Yer in the Army now, yer not behind a plow--Reinstate the draft?

In this National Review article, Stanley Kurtz argues that the draft should be reinstated in order to reverse the deterioration in US military readiness. He argues that this deterioration has come not only in terms of personnel head counts, but also the lowered physical standards that have been implemented in order to attract and retain the 14% of the services now comprised of women–since failing to retain them would cripple the armed services in absolute terms of headcount.

Three questions:
[ul]
[li]Would it be a good idea ever to revive the draft?[/li][li]If so, are we at that point now?[/li][li]If we’re not at that point now, when would we be?[/li][/ul]
And as a background to all three questions, do you think that a revival of the draft is politically feasible now or at some time in the future? Or would the idea always mean political suicide for national leaders?

Yer in the Army now
Yer not behind a plow
So dig that ditch, you son of a bitch
Yer in the Army now!

I should point out that the lowered physical standards for women is only one of a number of arguments that Kurtz makes, and that other draft proponents might make. Please don’t feel an inordinate need to debate the issue in terms of that particular point.

An interesting thread, along similar lines: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=65429

If you read the OP, you know where I stand.

Doghouse … Have you ever been in the military?

Do you know what it’s like? You do realize there are good reasons women aren’t allowed in the Infantry, right?

Why don’t you ask some guys from the 82nd Airborne if they think they’re really able to fight?

It depends on what one feels the point is, of a military draft.

If the goal is to ensure a supply of troops for a particular conflict, then clearly the conflict needs to be a long-term one. Do we expect (or want to be prepared) to wage war in Afghanistan for the next three years? If so, a draft would be useful for this particular conflict. If not, it wouldn’t really be much help, and would divert attention and resources.

But there are certainly other possible goals for a draft. If one wants to ensure an ongoing supply of soldiers of adequate quality, that’s certainly one way to do it. And I personally believe that the military should be fairly representative of America; all parts of our society should share the risks and carry the burdens of national defense.

But chances are that this would make the military less, rather than more, usable as a flexible tool of foreign policy. It’s one thing to send troops to far corners of the world that have signed up to do precisely that, but it’s another to send off a cross-section of everybody’s sons and daughters, whether they wanted to go or not. This is a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

The decision to go to an all-volunteer army in the first place, IIRC, had more to do with Nixon’s desire to get the antiwar protesters off his back than anything else. By removing the draft from the equation, he was able to seriously reduce the numbers of young people who cared about Vietnam enough to protest the war. IOW, it was a long-term decision made for short-term reasons, which is reason enough to revisit the question.

With a volunteer military, the number of recruits will grow when it has been established that there is a clear opponent to our country and way of life, and as young men and women find the conviction to be a symbol of that to the rest of the world, wether the reason is national pride or vengeance for the loss of loved ones.

I am forced to wonder if there’s been a sudden surge to the recruiters offices given the events of the last two days.

Anyone know?

I would think that would have quite the effect on the deterioration of US military readiness.

To answer your question, no I don’t believe we should reinstate the draft. While I think mandatory military service would be good for most of American high school graduates, I think the draft is antithetical to the constitution.

http://www.salon.com/news/wire/2001/09/12/enlisting/index.html

This article would seem to suggest there has been an upswing in enlistment. No official numbers on it, though.

What justification can you offer for this position? Article I, Section 7 of the US constitution gives Congress the explicit ability to “raise and support armies”. If a draft is unconstitutional, then why do we have selective service registration even now?

Seems like we need to brush up a little on our reading comprehension skills there, Gorgon.

Thanks for posting, VarlosZ, but would you mind stating your position here for the purposes of this thread? This isn’t IMHO–if you have a view on this issue and want to contribute, I’d appreciate your stating it and defending it here so that we can debate your points.

