I was going to write a philosophical preamble to this ("So here we sit, forty-two years removed from a national draft, yada yada yada…), but my eloquence has long since dissipated into a stagnant pool of drek. Therefore, I will ask the question straight-out: given that the United States has gone so long without mandatory military service, would any politician voting for reinstatement of the draft be signing their own political death warrant? Is the concept of a military draft in 21st-century America so utterly removed from national consciousness as to be impossible given anything resembling representative democracy? Or is a return to conscription possible given proper circumstances?
First, I believe that conscription is not compatible with individual liberty, and in peacetime there is no justification for it. However, there are national emergencies that have required it and I’m sure there will happen again in the future. If we face a major war with China or Russia, I think conscription will definitely be brought back. But for the peacetime military, just for the sake of “shared sacrifice” or to teach the value of service? Not a chance. It’s not the government’s place to do those things in that absence of a clear and present danger that requires it. And so yes, it would be political suicide for any politician who actually brought it up with a serious chance of getting it passed.
If we face a major war with China or Russia, I’d imagine that most conscription would be directed toward digging mineshafts to try and survive the fallout.
Barring an absolutely improbably dire scenario - such as an alien invasion - I don’t think conscription could ever be done again in America without an enormous political backlash.
I don’t even think that war with China or Russia would suffice. It would take something even greater than that; something that would threaten America itself being physically overrun.
People often jump to the conclusion that “War with a major nuclear power means nuclear war,” but China and Russia don’t want to go nuclear (and get nuked) anymore than the United States wants to go nuclear and get nuked.
I think there’s a very good probability that a USA-China or USA-Russia war would *not *go nuclear at all.
If the country drifts far enough rightward and the current worship of all things military gets even more deeply ingrained than it is, I could see conscription becoming popular. With, of course, suitable deferments for the ruling class.
I don’t think this is likely. But I do think it’s possible.
If there were a dire enough manpower shortage, it would be brought back in a heartbeat. It’s not like the US is just going to shut down bases in response.
In an extremely dire situation that threatened the very existence of America itself, I think conscription might not even be necessary. I can imagine a large number of Americans enthusiastically volunteering to serve in uniform, more than enough to cover any shortage of manpower.
The United States has over 300 million inhabitants; if even just one percent of them volunteered to serve in the military, that would be 3 million troops. (Of course, when you narrow it down to people who are able-bodied adults and are suitable for the military job, then that’s a much higher percentage of that category of people.)
I can’t imagine what that would be, but I agree in a true emergency a draft probably wouldn’t be nessecery. I can see one being instituted anyway though just in case.
I can imagine US, China or Russia *fighting *a war without going nuclear. I just can’t imagine any one of them *losing *a war without going nuclear.
I suppose my view is contrarian. I certainly was in favor of abolishing the draft. I narrowly escaped with first a student deferment until 1962 and then a job deferment. I was 25 1/2 when I finished school and they weren’t drafting 26 year olds. I mention this only so you know where I am coming from.
I don’t see it as a civil liberty question–I didn’t even then. It is really just another form of taxation. Libertarians might object to taxation in all forms, but others should not. If there were a draft reinstituted, it should apply to women and even most disabled who are still capable of serving their country.
The negative side of ending the draft is that the army is made up primarily of people too poor to have other options. Ipso facto, such people don’t have much political power. The result of that is that the country gets into wars at the drop of the hat, for no reason other than to show your papa. The war in Viet Nam ended because the people fighting it were able to make political waves.
Whatever the consequences of losing a conventional war may be, the consequences of nuking and getting nuked would be even worse.
If the United States lost a major war, there would be severe political consequences for the leadership, probably also a severe economic recession.
If Russia or China lost a war, there might be widespread upheaval, dissent, riots, economic collapse, etc.
But all of those consequences still pale next to the consequences of getting hit by hundreds of nuclear warheads. It still does not make practical sense to go nuclear (although it may make a worthwhile gamble for a country to THREATEN to go nuclear).
I think the OP made a “slight” typo in the title. Whether conscription is political suicide or not is up for debate… genocide though, probably not. How would one conceptualize “political genocide”?
I don’t think so
Enlisted recruits in 2006 and 2007 came primarily from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds. Low-income neighborhoods were underrepresented among enlisted troops, while middle-class and high-income neighborhoods were overrepresented.
Previous Heritage Foundation studies found that enlisted troops were significantly more likely to have a high school education than their peers. This is still the case. Only 1.4 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 had not graduated from high school or completed a high school equivalency degree, compared to 20.8 percent of men ages 18 to 24. America’s soldiers are less likely than civilians to be high school dropouts.
the percentage of white active-duty recruits with no prior military service was 65.3 percent in 2006 and 65.5 percent in 2007. Based on calculations from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), almost 62 percent of the U.S. male population ages 18 to 24 classified themselves as white in 2006. The troop-to-population ratio in these years was 1.05, indicating that the representation of whites in the military is similar to, although slightly above, their representation in the overall population.
