The Military Draft

There are advantages and disadvantages to bringing the draft back. At some level, conscription helps society by growing up those who refuse to do it on their own.

Boot Camp has a way of teaching recruits how to function under stress. (Of course, some slouch, rather than excel, their way through. And the fleet takes care of ’em.) It also instills patriotic pride. A draft-based military helps mix society and ensures everyone has skin in the game.

The disadvantages lie in those who are unwilling. Fragging is the not the highest form of patriotism. I’ve heard and read of too many horror stories about draftees.

I don’t want to serve with someone who did not volunteer for the World’s Finest Navy. I’ve had Sailors working for me whom I’ve had to remind of the conscious nature of their situation. No one forced them into the uniform.

Thomas RIcks has an exceedingly poor argument about why we should bring the draft back:

Since the end of the military draft in 1973, every person joining the U.S. armed forces has done so because he or she asked to be there. Over the past decade, this all-volunteer force has been put to the test and has succeeded, fighting two sustained foreign wars with troops standing up to multiple combat deployments and extreme stress.

This is precisely the reason it is time to get rid of the all-volunteer force. It has been too successful. Our relatively small and highly adept military has made it all too easy for our nation to go to war — and to ignore the consequences.

Get rid of the volunteer military because we have been successful? And it is too easy to go to war, really? The military declares war on no one. We follow the civilian leadership. The problem he bemoans is Congress’ and the President’s doing, not ours.

It almost sounds as if he wants us less able. We should be punished because we have been successful.

Politicians scream for the draft, but the attempts to bring it into discussion have mostly been political. I won’t mention them by name, but whenever I hear the draft discussed by our pols, it is not to improve the military. No, it is to win cheap political points.

The bottom line: I don’t see us instilling a draft anytime soon. The public is smart on this issue and senses that our military will only diminish in capability. Truly, there is no backbone or appetite for the move. And we have plenty of smart, able-bodied men and women to fill our ranks.

A draft may be good for some of the populace, but not for our fighting force. Or am I wrong? Does not Tom Ricks’ argument linked to above sound misplaced?

Hand Salute: Bookworm (for firing me up!)

45 thoughts on “The Military Draft”

  1. Got me a little fired up as well.

    The idea that we would be in less wars if we were weaker is just stupid. Its doubly stupid to use human lives as cannon fodder to make us weaker. We are too successful at providing national security, one of the few things the Constitution mandates the federal government shall do? WTF?

    The cost of being less successful is death. So not only does he advocate increasing losses on the battlefield he puts the citizens at home at risk. Hey jack hole, you want to fight the bad guys over here in our streets? You don’t dull your blade because the knife cuts to well, its a knife that’s its job.

    This guy writes for the Washington Compost, nuff said on that one. The number one reason why this is absurd is because Carl Marx would love his article.

    I agree with you but I’ll help you refine your argument. It is not the job of the federal government to help those in society who refuse to grow up. It is neither good for the populace or the fighting force.

    1. I liked your response so well, I forwarded it on to the WaPo with some of my own comments, Darren…and I hope you don’t mind…it was well said..I have an account there and I add my two cents in at every available opportunity..I guess I should have asked first, but the attitude and behavior of this so-called journalist was absolute idiocy and it ticked me off sufficiently to call him on it; these are the useful idiots and they will ultimately have their own heads handed to them…and I told him so…I never wait to find out if they actually post anything really, but it still needs to be said…k

      1. I don’t mind at all, thank you for the compliment. There is no copyright on the values this country was founded on. Most likely 99% (pun intended) of the Washington Compost “journalists” have no idea where the term useful idiots comes from. They also have no idea how history has treated them.

        Its unfortunate that so few understand what is happening.

  2. Having served in Vietnam, I can relate very well with this. I actually felt sorry for the draftees they didn’t want to be there, and honestly I didn’t want them there either. Yes there were some very good draftees, but for the most part many just plain didn’t want anything to do with the service.

    Timing in life is everything, what I would give to be in the military today, their dedication and professionalism puts our military far above any other government department! I’m sure we could do better controlling costs, but not at the expense of our military. I saw a statistic where only “0.45% of Americans”, serve in the military, that truly is a sad number! Even with that said, this group of very brave, intelligent young men and women out preform the other 99.55% on a daily basis.

    Politicians are not role models, actors aren’t role models, journalists are not role models…… I believe in the American military, are they perfect? No…..but pretty damn close!

  3. Darren: RGR all. You’re right that it is not the government’s job to grow people up, but it is a nice perk. . .
    Kris: Good idea.
    bartdp: .45%? Wow. I did not realize it was that low. I knew it to be small, but not 1 in 200+ tiny. . .

