Should Progressives & the Anti-War Movement Oppose the Concept of A Military Draft? (w/Updates)

by: David Sirota

Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 12:55

This is another in the regular series called Strategery, which is written by David Sirota and appears Wednesdays on OpenLeft.

When news came down last week that President Bush's top war adviser wants to consider a military draft, I got a lot of email and saw many progressive blogs light up in outrage. But here's the question: Assuming a draft would be administered fairly (admittedly a big assumption), would stopping a draft really be the best strategy to serve the cause of ending the Iraq War and stopping future misguided wars?

In a column for the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year, I wrote:

A rule of thumb for understanding American politics: The federal government only reacts to popular will when the upper-middle professional class starts making noise. Everyone else's voice falls on deaf ears. This is an unfortunate reality, but it is reality.

Consider the last few decades. Many historians believe anti-war pressure during the Vietnam War only really changed public policy when, in 1969, the draft lottery was created. At that point, a whole swath of upper-middle-class parents was galvanized because it became much harder to use loopholes to shield their kids from combat.

This passage relates to one of the big problems we face today in trying to stop the Iraq War and future misguided wars: Because we have no draft, life and death military are no longer affecting the whole country, and wars are not really a shared sacrifice. As Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has basically said, the decision to make the military an all-volunteer force was a decision that actually helped (whether deliberately or accidentally) the cause of the neoconservative right by severing the broader society from the injury, death and other sacrifices that wars incur.

Think about it in concrete terms. One of the Republican Party's leading presidential candidates, Mitt Romney is campaigning on an extreme pro-war platform - all while stumbling around trying to explain why if he's so pro-war he hasn't sent his kids off to fight. (Heck, at least he's had to answer those questions about his kids - though the only reason he has is because he made a stupid comment, which by the way, while poorly and offensively phrased, was actually rooted in something valuable. In a country where kids are lauded for simply going corporate, making a decision to work in the trenches of politics - aka. public/citizen engagement - is an honorable and societally valuable decision, even if it is not equivalent to military service...but I digress).

Romney is like almost every other elite in American politics. Most Republican and Democratic congressional lawmakers who voted us into this war - not to mention the pro-war yet draft-dodging President and Vice President themselves - have no firsthand, family or personal connection to the sacrifices they are demanding other people's kids make. And they have never had to answer questions about why if they are so intent on sending other people's kids off to Iraq, they haven't sent their own kids off as well. Same thing for the reporters, pundits and 101st Keyboard Commanders. Most of these people have absolutely no direct, personal connection to the blood, sweat and tears that wars incur. Should we really have been surprised, then, that they refused to ask serious questions before the invasion or that their laziness and ideological browbeating helped get us into this mess?

So I say before the antiwar movement comes out angrily opposing the concept of a draft, let's think carefully about what we are really doing. There's a good case to be made that if a draft was instituted today, the Iraq War would be over in a matter of weeks because the vast majority of Americans would go from merely telling pollsters they opposed the war, to marching in the street to stop the war for fear that their kids and their friends are going to be getting a one-way ticket to the Baghdad shooting gallery. More long-term, there's an equally good case to be made that if a draft was instituted today, all of the Beltway's reflexive talk of going to war with countries like Iran and all the craven career politicians like Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) who are demanding that his colleagues become "pro-war Democrats" would immediately be muzzled for fear of a voter revolt like this country has never seen.

If we want an ongoing antiwar movement, one that actually starts changing the country's whole attitude towards war as the first tool of international relations, then perhaps we should keep quiet and let the most unpopular president in contemporary American history keep talking about a draft. He may inadvertently scare the country into more antiwar action. But more importantly, the draft concept - which is at its heart a concept of shared sacrifice and national service - has intrinsic long-term value to our movement because if it was instituted, it would likely take out our movement from primarily the politically engaged/interested and overnight broaden it out to the larger mass public.

Not only is there something immoral about our wars now being fought without shared sacrifice, but politically the all-volunteer situation we have now is actually set up to allow a handful of elite politicians in Washington get us into and keep us in wars that the public doesn't support. If that ends up changing because the entire society is forced to deal with conscription, then we may very well see nebulous antiwar opinion turn into the truly powerful, broad-based and organized antiwar MOVEMENT that this country clearly needs.

ADDENDUM: Though this is a separate issue from the war, I want to state very, very clearly that I actually think if a draft is instituted, it should not be just about the military but about all sorts of national service - from community service to civil defense to police/firefighting. That said, I do think a military option in such a draft would be a positive influence on our international policy in that it would create inherent political pressure on Washington elites not to just indiscriminately send troops to fight on behalf of half-cocked armchair theories cooked up by neoconservative think tankers and magazine editors (who, of course, continue to be given media platforms to advocate for wars they refuse to fight but demand other kids die for).

UPDATE: There's a good debate over this post in the comments section. I'd say this to sum it up: Many people think a draft wouldn't be administered fairly - a very real, very worthy concern. However, what I find troubling is that assuming a draft WOULD be administered fairly, a lot of folks in the comments section nonetheless seem to say the concept of a draft of compulsory national service would be immoral and that it "plays games with our kids" for a political ploy. But then, if you believe we need a military to defend this country, and if you believe we need police and firefighters and community service workers, why do you think its moral that OTHER people should do that FOR society, rather than EVERYONE having to contribute to those efforts? I'm sorry, but that's not moral - that seems selfish. Now, maybe you don't believe we need a military or police or firefighters or any of that. Fine, then your argument against a draft is consistent. But if you believe we need those things but oppose any sort of draft or national service requirement, why do you think its fair or equitable or moral to ask only others to do that, but not yourself or your family? Food for thought...

UPDATE: There's a good debate over this post in the comments section. I'd say this to sum it up: Many people think a draft wouldn't be administered fairly - a very real, very worthy concern. However, what I find troubling is that assuming a draft WOULD be administered fairly, a lot of folks in the comments section nonetheless seem to say the concept of a draft of compulsory national service would be immoral and that it "plays games with our kids" for a political ploy. But then, if you believe we need a military to defend this country, and if you believe we need police and firefighters and community service workers, why do you think its moral that OTHER people should do that FOR society, rather than EVERYONE having to contribute to those efforts? I'm sorry, but that's not moral - that seems selfish. Now, maybe you don't believe we need a military or police or firefighters or any of that. Fine, then your argument against a draft is consistent. But if you believe we need those things but oppose any sort of draft or national service requirement, why do you think its fair or equitable or moral to ask only others to do that, but not yourself or your family? Food for thought...

UPDATE II: Already, some folks have accused me of "loving the draft" and actually unequivocally advocating FOR a draft - a deliberate misrepresentation of this post. Please reread the post again. What I said was that I'm not so sure the antiwar movement or progressives should loudly protest the Bush administration's recent floating of the idea of a draft. As explained in the post, I said that for two reasons: 1) The most unpopular president in contemporary American history continuing to push a draft will likely in the short-term make the Iraq War even more unpopular than it already is. (This is the old axiom of standing back when your opponent is hurting himself) and 2) I think a draft is a mixed bag with some obvious negatives (if done improperly, unfair administration of a draft, and compulsory service in purely military activities) but also some very important positives that we are missing in America right now (reconnecting Americans to the concept of national service, etc.). The point of the post is to get us thinking through all of these things both strategically and morally - and not ramming one position down people's throats. I know that's hard for some to deal with in a polarized political debate, but there should be at least some room for careful consideration of something so big and multifaceted as a draft, shouldn't there? I mean, last I checked, our country had some of its greatest social and economic days when we actually did have a draft. We also had some of our worst days as well. Point being that this is just not a cut-and-dry issue. At all.