Living in a country where drafting has just been suppressed some months ago, I would want to add a consideration :
After the fall of communism, and without the threat of a major land invasion (and I don’t think a land invasion isn’t the US major concern), the draftees has been considered not only as unuseful, but even as the burden by the military themselves. They couldn’t be used in oversea operations for a lot of reasons, the most important being the impossibility to transport, supply and support more than a certain number of soldiers. And they were diverting ressources.

The military by far preffered to have say, 100 000 professionnal soldiers, and being able to sent oversea half of them with the proper support, than having an army of 250 000 mostly draftees and being unable, by lack of equipment, training or support capacity to sent oversea more than 10 000 of them as it turned up to be the case (it became obvious during the Gulf war).

Once large armor battles in Europe ceased to be expected, draftee units had no role to play anymore. The army began to switch to another organization, with priority given to the ability to perform very different missions.

There has been a lot of reluctance to put an end to drafting. But certainly not from the military. Drafting had been there for more than 200 years, and was…say a traditionnal part of the life of any adult male. There has actually been feelings of nostalgia. More important, a lot of people felt concerned by the fact the army wouldn’t be anymore a citizen’s army but a professionnal army, possibly less reliable and certainly out of touch with the civilians concerns and life.

But the military certainly had no reluctance (apart for some of them the fact that the number of officers and valued commands had to be reduced too). They were asking for this change.

So,my point is : even assuming that the US citizens would accept or even demand a revival of drafting, would the US military be willing to reintroduce it? Would the draftees be of any use for the US army? Is there any foreseeable situation in which the military could need draftees and be able to actually make use of them?

I suppose the number of transmission systems, support units, transports, armored vehicles or whatever else a unit need to operate efficiently is adapted to the current size of the US army. You can’t just give the guys a gun and send them fighting somewhere anymore. In order to have effective fighting draftee units, the US would have to spend a lot more money in material, training,etc…and so the military budget should be drastically augmented. Is such a thing possible, except if they US were actually already involved in a major war (and even in this case, I guess it would be too late to do so)?

Actually, that would be section 8, clause 12.
My justification is the thirteenth ammendment:

Emphasis mine, of course. The combination of the two seems to indicate that the Congress has the power to raise an army of volunteers. Which it does.

**

The fact that it’s tolerated doesn’t mean that it’s constitutional. I am not by any means an expert in constitutional law, but that’s my interperetation.

Ooookay, Doghouse. That cut at me reading comprehension was a low blow, but you had no way of knowing that I was giddy with four cups of coffee and really busy here at the office at the time I first replied. Sorry about that.

To actually answer your question; While Constitutionally a viable option, that is why we have ammendments. At this time, the draft is not at all necessary.

Not to say it won’t ever be again, but only in a time that a foreighn invasion seems inevetable … or at least likely and unstoppable with our current disposition. Or, of course, when we need massive protection of our borders and support of allies or accept some new regime in Europe, etc.

As for the strength of the military, well, as we are in the midst of numerous strategic assessments and reconsiderations of Cold War strategies and capabilities, it’s hard to judge. When you need one thing captured and another merely destroyed, you only need troops for one and a few cruise missiles for the other. Our newest generation of cruise missiles are grotesquely accurate and intelligent, and offer use tactical and strategic possabilities far beyond what we can accomplish with sheer manpower.

Holding a position is something else, but even so, we are very hard to surprise unless someone finds a way to take out our satellites. Which we can readily replace.

All in all, I think what this boils down to is; Does our technology make up for less bodies to storm a beach and hold a town?

Guess we’ll see.

I’m not a constitutional law expert either, but this strikes me as bearing some resemblence to those guys who claim that the federal government has no right to collect income tax. To paraphrase George Carlin, keep asking, “yeah, who says so?” long enough and you can be assured of being taken into custody.

Anyway, wasn’t there a draft in place at the time the thirteenth amendment was ratified? If the courts go by original intent, it would seem they’d therefore interpret slavery and involuntary servitude as just that–slavery and involuntary servitude, not the lawful obligations of a citizen like national service and jury duty.