  4. I have mixed feelings, also. It was draftees who fought WWII, Korea and half of Vietnam. The horror stories coming from fragging’s in Vietnam mostly centered on dumb ass leaders sending combat vets into stupid fights. Bad leadership! For most of us, we knew we would have to go into the Army if we waited, so we joined the Navy, AF and Marines to get out of serving in the Army. And the majority of those who were drafted served honorably, and they are better citizens today for that service. Only a few had to experience the horror of war, but still all carry the pride of putting on the boots and dog tags every day for a few years. When I look at those who are on their third or fourth tour ‘over there’I can’t help but wish there were more serving to lessen that number. Yes, some would volunteer to go back over and over, but most would be happy to do their tour and be done with it. I would vote for a three commitment for both men and women, yet give them the choice of service branch.

    1. Just to get these numbers correct…..

      25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees.

      Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.

      Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.

      Reservists killed: 5,977.

      National Guard: 6,140 served; 101 died.

      Total draftees (1965-73): 1,728,344.

      Actually served in Vietnam: 38%

      Marine Corps draft: 42,633.

      Last man drafted: June 30, 1973.

      Race and Ethnic Background

      88.4% of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasian; 10.6% (275,000) were black; 1% belonged to other races.

      86.3% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasian (includes Hispanics);

      12.5% (7,241) were black; 1.2% belonged to other races.

      170,000 Hispanics served in Vietnam; 3,070 (5.2% of total) died there.

      70% of enlisted men killed were of Northwest European descent.

      86.8% of the men who were killed as a result of hostile action were Caucasian; 12.1% (5,711) were black; 1.1% belonged to other races.

      14.6% (1,530) of non-combat deaths were among blacks.

      34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.

      Overall, blacks suffered 12.5% of the deaths in Vietnam at a time when the percentage of blacks of military age was 13.5% of the total population.

      Religion of Dead:

      Protestant — 64.4%; Catholic — 28.9%; other/none –6.7%.

      Socio-Economic Status

      76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.

      Three-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle income backgrounds.

      Some 23% of Vietnam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.

      79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service.
      (63% of Korean War vets and only 45% of WWII vets had completed high school upon separation.)

      82% of veterans who saw heavy combat strongly believe the war was lost because of lack of political will.

      Nearly 75% of the public agrees it was a failure of political will, not of arms.

      Honorable Service

      97% of Vietnam-era veterans were honorably discharged.

      91% of actual Vietnam War veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country.

      66% of Vietnam vets say they would serve again if called upon.

      87% of the public now holds Vietnam veterans in high esteem.

      According to the 2000 Census, 4 out of 5 claiming service in Vietnam are liars!

    2. Coffey, have to disagree with you on one point. My old man used to tell me about how he’d face off with the drug users all the time, arresting them, NJPing them, breaking up their rings, etc. They tried to frag him as well. Fragging leaders whether they are bad or not doesn’t make one right. It makes one a murderer. One time they had caught one of the druggies and was interviewing him. My dad just happened to walk out of the room right before someone tossed a grenade through the window. These guys fragged one of their own to keep his mouth shut.

  5. Agree Navy One with the exception of “everyone has skin in the game”. There were a lot of exceptions/deferments mostly because of money/politics, but this administration (via the WaPo) likes class warfare.

  6. Most of the NAVY in country Viet Nam were “double” volunteers. You volunteered to join the NAVY or AF to prevent being drafted into the Army or Marines. The AF was tough to get into ( I tried, young and dumb ) the NAVY not so. Then you volunteered to go in country. Most of the NAVY was stationed in the Mekong delta region. Drank lots of PBRs, but drugs? Didn’t see or hear of any in that part of the country. Fragging? Didn’t happen there. Why? Don’t know for sure but in my opinion it had a lot to do with being a volunteer/volunteer. We didn’t do drug testing nor did we have to blow into the tube. How about now a days? Don’t hear much about drug or other problems with the all volunteer services. Except wizzing on a dead terrorist BFD.

  7. Thomas Ricks is just hoping that the public will return to the good ol’ anti-war rally days if we have a draft. He saw that the current “anti-war” posers couldn’t get traction and eventually became outnumbered at their rallies.

  8. NavyDavy: Unfortunately, there are elites who will never have skin in the game. Sad.
    CargoS: That is it. The good old days, for them. . .

  9. Of course I’m biased, my family is a military family, my Dad was Navy 14 years, 1940 through 1954. Older brother was AF ROTC, 15 years. I’m the sloucher……only 3 years in the Army (11E) I have a son 2LT Army currently serving! I never was anti draftee, just anti draft too. As for fragging during Vietnam, I never saw it……(3rd Sqdn 4th Cav 25 ID) That must have been a basecamp problem. (Last post on this subject, sorry)

  10. One point about the dynamics during the Vietnam War, as cited by McCaffrey. Problems in the ranks did not stem from draftees, but from draft-induced volunteers.