David Sirota :: Should Progressives & the Anti-War Movement Oppose the Concept of A Military Draft? (w/Updates)

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Disagree (4.00 / 1)
Even when we had the draft there were still a disproportionate number of middle class and poor being sent off to fight. The idea of shared sacrifice is noble and all, but it didn't work in the past, and it certainly won't work now and no amount of ideological hair splitting will make it so.

Besides, it's inevitable that if there is a draft, deferments will be handed out like candy to the rich for one reason or another, all nicely tucked away in the legislation just waiting for the rich to take advantage of.

No draft!

"shared sacrifice" (0.00 / 0)
I agree with KB. The idea of "shared sacrifice" doesn't hold water when you consider these facts:

Of the 200,000 million people of voting age, only about 20 million, or 10%, are eligible for the draft.

Add another 40 million for the parents of teenagers.

So you have 70% of the voting population with no threat of dying, or their children dying, in the war.

[ Parent ]
Unless everyone (male and female) serves, I disagree (0.00 / 0)
Assuming a draft would be administered fairly (admittedly a big assumption), would stopping a draft really be the best strategy to serve the cause of ending the Iraq War and stopping future misguided wars?

The "administered fairly" assumption needs to be taken out of the discussion. It will not be administered fairly. It was not administered fairly last time. The last time a draft was administered fairly was during WWII.

Since WWII, when has the requirement for military service ever been administered fairly? How many members of the current executive branch served in the military during Vietnam? How about the previous administration? How many or what percentage of our elected officials who were of age to be drafted during Vietnam received deferments? Of those who were in the military, how many of them were in the (state side) Reserves? I was in the Reserves in 69. Almost every single person I met in the Reserves was either privileged (doctors, lawyers, accountants) or a child of privilege.

Draft deferments are the means by which those with superior resources are able to keep their sons (and daughters) out of the active military. That's what draft deferments are for.

The same argument applies to national service. National service as a substitute for military service will probably not be available to lower-middle and upper-lower class individuals for similar reasons.

If we are going to have a draft, it should be mandatory for all individuals who are eligible. There should be no deferments for anything other than health reasons. If you don't want to carry a gun, be a medic. There should be a fixed service period of service, say two years, after which you are free to go your own way with no strings attached. Six months of training, followed by a year and a half of the possibility of getting your ass shot off. And it would be nice to have college paid for everyone, every single person without exception, who wishes to go to school after they complete their service. In other words, it needs to be like the GI Bill.

If we are going to have a draft, then every parent with eligible children should run the same risk of having their child come home in a coffin as every other parent. And no amount of money or influence should be able to stop it.

Then we'll see how eager our nation is to continue spreading freedom to all corners of the world.

Absolutely correct (4.00 / 1)
There is no way that given the current situation in the US, where privilege and wealth are rewarded and the rest are denied power, a draft will be administered fairly. And you are correct that the only time it was done so was in World War II - when 98% of draft-eligible men were in uniform. It was only administered fairly because everyone was needed. That will not be the case this time out.

Surely we can see that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats wish to provide the kind of conditions of service you described toward the end of your post. We must also consider the question of who does what once they are drafted - as many families discovered during the 1960s, an induction notice was not a death sentence; there were numerous ways that combat duty could be avoided once you were in the military. Those ways favor the privileged and disfavor everyone else.

[ Parent ]
Draft Lottery (0.00 / 0)
Their was a lottery instituted in 1970 in which deferments were eliminated and even Bill Clinton had to participate and he got a high number and was not called.

Having served in Vietnam, I know the volunteer army was formed in order to quell protests in the street.

The volunteer army is strained today and was not designed to be in such a long protracted war as we currently have in Iraq.

When I see the im moral and un-fairness of this war and who fights, I wonder how such figures as George W, Bush AND hILLARY cLINTON WOULD LOOK AT WAR IF THEIR DAUGHTER'S WERE TO BE CONSCRIPTED TO MILITARY SERVICE.

[ Parent ]
Truly on the fence (0.00 / 0)
This is one of those few issues where I am truly on the fence. I can honestly see both arguments. On the one hand, the military should be someone in which everyone in the country has a stake, and thus we make decisions to use the military with everyone holding an equal share. On the other hand, a professional army usually results in fewer casualties, drafts have always been inequitable, and conscription is not the best sign of a free society. Both arguments make sense to me, with neither being clearly superior.

How about this: decisions to go to war are determined via popular vote. Unless you vote "no," you are automatically entered into a draft to fight the war, if the measure passes. Of course, since that will never pass unless Gravel becomes President, perhaps your national service idea would be better.

Not for nothing (4.00 / 2)
but I don't know how old you or the original poster are but I am 21 and it would likely be me, not you, who would be standing in downtown Baghdad as a martyr for ending this war. I'd rather keep having elections and ending this war in Congress, not holding a rifle.

[ Parent ]
Yep (4.00 / 1)
I'm 28 and while I'm beyond draft eligibility, I have a lot of family and friends who are under 25, and I have absolutely no desire to see them sent off to Iraq. Instead I want to help bring them into a progressive political movement, building on the kind of activist and electoral successes we young voters have achieved in recent years, instead of destroying all of that through a draft.

[ Parent ]
I'm 33 (0.00 / 0)
Which, these days, I imagine would put me fairly comfortably in the range of any draft.

But you are right--young people would see it differently. Also, I have such bad vision, I would never got in the army no matter my age. I don't even drive.

[ Parent ]
Under current law (0.00 / 0)
A draft call would start with people who are 21. It would then work its way up to age 25, and then down from age 20 to age 18. One ceases to be eligible for the draft on January 1 of the year in which they turn 26, although the law allows for people up to age 34 to be eventually drafted if we run out of people 18-25.

As the law currently stands, we would return to the early 1970s version of the draft - done by birthdate-based lottery, with no student deferments. However, one has to wonder whether or not Republicans would stand for that, or if they would instead find ways to protect their privileged base. The draft boards could be where this is done; Nixon-era rules mandating affirmative action for draft board members appear to have gone out the window, making it likely that privileged people will use the draft board to protect their own and screw the disempowered.

In any case, as someone who is 33, you're as unlikely to be drafted as I am at age 28. It would take a major crisis or catastrophe for the Pentagon to come calling for us.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for understanding (0.00 / 0)
My friends and I have done this "what if" regarding the draft several times. Many of them said they would leave. Even though I oppose this war, I would still go. My father went during Vietnam, my grandfather during WWII. I don't think I could live with myself seeing friends die just so I wouldn't have to - I would want to be right there with them.

Also, with a political career in mind, it would be impossible NOT to go.

Let's hope it does not come to this.

[ Parent ]
Two summers ago (0.00 / 0)
I taught a course on the Vietnam War. After discussing the draft, I polled my students as to whether they would go or resist a draft were one enacted today. They were largely liberal, at a state university in a VERY blue city.

By a 29-1 vote, they said they would not resist a draft. Their reasons varied - some said they wouldn't want to shirk their responsibility to the country, others that they wouldn't want someone to die in their place, still others that they did not want to break the law and risk jail or prolonged separation from their families.

[ Parent ]
Isn't it shocking (0.00 / 0)
that my generation can still see it in their hearts to be patriotic and sacrifice for their country after being lied to about this war for four years? It amazes me.

[ Parent ]
welcome to the pyramid scheme (0.00 / 0)
"Also, with a political career in mind, it would be impossible NOT to go."

You are willing to be their subordinate in the hopes that some day you will have their power for yourself. I hope that you realize that the odds are against you.

[ Parent ]
This is insanity (4.00 / 5)
I'm frankly shocked to see David Sirota's name on this - I have a great deal of respect for him, as I had assumed he was one of the few netrooters who really understood the importance of populism and how average Americans were being screwed by the corporate-military state.