Current authorized strength of US active duty force is 1,361,400, due to go down to 1,308,600 by year end. (cite) (that’s about 3/4 of a percent of the total Labor force). The US maintanined an active-duty force close to or slightly above two million on an all-volunteer basis from the mid-70s, to the early 90s when the post-Cold War “peace dividend” drawdown happened (BTW notice than even during the recent wars the total AD contingent did not rise that much – the “surge” was achieved primarily by increasing the frequency and duration of deployment of both regulars and reserves). So the US already has an experience with a larger volunteer military in a relatively high alert standing.
It *does take quite a bit longer to expand * substantially on an all-volunteer basis than to just maintain. Compare how in 1980-85 the “great build-up” under Reagan meant adding just one hundred thousand to the existing two million, vs. the Vietnam draft expansion of some 400,000 over 65-70, so any expansion decision would have to be something planned for the long term. So if a serious threat profile could be identified one could see something along of a limited draft to fill short-term expansion needs and to then cover any shortfalls, sort of like the late 50s and pre-Vietnam 60s. That has its own problems but if it’s needed it will have to be handled.
However, like was said upthread, a draft just for its own sake? Unlikely and unwanted even by the Brass. Unless they’re just being disgracefully political about it, they have repeatedly stated they prefer a fighting force of people who signed up willingly. And I gotta say, ISTM aspects of training and motivation are eased quite a bit when you did not have to drag the person in kicking and screaming, especially when our entire fighting doctrine is NOT based on massed peasants doing spray-and-pray.
…and that thing about the problems with a supplemental draft? **LSLGuy **mentioned one of the big ones, and even with the lottery system and the reduced exceptions or deferments you’d still have the issue that under “selective” conscription (a) majority of the population will be spared just by chance, (b) a minority will be picked, and © a much smaller minority will be excepted. Unless you were to introduce true Universal Service, which the modern US has not even tried to approximate (other than de-facto at the peak of WW2), a peacetime selective draft would IMO remain controversial and impopular.
Vietnam? Or do you mean the US, China or Russia fighting each other, directly?
I’d like to see some sort of guaranteed government job for two to four years after age 18 for anyone who wants it. Funnel anyone who’s qualified and isn’t a conscientious objector towards military service, and everyone else towards some other work that prepares them for life beyond flipping burgers. I think that would help both with the un-and-underemployment problem and make the draft unnecessary.
But an old school draft? No way. I’m not even happy with the current sign-your-life-away “voluntary” military we have now. If it isn’t for you, you ought to be able to quit at any time. At least until you’re actually deployed somewhere, then you may need to just suck it up for 12 months or so.
Our military mostly have no desire to be the molders of character for an entire generation, and those few who would be eager to take on such a role should not be trusted with it.
Actually, the military has been opening up to the less-than-able. There are lots of people who serve out of uniform as civilian employees, but work on bases, who have disabilities-- in fact, the US military is one of the major employers of people with disabilities in the US, so much that many bases have a full-time sign language interpreter employer because they have so many Deaf employees. Also, acquiring a disability as a part of service no longer means automatic discharge. Things like lower limb prostheses are so good, and there are so many jobs in uniform that can take advantage of an already-trained soldier’s knowledge and experience, like training new recruits, or caring for equipment, that the modern military is allowing many duty-disabled soldiers to continue serving if they wish to do so.
Also, the military is issuing waivers to people with things like asthma or near-sightedness that might normally keep them out of duty, if they bring skills the military needs, and that would be used stateside anyway. The military gets people without spending a lot of money training them, and they take a spot that frees up someone else to go to a place where there’s more action.
Not to mention the recent lifting of the ban to women in combat: this will probably bring in more women as volunteers who want to make the military their career, because with combat experience, they can now get the experience they need for promotions.
I don’t think in the foreseeable future, the US military needs to draft. Right now, our all-volunteer military has pretty high standards, and still enlists lots of recruits every day. If we need cannon fodder, we can lower academic standards, but I don’t think we will, because that’s not how modern wars are fought anymore; there’s not a “front line” like there used to be. And anyway, if the US were attacked, enlistment would rise. It rose after 9/11, and we didn’t even have a clear enemy, like we did when Pearl Harbor was attacked. If something like Pearl Harbor happened, I think you’d see lines of both men and women outside the recruiters’ offices.
“Suicide” is when one congresscritter does something so repulsive to their electorate that they will never be elected again.
“Genocide” is when Congress does something so repulsive that no one who voted for it will ever be elected again.
Perhaps “mass suicide” would be a better term. I’ll leave it up to you.