral to force people to fight in a war to which they might be morally opposed. Perhaps mandatory service would encourage voters to exercise more control over our leaders? After all, few people want to die; and probably no parent wants his or her child to be killed.

Thus I’m on the fence. The benefits I listed are attractive, but the moral issues are not. What do you think?

I, too, am divided of opinion, and Johnny makes some interesting points and observations. I do have to consider, however, that the majority of countries with mandatory military service (Sweden, etc.) tend to have militaries in a more defensive posture. I’m not entirely certain how they would perform in an aggressor function, but they do seem to be adequately prepared for defense. On the other hand, requiring all exiting members to go home with and maintain an automatic weapon, well, that absolutely rocks…

I think the ultimate answer is “no” because it’s totally unnecessary in America today. But I’ll start elsewhere and come back to that.

I’m not a fan of the “military service will teach you a lot about life if it doesn’t kill you” line of thought. :wink: I’m sure being in the armed forced is a learning experience, but it’s not the Boy Scouts. You’re not there to learn. Touting it as a method for self-improvement doesn’t sit right with me.

These days, I understand that the military is having a recruiting problem because of Iraq. That is, people don’t want to go there and risk their lives, so fewer of them are volunteering. The draft would solve this problem in exactly the wrong way: it would ensure the government a steady supply of warm bodies and thus immunize them from some of the consequences of wars that the citizenry doesn’t approve of. (You can use Vietnam as an example of the draft leading to more protests, but how long had the US been in Vietnam before the protests became that loud? And how long did it last afterward?) If volunteers decrease in the wake of an unpopular war, that’s the system correcting itself.

As I said above, conscription in this country is totally unnecessary. If you just asked military brass I’m sure they’d tell you the same. With military technology where it is, you don’t need a draft, and it’s also a very poor use of resources from the military’s standpoint to try and train a lot of people who don’t want to be there. I also think compulsory service is antidemocratic. “You have the right to voice your opinion on any war the government gets involved in, but you still have to go fight in it” makes your dissent worthless. I don’t like to make blanket statements like “this is immoral,” but I’m pretty sure mandatory service today is immoral.

Which is not to say I have no problems with the way things work now. The economic and racial issues have probably been debated to death here, so I won’t go off about them.

I say no, based on philosophical reasons. However, I will approach this from a practical perspective. WHO are the top brass in the US military who support this idea? And do they have a website were I can read their arguments? Does the US military actually want people serving who actively oppose the idea? WHY would they want malcontents forced on them? I’d think the military top brass would know a lot more than me about running armed forces. What do they say about this?

I take the following position:

a. It is immoral to order a man to kill for a cause he does not believe in. Therefore, any mandatory service would have to have an Americorps-type option that could be taken instead of military service.

b. Even with a non-military option, the presumption that the Federal Executive has a legal right to the service of its subjects–er, citizens–would encourage abuses where objectors are forced into war-aiding activities, whether non-combat support or actual combat duty. So the non-military option isn’t that great a mitigator.

c. Mandatory service is undemocratic. Choosing for what you will kill & die is the ultimate vote.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a draft. A draft, as I see it, means that come people are forced to serve and others aren’t. I’m talking about everyone serving in some way; if not in the military, then in other National Service.

‘some people’, not ‘come people’.

I see why you’re looking at it that way. I was going from the perspective that in a draft, anybody could be forced to serve, and a lot of people who don’t want to will have to.

You did say mandatory military service. :wink: I can’t say I’m in favor of that either, though. People have to have the right to choose.

Nope, I won’t let you get away with that. Your OP title was: “Mandatory military service in the U.S.” If you mean this could also be non-military, start a new thread.

This is similar to the premise of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. The main difference was that military service was the requirement for earning the right to vote.

No one was forced into service but only could veterans vote.

If you could not fight they would find other difficult duty for you to perform. This insured no one could decide the fate of a county with out having put their own life on the line.
It has been my experience that people who have served in the military tend to grow up at an earlier age. They have been part of a team responsible for huge dollar amounts of equipment while learning that the decisions they make can have severe consequences.

I would be a supporter of this option if it was aligned with say, Peace Corps service.

Seems like a way to insure an engaged voting pool.

I pay taxes, I vote, I educate myself, and I obey the law. I do not owe the government anything beyond that. The government wouldn’t even exist if I and the other 280 million people here didn’t do that everyday. there is no government in Antartica because there are no people there. Well there is a government there (thank you CIA world factbook) but you get the idea. No people, no jobs & no taxes = no government.

Plus the draft is unpopular. Not nearly as unpopular as I was hoping, but unpopular nonetheless.

21: Should the US re-instate the draft for mandatory military training?

Yes No No Answer
28.78% 58.54% 11.71%
I suppose my main motive is I don’t like the idea of being told to kill and fight against my will against people in the same situation.

The points about ‘Allow people to develop a wider world-view’ and ‘Provide opportunities to break out of one’s little corner of the world’ are true, but I don’t think i’d support forcing them to join. You can get that by joining the peace corps.

So anybody who’s opposed to the military has no say in what it does. I think I see a problem here.

We have many people who are engaged, informed, and have wide world views who are not veterans. If people are not engaged today, I don’t think it’s the lack of compulsory service that’s too blame. I suppose if we could agree on some statistical basis people making that claim would have to prove that people were more engaged, informed and worldly in decades past.

You want the children of the elite to serve instead of just the lower classes?
Then there needs to be a draft.


It’s just a premise in a SF book. I am not advocating a totalitarian form of government.

It does raise a question.

If voting is how we direct our government and a majority of the voters wanted only people who give something back (veterans, Peace Corps so on.) the right to vote would that be a valid system? Or do you believe it would violate some natural right.

I agree with arguments on both sides, especially the part where the lower class is usually forced into the military while the upper class buys their way out. And I’m sure being training has its benefits. But it seems to me that it would be fine if we had conscription–but were neutral. I would not fight in the current ‘war’ that is going on right now. I don’t agree with it.

I think someone mentioned Sweden above–I think there they have several alternative options such as being in the fire department or communications, etc. that are still (I believe) part of the military. In Germany, there are volunteer things you can do for the community, too.

I don’t agree with the “hey it’s a lottery–hey cool I won! Wait…”

Alright, good point. I do not know how true it is since Vietnam lasted 14 years, and the US had a draft from our inception until 1973. Vietnam itself is a good counterargument to the idea that a draft will make politicians rethink wars. The US was involved in alot of military campaigns before 1973 too.

Are you actually suggesting it, or are you just throwing this out there?

Because if it’s the latter, and many people on the left beyond you and Charlie Rangel really think this is a good idea, we’re permanently fucked. It’s draconian and unnecessary, and would play into every kind of big-government, equal-results, anti-freedom bogeyman that people on the right could throw out there. People when Rangel proposed his draft legislation last year, and he only did that as a protest. Bush constantly had to publicly deny that the Republicans were planning on restarting draft back just because of rumors. The very idea makes people foam at the mouth, just as it probably used to make you foam at the mouth.

If there is going to be a draft…and I believe there is no way around it…that is how it will be sold.

A draft is political suicide.

You go read the enlistment numbers.

You can’t fight Bushco’s wars without troops.