This diary is full of assumptions that do not take into account historical experience or present realities. That is compounded by its indefensibly immoral position, that we should put at risk young people - the most Democratic age group currently around, I might remind you - in the hopes that it will maybe lead to an end of the war. There is nothing more certain to drive away those young voters than Democratic failure to vocally oppose a draft.

In November I wrote a diary at Daily Kos systematically taking apart these kind of pro-draft sentiments. I'll provide a summary of that here.

The core of Sirota's argument seems to be the notion that if only people had a personal stake, a personal risk, the war would never have happened - or would come to a rapid end. There is nothing to suggest that this would actually be the case.

Remember that there was, in fact, a draft already in place and active in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson sent combat troops to Vietnam. That did nothing to stop the war or make many Americans hesitant. Two reasons for it: the draft only took about 3% of draft-eligible young men, and more importantly, when Americans decide to go to war, they do so with starry eyed illusions of easy victory, reasserted supremacy, and patriotic unity through sacrifice.

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - to indicate that a new draft would provide a more equitable sharing of burdens of war than the current system. First, the Pentagon will not want all the tens of millions of draft-age young men to be in their hands - they would likely need far less, around 3-5% - like in Vietnam. 95% of American families would not be affected by it.

Further, there is the question of who does what once they are drafted. Here I am truly stunned at Sirota's ignorance. During Vietnam it was a well-known fact that the poor and people of color were out on the front lines, while the privileged were safe in Saigon bases. That is due to various military practices, from testing to medicine, that merely repeat inequalities found elsewhere in society. Sirota, as much as anyone else, should know how the rich and powerful manipulate government for their own benefit. If he thinks that these people will fail to have their kids escape a new draft, he has forgotten all that he has tried to teach us these last years.

Sirota assumes that it will require a draft to put people in the streets; one wonders if he has witnessed the significant outpouring of protest against this war that began in February 2003. Americans already oppose this war, and voted on that in 2006. Democrats have failed to respond, but it is not clear that new protests will move them.

Further, the notion that a draft will cause massive protest that will force the government's hand is dangerously ignorant of both the history of Vietnam-era activism as well as the present situation. During Vietnam it took 8 years for both the war and the draft to come to an end. By 1969 the antiwar movement was truly massive, but it took 4 years to reach that point, and the deaths would continue for another 4 years. In fact, the years 1969-73 witnessed about half the deaths US forces suffered in the entire Vietnam War period.

The present situation is no more favorable. If a draft were to exist, avoiding it would be nearly impossible, and protesting it would likely be very difficult. It was only because the US had a liberal government in the 1960s that protest was not actively suppressed. During World War I, for example, merely speaking out against the draft was enough to get Eugene V. Debs thrown in prison for 10 years. A similar situation would likely exist today - any mass protest would quickly face the ire of an administration that has shown little restraint in denying our democratic rights.

Ultimately, on a family level, the more likely reaction to a draft is anxiety and a search for escapes, not a mass taking to the streets. Because the draft calls would affect so few, and because there would still be ways for the system to be gamed to favor the privilege and hurt the unprivileged, most Americans would eventually conclude they had nothing to fear from a draft and would not oppose it in the ways folks like Sirota think they will.

Supporting a draft to end the war, then, is an act of madness. It lacks morality and it lacks sense. All it will accomplish is sending more innocent people off to their deaths, at the enormous political cost of alienating the very people - young voters - upon whom the Democrats' and progressives' future rests.

I am deeply saddened to see Sirota taking this approach, and I hope that the rest of us will not follow this piece of stunningly bad advice.

You have misrepresented my position (4.00 / 2)
I didn't say I support a draft to end the war, what I said was that a draft would likely end this war and slow down the push for future wars. The fact is, my historical statement stands: The push to end Vietnam came when the lottery was instituted and the draft became more fair.

Now, you can argue that you think we could never have a fair draft - and that point is debatable and has merit (though you actually - perhaps accidentally - admitted you think it would be administered fairly when you said "avoiding [the draft] would be nearly impossible"). But I stand by my statement that if we had a fair draft, or better yet, a flat requirement for national service in this country, it would do a lot of good for America in many ways, not the least of which would be tying the mass public directly to issues of war and peace.

If you think we should have a military and national defense in this country, I'm not quite sure why you think we shouldn't have a requirement for national service. This is all of our country, we all have an obligation to it.

Oh and by the way - while you may not have supported our past wars, there was - to my knowledge - never a massive, broad movement indicting the motives and direction of the wars we got into before Vietnam. There was certainly opposition to WWI and WWII and the Korean conflict, but before Vietnam I have seen no historical evidence that suggested there was mass public suspicion that we were being taken into war under entirely false pretenses. Even Vietnam wasn't started like Iraq was started (even though there was a lot of shenanigans from the Johnson administration).

My point in that last part is this: A draft won't stop all wars because I don't believe all wars are automatically unjust or the absolute wrong course of (last resort) action.  But a draft would go a hell of a long way to stopping utterly misguided wars started on false pretenses, which is what we're being plagued with right now. And again, more broadly, I think shared sacrifice and national service is something our country needs more of - not less.

[ Parent ]
I don't see how I have misrepresented it (4.00 / 2)
You claim to not have said you support a draft to end this war, but then you go on to argue why you believe a draft would end this war. I guess that's not "support" but it is a belief.

And it is totally wrong. Your historical statement is incorrect; the push to end Vietnam did not come about as a result of the lottery. I am a historian who has studied and taught courses on the Vietnam War and I think that while your view is popularly accepted, in fact it has little evidence to support it. The November 1969 Mobilization was quite large, but not significantly larger than protests in 1967 and '68. Further, there were many factors behind the larger protests of '69, particularly public anger at the lies of the Nixon Administration. And of course, as I argued, those protests did not succeed in bringing the war to a quick end.

Nor did you respond to my points about why we will never have a fair draft. We never have and never will, for reasons I and others have explained. I do not see the point to debating such  a "what if?" question. Of all people, you should understand why we will not have a fair draft.

You are also wrong about the lack of antiwar activism prior to Vietnam. Every war the US fought, except World War II, has such movements. The War of 1812 nearly caused New England to secede. There was a strong movement organized against the Mexican War. The Civil War aroused a passionate opposition movement in the North, from the Copperheads to the 1863 NYC Draft Riots. The Spanish-American War aroused the Anti-Imperialist League. World War I saw protest, but it was ruthlessly squashed. Those movements may not have taken the form of the anti-Vietnam War movement, but they existed, were significant and had important political impacts in their day.

As to shared sacrifice, I think people should choose when, where, and how to sacrifice. I oppose a draft, and oppose national service, partly for that reason, partly because it has been and will be abused. I would prefer we worked to end and prevent wars instead of finding ways to force people to die in them against their will.

Instead I believe we should abolish our standing army and return to a pre-1940 approach to armed service, where we maintain a small force to undertake basic tasks, maintain specific defensive posts and systems, but no more. If the nation is attacked then Americans can vote with their feet whether or not they support a war as a response. That is the democratic approach.

Anyhow. You still have not presented any evidence that suggests the US - or any other nation - has refused to go to war because a draft made the public think it over more clearly. In the absence of such evidence, and in light of the arguments I and others have made, it seems reckless and foolish to not oppose a draft in the strongest possible terms.

[ Parent ]
What I said was (0.00 / 0)
I don't support a draft specifically TO end this war or any other - I think the concept of a fair and equitable draft or a requirement for national service is a good one for all sorts of purposes. I am not proposing some cynical political ploy. I actually BELIEVE that our nation suffers from a lack of connection to our government and that the more policies we have to make us invest in our country the better.