So in regard to arguing the unconstitutionality of a draft: 'taint gonna happen. What else can we look at regarding the “rightness” of a draft?

clairobscur: what country was this? And couldn’t some of the issues you mention be addressed by including some military training in high school like the Israelis and Taiwanese (and I’m sure other countries) do? A draft doesn’t have to equal a press gang if a society is oriented the right way.

Actually, the Income Tax was legalized in the 16th ammendment:

Which was in direct contradiction to Article I, Section 9, Clause 4:

In other words, the income tax was specifically made legal where it hadn’t been before. I still see some grey area with the draft. On the other hand, I think there were those who tried this argument in court during Vietname and ultimately (of course) lost.

I see this as less a consitutional issue than a philosophical issue.

If you have a volunteer army and the number of volunteers meets the needs of the nation then fine. If it doesn’t then does the nation really have the right to exist?

That is, if the United States ended up in a world-bestriding war and no one volunteered, wouldn’t it be obvious that the citizens of the country weren’t interested enough in its continuance to defend it? Under those circumstances wouldn’t it be proper for the nation to go under?

Alternately, if the citizens DON’T back a war, is it proper for leaders to REQUIRE citizens to fight for something they don’t believe?

I believe deeply in the ‘citizen-soldier’ concept. I think the number of available soldiers in a volunteer force aptly demonstrate the citizenry’s perceived desire to serve and defend the country.

Geezum crow. Just the thread title alone is enough to make me feel sick to my stomach. :frowning:

Anybody who would advocate a return of the draft “so we can pump up America’s military readiness” must not have a teenage son. Bonzo’s 14, and there’s no way I would allow my duly elected officials to tap him on the shoulder and send him off to chase terrorists. That’s the FBI’s job, and they’re all volunteers.

I lived through the 60s, watching older friends wrestle with the “To Canada?” question, for a similarly pointless military action.

Unh-unh. No way. And I know lots of other mommies and daddies who feel exactly the same way.

If Red China came trundling up Main Street, U.S.A. in tanks, then sure, I’d be there in the front lines with the B-boy, but to send him to get shot at while rummaging through the back streets of Kabul, looking for psycho killers? Not on your tintype.

As long as the military continues to exclude people on basis of class rather than qualifications, I have a hard time agreeing with the need for a draft. Try dropping the “women and homosexuals are can’t do war” attitude and maybe personnel problems won’t be such a problem.

Look, for the new kind of war…cruise missles, intelligence, commando raids, and airstrikes…draftees are a liablity. We need highly trained professionals, not conscripts.

Conscription would be usefull if we were trying to defend against Soviet armored divisions smashing through the Fulda Gap. That is not the threat anymore, and will not be the threat for the forseeable future.

The only justification for a draft would be for social reasons, to forge a common bond among all citizens. But we have no military need for all these warm bodies. And using the draft to induct only the high-quality conscriptees wouldn’t achieve the imagined social benefits of a draft.

The only way this could work is if most of the conscriptees are put in labor batallions or some such. Sent to do make work and live in barracks for a year or so. Well, perhaps we could fire a lot of government employees if we had draftees sweeping the streets, hauling the garbage, emptying bedpands, and cleaning the sewers. On the other hand, I’d rather have professionals doing even these jobs, not kids whose only alternative is prison.

I agree with Jonathan Chance to a large extent: this is (especially here) a matter of political philosophy. Should a democratic government force its citizens to fight a war? Requisite question to follow: Why is a democratic nation at war if there isn’t public support?

But of course it isn’t that easy… there can be plenty of public support for a war but not the motivation of regular citizens to fight it.

I personally consider the draft as involuntary servitude, and much to many posters’ dismay sided strongly with The Ryan in this view.

However, I remain ambivalent on it anyway, even given my personal opinion, because conscription armies have been successful. I think if there is support for a war then there can be a draft.