    I also am concerned that the people who send our troops to war increasingly have no military background, and their children do not join the military. Politicians are very far removed from what it actually means to go to war, other than to press the button on their voting machines.

  11. I have nothing against reinstituting the draft. I’d add a couple conditions, though:

    First, create a separate service, with a distinctive uniform and a separate (much lower) pay scale for draftees.

    Second, restrict the draftees from combat arms and combat support positions. Back when I first came in the army (I’m a retired Viet vet) the dregs got shoved into the infantry, artillery, or armor, while the smart boys were tapped to learn electronics or mechanics or medics or as clerks. Today’s combat arms requires more intelligence and self-motivation than were desirable in the old STRAC days. The CIB’s a mark of honor now.

    The net result would be to “put the nation back in touch with the military,” and at the same time to enhance the prestige of the volunteer force — the different uniform would distinguish them at a glance.

    As a side benefit, the draftees would (usually) be out of range of live ammunition even while they contributed to the war effort.

  12. “We should be punished because we have been successful.”

    The liberal worldview in a nutshell.

  13. Bart: Post as much as you want!
    Susan: Hmm, interesting point.
    Fred: Also interesting. I think that would impel more folks to volunteer.
    Alan: Sadly yes. . .

  14. Although I’ve not served, I’m conflicted about a draft for national service. I think Vietnam is poorly chosen example (I had two brothers serve in the Navy, in combat in Vietnam.) During WWII, there was a national consensus that was very black and white. There was a draft, but voluntary recruitment was quite high as well. So the although the draftee class had it’s normal share of miscreants, there were probably many more who shrugged and said “It’s my duty.” Moving on to Vietnam (Korea was a transition between the two models,) the lack of political will existed from the very earliest days of the war in the 50s. When it became a hot war for Americans, like Korea, it was without a Congressional declaration. Once we stepped over that line, I think the usefulness of a draft was gone.

    My Dad was a Navy doctor for 25+ years and I think through the 40s and 50s you could call him conservative. By the mid 60s though, he thought Vietnam was a mistake. Part of that view was informed by his duties at BUMED, doing fitness reviews. He saw both sides, both the loosening of standards and the deferments for the privileged (the two may have fed on one another) and fought it as best he could, but ultimately retired in 1967.

    I think we should either continue with the all volunteer approach or have mandatory national service. The random selection approach is patently unfair if we leave loopholes for the privileged and then erode the standards when those loopholes leave us short.

  15. I don’t want some drugged out, immature, draftee next to me when I do my crew drills. I’m a 14E, now stationed in Korea. A draft would KILL the army. If the lefties want a draft, fine. No deferments and they should go first. All of them. See how they like boot camp.

  16. 1. Read the comment(s) with statistical summaries on Vietnam. Have no reason to doubt them. However they are misleading.
    2. When I lost my college deferment, received draft notice immediately. In a fairly wealthy area, they were high up in the numbers from the first lottery and my number was 4.
    3. My sin was not being able to afford to stay in college. This loan business was not operative back then,
    4. By the time I reached my unit, I had had numerous opportunities to get out of serving in the infantry and blew them all.
    5. The Army had a hierarchy of needs. The least talented became cooks, drivers or grunts.
    6. My unit was roughly 40% black, lots of Mexicans (our word for any Hispanic) and some white guys who were generally rednecks, morons or totally obnoxious.
    7. The unit I was sent to in Germany, later on, was about 80% black soldiers.
    8. There was constant racial turmoil, of course.
    9. OTOH, saw no fraggings.
    10. Suspect the racial balance in the support units and outfits you had to volunteer to get into helped steer the numbers into the territory quoted by earlier commenters.
    11. Look at unit photographs and count for yourself.
    12. And remember: even in an infantry company, you had clerks, drivers, supply types, cooks. The composition of the rifle platoons is the truth teller.
    13. Examined photos and footage from our recent wars for information of that sort and am well convinced of impeccable demographic distributions achieved by the armed forces. If it matters.
    V/R JWest

  17. 80s Hoya: Your father might have just hit it on the head.
    Chockblock: I’m with you. The draft is a bad idea.
    JWest: Very astute perceptions on your part. Especially the part on hierarchy.

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  19. I should also say that I have a friend from high school (who is one of the most damaged people, I’ve ever known.) His Dad was an early 60s West Point grad and one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met. Think “The Great Santini” was fiction, no, my friend’s Dad was him. He once bragged to me about avoiding a fragging and from the way he abused his family it wasn’t really a stretch to imagine him abusing his troops. He was in-country in the mid 60s, before the draft was supplying a large percentage of personnel, so I don’t think the attempted fragging can be chalked up to drug-addled draftees in this case.

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