[ Parent ]
Fair enough (4.00 / 1)
What I don't understand, then, is why you've spent so much time trying to argue that a draft might actually succeed in ending this war or prevent future wars, if you don't believe we should go down that road.

I disagree that national service would have the positive outcomes you propose - the European friends I know all believed their national service was pointless and stupid, "sitting around drinking beer watching football all day" - but it's a discussion worth having, although I do not see why it should be tied to a military draft.

I too believe that our nation suffers from a lack of connection to our government, but I believe a draft will, and always has, only served to alienate people from that government, and that there are better and more productive ways to bring about the civic renewal we both seek.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
Well, I think military service should be one of the options to fulfill a national service obligation. That's what I said in the post.

[ Parent ]
David (4.00 / 1)
I may be misinterpreting your viewpoint here, but doesn't your suggestion rely on one assumption (which was probably the most important point to the comment you're responding to), that the draft will not be administered fairly?

And yes, you did respond to that point, but with a complete gloss over. The only real way to ensure a fair draft is to apply it to everyone without the possibility of deferment, which we know will not happen.

Additionally, you mentioned that the push to end VietNam came when the draft became fair. I don't know what draft you are referring to because the entire draft was disproportionately aimed at the poor and minorities.

How do you reconcile these things without resorting to ideological platitudes?

[ Parent ]
THE DRAFT (0.00 / 0)
I served in Vietnam and I believe that the draft plus the war mobilized young people on the campuses for protes's. The campuses were like a base from which young people could mobilize and protest.

Ultimately I believe that the protest movement shortened the war and pressured the politicians to end the war. Even Nixon had to run on a platform to with draw forces from Vietnam. even though it took four years and finaklly a congrss that cut off funds in 1975 TO FINALLY END IT.

[ Parent ]
I agree with almost everything you say (0.00 / 0)
but you are leaving out half of the potential draft age participants. Women.

If we are going to do this, everyone gets drafted, male and female, no exceptions, no excuses, no escape. You are right that we would have about 10 million young men in the military at that point. Add the women and that makes it 20 million.

That's a big military. That's a lot of tax money. That's absurd on the face of it, now that I think about it.

[ Parent ]
Exactly (0.00 / 0)
What is the Pentagon going to do with 20 million conscripts?

They don't want that many people, not at all. The Pentagon has instead been trying to cut personnel costs at every opportunity. At most they would draft 500,000, perhaps a million, which would still be a very small percentage of the total eligible population.

[ Parent ]
In other words, you'd play political games with our children's lives (4.00 / 3)
No to the draft!  The addendum is Weasel City.  If we get a draft, it will be a military one.  This community service stuff is a trick to suck us in.  These sophisticated political calculations sicken me.

If we had a draft, we could then draft enough troops to invade Iran and Pakistan, and have enough for a super-surge in Iraq as well.  The lack of troops is a good thing.

We will never face a WWII situation again.  We must not let the government have the right to send our children to Iraq and order them to kill women and children.  It's wrong.  Period.

Full Court Press!

Agreed, and that is the only truly progressive position (4.00 / 2)
I keep trying to tell folks like Sirota who see a draft as a kind of magic political bullet that it's only going to alienate young voters from Democrats and progressive, unless those Dems and progs mount an assertive anti-draft posture. I do not understand why we would want to do that.

[ Parent ]
"playing games with our children's lives" (4.00 / 1)
That is a sad construct, really. I believe in national service - and I don't think that's "playing games with our children's lives." If you want our nation to be secure - whether through the military, police, firefighting, a better society, etc. - then why do YOU think that that should be OTHER children's responsibility but not your own?

[ Parent ]
political ploy (0.00 / 0)
Much of this original essay focuses on the political effects of having a draft: this is "playing political games with our children's lives".

If you want to use fear to achieve favorable political conditions, you should have a chat with Stu Bykofsky.

If you want to change the subject and talk the moral superiority of the draft, then I'll say this. These forms of service that you appeal to are only noble when a person performs them in an emergency--when the threat arises without time to prepare for it and there are no professionals around to take care of it. When this service is done as a mater of rote, it is no longer noble it is just inefficient. Our standard response should be to rely on professionals. There's nothing selfish about this: I do my job and they do their job.

[ Parent ]
thinking in a vacuum (0.00 / 0)
You are thinking in a vacuum. You assume there would be a draft and then there would be more troops available. But you aren't considering the mass psychological ramifications of what the draft would do. It would tie us as a society back to the military that is supposed to be defending us - and that would foster radical changes, especially in the short and medium term when we were converting from a draft-less society to one where national service was a requirement.

The question that no one seems to be able to answer is why, if you think that we need a military/police/firefighters/community service workers for our society (and some of you may not think that), do you think that someone ELSE should serve that role FOR you, but that you and your family shouldn't have to contribute to those efforts?

[ Parent ]
Like public beheadings to oppose capital punishment (4.00 / 3)
There are those who propose things like that, you know.

If you want a civilian national service draft for police/firefighters/community service workers, campaign for it.  By calling for both, you disarm the left and end up with a military draft and NO civilian draft.

You talk about the military like it was WWII.  Is it defending us in Iraq?  Our military has MURDERED Iraq.  Our military intimidates the world over.  Our military trains and arms dictators.  My family and I should not contribute to those efforts, and your mass psychological ramifications be damned.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
Why don't we have compulsory police and fire service? (4.00 / 2)
The notion is that those services will be done by people who wish to do them, trained professionals, and that in return, we as a society will reward them with excellent pay, good working conditions, and that we will help make their jobs easier how ever we can. I don't believe that the only acceptable model of public service or civic engagement is one where all people do all public jobs.

The all-volunteer military worked very well until Bush broke it, like he broke so many other good and functional parts of our government.

[ Parent ]
set 100,000 unit trip wire (0.00 / 0)
If war is truly necessary, then the public should and will get behind it.  Clearly with Iraq, support was lukewarm at best and used the smoking ashes of 9/11 to push the nation over the edge.  I've advocated a type of compulsory service like one that exists in Europe and Israel.  I think every able bodied individual should commit some type of service to the country, be it military or otherwise.

But specific to a military draft, I don't think we should switch to a draft but if a deployment of say 100,000 or more people into a certain-nation state is required for combat purposes then this should automatically trigger a draft mechanism in the law.  This would force executives to think twice about the necessity of the deployment and engage the public to adequately debate the subject.  If it is truly an emergency then the nation will rally and support the effort and not "fear" the draft, but the enemy, as it should.  The threshold also gives an executive authority to take action in say, Afganistan, but not give him the "resources" to stumble into say Iraq or Iran( without tripping the draft mechanism and the public's scrutiny)  And maybe the 100,000 number can be a flexible value based on a country's population but the point being a trip wire.

you're fighting a ghost here (0.00 / 0)
I don't hear progressive voices opposing the draft, though maybe I'm not listening hard enough.  Perhaps some citations of reflexively anti-draft progressives would be in order?  Until I see some strong cites I wouldn't concede that it's a reflex native to our side.  The voices I hear are actually quite pragmatic about Department of Defense issues.  It's the Department of Offense that gives us the willies.

And my memory of the 60s/70s is that opposition to the draft was literally opposition to the war (i.e. stop the draft and starve the war machine), and not in a euphemistic, misdirection sense but merely as the most direct route to stopping the war. 

Personally, I think the draft should be a top priority of the incoming administration.  Can't be done of course, you'd never get it past the campaign consultant layer.  The interesting part of it is that its fiercest opposition will of course come from the right.  The contortions Rudy McRomneyson would have to go through to justify this opposition would be truly Olympian.

It would be a real game-changer for one of the top-tier candidates to put reinstating the draft in their platform and challenge the others to knock it off.  Probably fatal to that candidate himself, but it would undoubtedly knock out some number of the serial fumblers over on the GOP side.

Um (0.00 / 0)
Ummm...they are right here in the comments section.

[ Parent ]
I saw that but to me it has (4.00 / 1)
to go beyond the comments.  I can find leprechauns and mermaids in the comments of even the best blogs but that doesn't make them real.  I spend a lot of time on the usual suspects (here, dkos, mydd, next hurrah, FDL ...) and anti-draft sentiment is, imho, actually pretty rare in the diaries and FP.

The draft is really the quickest way to get from ground zero to a discussion of what this country is all about and where it's going to be in 10, 20 or 50 years, something we haven't done in this set of comments.  What is the army for?  What purpose does it serve?  The current high-tech, big-ticket, almost completely 'black' combined private mercenary and volunteer military admirably serves imperial purposes.  But it is largely divorced from the people it 'serves'.  If history is any guide, which it may not be, armies like that turn to shit when their backs are against the wall - facing existential threats.

On the other hand, a draft military on the WWII model that inflates around a professional core as the need arises, and deflates as the needs subsides is marvellously suited for slowly-evolving wars of national defense - existential threats - but not much else.  It's an especially lousy vehicle for imperialist adventuring. 

What I marvel at in the current discussion is just how far we've gone down a really awful path, where killing people is proposed by at least some Serious People as a first or second option in almost every foreign policy situation.  I find this appalling. 

I think the Cold War did far more damage to the hawk segment of the Serious People than has ever been acknowledged.  As a liberal progressive, I'm relatively comfortable being back in a pre-WWII world where there are lots of threats, but few existential threats.  Hawks on the other hand, freed from mutually assured destruction, seem unable to respond to any challenge with anything other than military force.  Freed to use their hammer, they see a world made up entirely of nails.

[ Parent ]
I agree in THEORY (0.00 / 0)
Yes, a truly reperesentative "citizens army" would exert, I believe, a braking effect on such ridiculously mis-guided military adventures as the Neo-Con Junta has launched in Iraq.

But, the trick will be to make certain that any draft is set up very, very carefully.  I have no illusions that elites and aristocrats will try to pull any and all strings that their cash and position can gain them access to, in order to keep their kids from getting drafted.  Any new draft must, very explicitly, limit deferments.  If that cannot be accomplished - NO DRAFT.

I would also like to see any proposal of reinstating the draft be opened up to include non-military service options, including domestic programs. Again, this is a deal-breaker if it is not adhered to fully.

One other aspect to include in any discussion of reinstating the draft is to include language to the effect that drafted soldiers NOT be expected to fight in any UNDECLARED WARS for any longer than 90 days.  If the Commader in Chief can't convince the US Congress to do their job and DECLARE WAR - then the military adventure ENDS within 3 months.

All in all - you have a very good idea - but it will only work if the language is clear, concise and implemented without regard to socio-economic status, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.  Either EVERY citizens bears an EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY for the defense of this nation - or this idea is dead in the water. 

That's why I say, "in THEORY" - because I do not think that the Congressional/Inductrial/Military complex will permit a fair draft to be implemented in the USA, so your fight will be all up-hill.  Especially because the US military will fight it.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

Why not pursue this line of thinking further? (4.00 / 2)
People seem willing to agree that it is highly unlikely that a draft would ever be truly fair. But they are much less willing to ask whether the notion that an equitable draft would spell the end of neoconservatism is equally theoretical, equally specious.

I still haven't seen a cogent argument in favor of that theory. How exactly would this work? What is the process by which a draft would actually end this war? Or, why would it end future wars when a draft has never done so in the past, anywhere in the world?

It's one hell of an assumption people are making, and they do it in spite of a significant amount of evidence to the contrary. I wish we would spend more time examining that assumption.

[ Parent ]
The assumption is simple (4.00 / 3)
The assumption rests on the contention that if all of America felt directly connected to and impacted by foreign policy decisions, it would radically alter American politics and the decisions our government makes. Radically. I'm not talking about changing one given debate, I'm talking about changing the entire way we look at politics.

Politics right now is looked at as a glorified television show - and a lot of that has to do with the fact that people don't feel like political decisions impact their lives. And that's a tragedy. I think the more policies we have - whether a draft or anything else - that better connects people to the concept of a collective NATION, rather than politics-as-television, the better.

[ Parent ]
Why don't we see that now? (4.00 / 2)
Most Americans understand that their access to health care is very limited, if nonexistent. That puts their very lives at risk, yet you do not see a massive movement taking place to provide us with universal care.

Americans feel directly connected to economic decisions, but you don't see a massive movement taking place to reverse course on free trade or the decline of manufacturing.

People feel political decisions impact their lives, but they don't feel empowered to do anything about it. THAT is the real problem - they show up at the polls in November 2006 to elect a Democratic Congress in the hopes they'll help end the war, and by August 2007 feel disillusioned because Democrats have refused to do it.

I suspect you're still operating under the "a draft mobilized the citizenry during Vietnam" assumption. But what we need to understand about the New Left of the 1960s was it had already become a mass movement BEFORE 1965, before LBJ sent the troops to Vietnam. It was the Civil Rights Movement and the peace movement that spawned the antiwar movement, including a large number of students who, with their deferments, had nothing to fear from a draft. The draft may have later helped swell the ranks of the antiwar movement, but it did not create it. The movement to build a new kind of democracy through the New Left was the real key.

I too want the kind of radical political change, and reengagement of our people and our politics, that you do. But I do not see how a draft would do anything other than retard that process. And I would much rather build that movement through positive, constructive methods, rather than destructive methods like a draft.

[ Parent ]
Utterly different (0.00 / 0)
Health care is something the government ISN'T doing. A draft is something the government would be doing. That's a totally and completely different dynamic.

I think about it sort of like the dynamic that plays out on taxes. We now have a virulent anti-tax culture in this country because taxation is compulsory. We have among the lowest taxes in the industrialized world, and that's because Americans have revolted against the compulsory nature of it. I don't agree with that revolt, but it is a fact - and its a very different political dynamic from something that is a problem, but the government is neglecting.

[ Parent ]
So... (4.00 / 1)
...a compulsory draft would somehow play out differently? Wouldn't we instead have a virulently anti-draft rhetoric, such as currently exists in this country?

[ Parent ]
I did not claim a fair draft would end neo-conservatism (0.00 / 0)
Just put the brakes on their, or any other junta's, military expansionist dreams.  NOTE: I don't say "end", or "prevent" - only "put the brakes on".

The basic concept is that IF every demographic in the US were represented in the draft and if those sent to fight were not volunteers, this would help to limit the support for non-essential military actions like the kind that Bush inflicted upon Iraq.  Of course, this does not guarantee anything - it will not prevent the Executive from lying about the rationale, or need for the war - nor will it force US citizens to think about what their government does in their name.  People will still have to take action to prevent wars because the drive of the Congressional/Military/Industrial complex is very powerful. 

Let's consider Iraq - do you believe that 65% of the US population would have supported the invasion if more of their kids lives had potentially been on the line?  I can tell you that every one of those supporting this war in my family would havethought twice if their kids had any chance of actually getting sent to fight.  But, as long as it was the volunteer down the block - they gave Bush the benefit of the doubt.  Do you believe for one moment that the US Congress would have so easily shirked their Constitutional duties had many more of their constituents (and their own kids) been on the line? 

I don't know if it would work - but it is very clear that the system we have now will never work. 

Maybe we could include limit the time that the draft would be in effect, say 10-12 years, then it has to be re-authorized after a review of system.

Furthermore I don't think the draft should be reinstated by the US Congress - it should be put to a national referendum.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Still not sold (4.00 / 2)
It's a theory, no more. I have still not seen anyone show me a time or a place where a draft led a nation to stop themselves from going to war.

When Americans debate going to war, they lose their minds. The debate is rarely driven by logic or personal interest. Instead what comes to dominate the conversation are illusions and dreams. The notion that the war will have all kinds of glorious effects. It will prove America's supremacy over our foes. It will prove our dominance as a global power. It will provide economic benefits. It will make us safer. It will even unite the country in a patriotic sense of shared sacrifice. Chris Hedges was right - "war is a force that gives us meaning."

In fact, a draft would likely help convince the public to go to war, by playing into that sense of sacrifice. "Everyone will play their part, everyone will sacrifice for the national glory of victory." If Bush had asked for a draft in the fall of 2001, he would have had it, no questions asked.

Americans have never brought sense or reason into a debate on war and there's little to suggest they will do so with a draft - they sure didn't in 1965.

So I believe that Americans would still have backed the war if they thought their kids would have to go. But as I've argued elsewhere on this diary, I also believe those Americans would also assume their kids would not be the ones who would be doing the dying even with a draft. It is hard to imagine a draft taking more than 5% of those eligible, and even then there will still be ways to avoid combat service. Once little Tyler or little Emma has secured a desk job or a place on an aircraft carrier, mom and dad won't be so worried. And since all they care about are their own children, concern for others won't motivate them to stop the war.

[ Parent ]
I think we agree (0.00 / 0)
I just think it might be worth taking for a test drive - at least, the topic should get much more airtime - so it is great to have a chance to discuss it.

Basically, my point is that it appears to me that the US is gonna be involved in wars for the foreseeable future - no matter which party takes which branch of the federal government.  As of the moment, the weight of fighting those wars is not evenly distributed throughout our populace, nor is the weight of paying for those wars (but maybe that's another issue).

Those inequalities must be addressed if we hope to have a unified nation (IMHO).

If I could run the show for a few years - I might decide to disband the US military, and all talk of drafts would be about getting better insulation and weather stripping, but that's a pipe-dream. 

Once we get the draft back in place - how about mandatory service?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
involved in wars for the foreseeable future !!!??? (0.00 / 0)
My god! SpitBall!  You mean, if our lunatics decide to invade Iran, let's make sure we do it with a good cross-section of Americans?  If our lunatics invade Korea, let's make sure we have enough troops?

The best short-term reason for opposing the draft is to create a manpower shortage that makes such adventures impossible.

If we had the draft now, our troops would be marching on Tehran.  I would never let you "run the show"!

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
If not Iran - somewhere else (0.00 / 0)
Don't think I support the idea - I'm just looking at what happened in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

This was a war that could have been stopped before it started - unlike the other wars that the US has been involved in post-WW2.  Protesters were in the streets before the invasion - people were clamoring for information - for debate - and what happened?  You know what happened. We went to war anyway.

That does not give me any confidence that the US will hesitate to get involved in wars for the foreseeable future. Hell - we are gonna be involved in a war in Iraq for the forseeable future - I would not be surprised if the war in Iraq OUTLASTS the next President's term in office - even if a "top-tier" Democrat gets elected.

Where in the sad narrative of the most recent war do you find hope that the USA has been dispossessed of its military aggressiveness?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
precisely my point (0.00 / 0)
I don't want to make it easier for them to find more fodder for their adventures.

At the risk of making an absurd point, I could see the same people now calling for a draft to then support draft resistance once it's instituted because of the unjust wars that that draft was fueling.  Just put Milo Minderbinder in charge of the Pentagon, everyone gets a share. (Am I showing my age here?)

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
I don't think that is absurd (0.00 / 0)
Draft resistance would become an even more powerful - more powerful because more people would do it - means to prevent and end military adventures that are not in the interest of the nation, as judged by the citizens.

You may have missed an earlier comment of mine on this thread, where I stated that one aspect of any new draft would be an explicit guarantee that no one would be forced to fight in any undeclared war.  That puts the ball in the Congress.  Now, given their very poor performance in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, do I really trust them to provide a full, honest debate on a war declaration BEFORE the President commits troops to the battle?  No, I don't.  But, hey - we the people have a role to play here too - we are the ones that get our representatives to do what we want, aren't we? A more diverse demographic in the population directly affected by the proposed war will lead to a more robust questioning of that war because more people will have something to lose.

Will it work?  I don't know.  But I do know that the current system does not work - that was overwhelmingly demonstrated in Iraq.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Don't be ridiculous (0.00 / 0)
In the real world, you aren't going to get that "undeclared" exemption.  You're just going to get a plain old draft.  Which you will have helped bring about.

And since when is our problem in Iraq the lack of a draft?  Unless you support the war.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
Then: NO DRAFT! (0.00 / 0)
Sorry, we tried. 

At least we had a vigorous debate on the subject.

Thanks for playing.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
You're quite welcome (0.00 / 0)
It raised interesting questions of methodology that this page would be far too skinny for (:>)).  I'm contemplating a diary on movement dynamics.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
Umpteenth (4.00 / 1)
I would urge that progressives explicitly take a position of neutrality -- i.e., "we take no position" -- on the draft, while opposing the activities of this government that might make a draft necessary (the current and prospective wars).  We should stress that if there was a draft, it should be administered fairly, it should be transparent, and it should demand service from everyone who is in fighting condition -- men, women, gays, straights, etc.  We can explain why we think military service is in some sense an obligation of everyone when the country needs soldiers and civilians to serve in defense, while denying that the current government has good cause to use the military -- conscripted or otherwise -- for wars of choice in Iraq and Iran. 

Politically, this is crucial:  advocating the draft is itself a very bad political position to take right now.  On the other hand, it would seem that the draft is probably a fairer and more democratic means of defending this country than the current system that attracts a disproportionate share of the economically disadvantaged into the ranks.  Making the military more representative of society as a whole would be a very good thing for our democracy.  Advocating the draft directly would be a very hard sell otherwise.  Hence, it seems that this is one battle that progressives should refrain from taking the bait on.  But if Bush can't find the people to fight his war otherwise, we'll have a lot to say about how a draft should be conducted, and continue to insist that we should do everything morally and strategically feasible to avoid making a draft a necessity.



Good point (0.00 / 0)

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
That's where I am (0.00 / 0)
That's the thrust of my post - I said we shouldn't necessarily aggressively proceed in loud opposition to a draft. First of all, Bush pushing it helps scare the public against this war. Secondly, the good and bad qualities of a draft are clearly mixed - so its not entirely 100% clear that its a "progressive" thing to oppose it.

[ Parent ]
conspiracy (0.00 / 0)
I get really bothered by the conspiratorial tone of comments like this:

  "First of all, Bush pushing it helps scare the public against this war. "

As if the American people are just pawns to be manipulated by political consultants.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (0.00 / 0)
I think neutrality is the best position at the moment while laying out what kind of draft we'd need -- no deferments, no exceptions -- if the curent administration makes one necessary. Point out that further escalation in Iraq or elsewhere will exceed the abilities of the current system to supply the necessary personnel, so our best option is to renounce and reverse the Bush-Cheney deceit and profiteering that led us into the present crisis.

In other words, make the potential necessity of a draft the lever for looking at why we'd need one.

[ Parent ]
I'm just not seeing it (4.00 / 2)
It's not that Americans want fairness in military service - they instead don't want military service at all. If you're looking strictly at the politics of it, how it plays with voters, the only winning position is a strong anti-draft stance.

End the war and you end the need for a draft.

In the spirit of above comments, I also think the "a fairer military would be good for our democracy" assumption is flawed and should be examined more closely. How would it be good? The military is a fundamentally undemocratic and hierarchical institution. World War II saw enormous rates of military participation but this does not appear to have had any meaningful impact on our democracy, and in fact those veterans went on to become ardent supporters of Korea, Vietnam, Reagan, and Bush.

There are way too many assumptions being thrown around as fact here, and I think we would all do better to step back and reexamine these with a critical eye.

[ Parent ]
Democracy advantages (0.00 / 0)
Not an expert on the sociology of military/militarism, so this comment is speculative, rather than based in sound research. But here's why I said I think there's a democracy advantage to a draft, at least if it produces a military that is demographically more representative of the population as a whole:

First, there's the obvious hope that a more representative military would change the stakes for those in the socially more powerful groups in the country (upper-middle class, well-educated, business and society leaders), for whom the costs of war are more often than not an abstraction, given the social distance between themselves and those who are in the field fighting the wars. 

Second, to the extent that people like myself tend to shun military service, forcing (some of) us to become members of the military might also help alter the overall outlook of the military rank and file itself.  Perhaps that's just wild-eyed optimism on my part, and I don't claim to be any specially moral paragon, but there are some things I'd rather die or serve jail time than do, and some of the worst abuses the military has committed recently are among them.  I would expect that I would be changed (mostly for the worse) by having to go to war, but even so, I think I and many progressives start from a somewhat less violent, homophobic, and xenophobic starting point than a lot of the people who volunteer to join today's military.  Having proportionately more of us in the military would be bad for us, but possibly good for the U.S.

And if more progressives and doves end up in the military, and if we retain our principles after the fact, our voices will resonate much more effectively after service in opposing opportunistic military ventures.  One problem we have had overall is that we lack numbers within the veteran community, and hence our ability to speak with authority on such matters is more constrained than would be best for us as a group.

A bit optimistic, these thoughts, but that's what I had in mind.



[ Parent ]
Did You Read Previous Comments? (4.00 / 1)
You say:
On the other hand, it would seem that the draft is probably a fairer and more democratic means of defending this country than the current system that attracts a disproportionate share of the economically disadvantaged into the ranks.

The reality is that there would never be a "fair" draft that is in any way representative of society. there never has been, and the only way to make it so is to eliminate all manner of deferments, except for health reasons. Otherwise, you will see exactly what happened in Vietnam, a disproportionate number of low income and minority people being tapped and sent to the frontlines.

I think your suggestion for neutrality on this issue is a mistake.

[ Parent ]
A need to separate issues, and compare real options (0.00 / 0)

There are two different issues on the table, as I see it.  One, the more crassly political one, is what is the right position to advocate for purposes of framing the debates and putting the progressive cause on the side of the angels.  In this matter, it is possible to abstract from the unfortunate fact that our policy may not (will not) be implemented the way we want it to be, and historical evidence that a draft will not be executed in a completely fair fashion.  On this score, the neutrality position, with a demand for fairness, is best, I think.  Everybody can understand, in principle, the need for shared sacrifice in defense of the country, and it would be a marked improvement over the current administration to put our defense in those terms:  the current administration portrays this war as one that only requires us to sacrifice our civil liberties, but not our treasure or our lives.  Changing that rhetoric would be both more honest and would make the true costs of the war easier for more people to grasp.  (I'll say something about the democracy advantages in a different reply.) 

The second issue is what is the best policy within the feasible set of options.  I will accept your claims and those above that there has not been and will not be a fair draft, given the political realities involved in setting one up.  But this does not imply that the best draft we might realistically expect to have put in place would be less fair than the current, "all-volunteer" system.  I cannot claim any expertise here, except to say that there seem to be extraordinarily few members of the military who come from my socio-economic sphere (upper-middle class white with college educated parents) relative to the American participation in the military overall.  (If one includes contractors in this picture, I think it changes too, and certainly becomes more complicated.)  Unless we define fairness in rather reductive contract terms (i.e., anything you agree to without a gun to your head is ipso facto voluntary and therefore fair), then it would take a really detailed argument to convince me that a lottery draft organized by a progressive majority in Congress and possibly a democratic president would be less fair than the current system.  It might be less efficient, it might be more disruptive to society, but if we compare real options to real options, I think it might be at least as fair as the current system, and probably moreso.



[ Parent ]
We could start small. (0.00 / 0)
We could start with a mini-draft that conscripts and sends into active combat all draft-age children and grandchildren of the prez, vice-prez, and every member of Congress that votes to support any foreign invasion or war of choice. Work down from there to include the CEOs and major shareholders of "defense" contractors.

This will be taken as snark, but isn't meant that way. Would it ever get enacted? No. Would having a major candidate propose it do much to clarify the public mind? I think so. It should be advanced as a serious proposition.

Why young people? (4.00 / 1)
Why is it always young people who are the targets of these massive experiments? If the goal is a better engagement with the civic process, why would we not want to be drafting *everybody*, no matter their age, for national service? Young people have higher rates of participation in volunteer activities (even when you take out the "forced volunteerism" of school mandates) than most other age brackets. Study after study shows they are more progressive, more attentive, and more Democratic than other age groups. So why are we targeting the young to force changes in older people? Why not draft the older folks themselves?

[ Parent ]
college republicans support war but won't fight (0.00 / 0)
Watch this short, a clip of which was recently on Bill Moyers'. It says everything you need to know about the right's comfort of supporting a war they don't actually have to directly witness or carry out. Cuts the GOP argument off at the knees.


"mass psychological ramifications" (4.00 / 2)
In Sic Semper Tyrannis, a commenter quotes Uri Avnery:

"18-year old youngsters, most of who have been brought up by decent parents as moral human beings, are drafted into the army, enter the brutal subculture of their units and receive an indoctrination that justifies every act of brutality against Arabs. Only a few rare individuals are able to withstand the pressure. After three years, the majority leave the army as tough men with blunted sensibilities."

It has been argued by others (not here) that the draft, by bringing in a broader cross-American of the country, would somehow humanize the military.  One might only note how the existence of a massive draft in the 1960s transformed the military into the progressive, humanitarian organization it is today.  Sorry, the influence is a one-way street.

Sirota tries to cleverly lump the military in with all other public servants.  I don't buy it.  The military is a qualitatively different institution.  Is the military in fact defending us in Iraq?

For that matter, should Texas executioners (public servants) be draftees?

Full Court Press!

Authoritarian Thug (0.00 / 0)
This really settles it for me.  You're an authoritarian thug.  To suggest that people who don't support the draft are selfish is outright worship of the state.  Acting as if police and the military and firefighters are the needed for the survival of this country, as if a host of other professions aren't, is elevating the military and similar branches above all other professions, one of the major signs of fascism.

I think it is fair and equitable and moral to allow for people to select their own professions.  I believe it is slavery to force them into service.

Progressives should not be proposing a draft. (4.00 / 2)
Right after the dem sweep last year,Charlie Rangel brings up the subject of a draft.Makes the front page of my local paper.My repug congressman uses proposed draft in his constituent letter to trash the Democratic Party.A nineteen year old coworker remarked 'I voted Democratic to end the war, now the Democratic Party wants to draft me?'I am so apposed to the idea of a draft ,I wish I could rescind my letter to my local paper recommending it carry your column.A draft is political poison for the progressive movement and the Democratic Party.

Incidently (0.00 / 0)
You raise a good and obvious point about a draft. Those that voted for the Dems to end the war, and then they are suddenly drafted into that war by those same Dems, makes for political suicide.

Some will probably try to rationalize it as a service, and that may fly with some, but the vast majority of ordinary Americans will probably not vote at all, or vote solidly independent. And although my allegiance is to the Democratic Party, I probably wouldn't blame them.

[ Parent ]
Regarding the updates (4.00 / 1)
Sirota does not support a draft today, and that is a good thing. So why would we not want to be full-throated in expressing that opinion? Few politicians self-destruct on their own - standing back is one axiomatic response, but so is throwing them an anvil.

As to the latter part, about examining the supposedly beneficial qualities of a draft/national service, I think we've already done that and found no such positives at all. The draft has never helped create a sense of civic engagement in American history - veneration of public service came from other sources, did not intend it to be compulsory, and was not tied to militaristic tools. As progressives we should be finding better ways to construct a vibrant public sphere and democratic political culture.

I'm having deep thoughts ... (4.00 / 1)
Sirota sez:  "I know that's hard for some to deal with in a polarized political debate, but there should be at least some room for careful consideration of something so big and multifaceted as a draft, shouldn't there?"

Okay, I'll think about it.

Still thinking.

Thinking some more.


Nope, still a really bad idea.

The idea that Sirota is the deep thinker and those opposing the draft are just reactive hot-heads is quite offensive.  Straight DLC.

Now, if you want to talk about something like the WPA, I'm all ears.  Rebuild our infrastructure.  A massive expansion of public transit.  Great.  But don't try to conflate that with drafting people into the army.  The U.S. Army is NOT like the firefighters.  Ask the Iraqis.

Full Court Press!

draft (0.00 / 0)
Forcing people to kill for you is wrong.

I agree that there should be a draft (0.00 / 0)

I you want health care, work hard. If you want universal health care, vote for liberals.

Backdoor draft (0.00 / 0)
I have mixed feelings about this, but it does seem to me we already have a backdoor draft: it's called lack of economic opportunity.  If public education systems are underfunded and attacked, which they are; and there is less need-based aid for college and more loans, which of course increases student debt; and there are fewer unionized jobs; and the military is offering recruiting bonuses of many thousands of dollars; then just how "volunteer" is our so-called "all volunteer" army for many lower-income men and women?  Probably the draft would be administered unfairly, but the current system is also administered unfairly, and it seems to me that a draft would certainly make foreign policy choices hit closer to home for a lot more people. 

Progressives Beware Anytime Anybody Takes A Position that Would Make a Neocon Smile (0.00 / 0)
@David Sirota "if you believe we need a military to defend this country, and if you believe we need police and firefighters and community service workers, why do you think its moral that OTHER people should do that FOR society, rather than EVERYONE"

Ha-ha, yeah, I think we need police and firefighters, etc. but I don't think we need to draft them.

David, you can send yours, but I'm not sacrificing my kids in order to make others begin to give a shit about stopping this deadly insanity. I'll tell you when my kids (and myself as well - if they'd let me) will enlist and fight and that's when this country is in true danger - and with all the damn lies and liars - the only way to know that "fer sure" would be to see the enemy on our shores. Anyhoo, you go ahead and sacrifice your kids for whatever cause you feel is worthwhile. keep your damn hands off of mine. P.S. If my kids were drafted they would be forced to participate in activities such as deadly forced occupations - and also possibly having to kill innocents - and none of that is acceptable to me. And I find it unlikely that it would be acceptable to anyone who knows what's happened and what is happening Now... Speaking of NOW. NOW I'm suspicious. Perhaps you are just having a huge stink bomb brain fart/perhaps you've been compromised/perhaps you are another DINO (democrat in name only). I don't know, but as far as misunderstanding your position, I don't think I have. I don't know what you are up to, but I do not that your "position" is not one that many/most progressives would take, it is sketchy (at best), AND it has an ungodly number or logical flaws and fallacies.

Oh one more thing. Please enlist and go to Iraq... and purposely step on a land mine - I'm sure that your unnecessary death will get many of your friends and family more active and more serious than ever before. So will you do it? Will you sacrifice yourself? Or have you lost interest in this idea? (I won't be holding my breath.)

*[new] Thanks for understanding (0.00 / 0)
Even though I oppose this war, I would still go.....I don't think I could live with myself seeing friends die just so I wouldn't have to - I would want to be right there with them.
Also, with a political career in mind, it would be impossible NOT to go. by: scanman1722

How is it better that you die with them or to get to watch them die? It's better that you oppose and resist on ethical and humanitarian grounds. So, we can stop this, right? As for worrying about your political career - come on - you can't be serious - have you no idea how many senators, congressman, vice-presidents and presidents have had no military experience? - mamy of them getting as much as 5 military deferments. And damn if I can see how any one who is truly horrified by the inhuman death, destruction, torture, mutilation, and misery that we have caused in Iraq (for example. Damn if I can see how anyone decent could give their political career priority over it - especially when, like I said, in America you do not have to have military service to get elected. Anyhoo, if that's how you think, please tell me who you are so I can make sure NOT to vote for you AND to do my best to work against you. We've got enough people (in gov't) who put their career ahead of everything else already.

*[new] Isn't it shocking (0.00 / 0)
that my generation can still see it in their hearts to be patriotic and sacrifice for their country after being lied to about this war for four years? It amazes me.
by: scanman1722

awww, isn't that sweet. It brings tears to the eyes of the neocon in me. LOL No doubt comments that Von Rusfeld would like as well. Anyhoo, it's not shocking, not at all, because... it's not true. If that were the case, then we would not have need to be offering such huge financial enticements, to raise the age to 42, and to be talking about the draft.

and hey, you tell me...when was the last time our military was needed to actually defend our county? (and I'm not talkin' about from an attack by 20 people with box cutters) When was the last time that we went into an honorable, truly needed, and worthwhile war? The FACT is that this country, our country is safe - "why shucks taint no country coming over hyar - we'd nuke them into the twilight zone. So have no fear and don't you be a tryin' to spread no fear. We gots nothin' to worry about. We still be hyar next year."

Insulting, Threatening, and Idiotic (0.00 / 0)
Wow, it's been a long time since I've read an essay that was burned me on so many levels.

1) Insulting: All of this talk about the morality of a draft (whether for military or civilian projects) effectively glorifies a subset of human activities, while diminishing all others. Why is a soldier morally superior to me? Do all socially beneficial activities require the threat of sudden death? What about engineers and scientists who forgo most leisure time to improve our lives (including military technology)? How about the doctors who are on call constantly? How about those who spend all of their leisure time working on a project that they think is REALLY beneficial to society (whether it is art, an invention, or developing open source software)? How about those who take care of sick relatives and neighbors. Apparently none of these things matter, and all of these activities can be cut short if the draft board decides that "society" would be better off if the person picked up trash along a highway. And we are considered selfish if we prefer to rely on freedom of choice to guide our lives, and professional service to guide our economy.

2) Threatening: Any draft system threatens to seriously disrupt the lives of millions, and will put many of them in harm's way. Any suggestion that we should just let that happen is a threat to me and everyone I care about. This threat can be mitigated by making dangerous service voluntary (either by giving alternatives or permitting domestic military service), but we're still talking about serious disruption to our lives and communities.

3) Idiotic: Much of this argument for a draft is based on the completely speculative theory that a draft will move society and politics in a progressive direction. It just as likely could trigger an outright rebellion (as people see the government as a threat to their lives), or conversely it could result in an authoritarian society where military discipline conditions everyone to just go along with the President's orders. The truth is that we have no idea of what to expect from social engineering schemes like this--and yet we are expected to disrupt millions of lives and squander billions of dollars in the hope that it will generate some sort of beneficial outcome.

Vietnam: a single data point (0.00 / 0)
"Many historians believe anti-war pressure during the Vietnam War only really changed public policy when, in 1969, the draft lottery was created."

At least read a stats book before you pretend to be scientist or an engineer.


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