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The Dumbest Argument for Restoring the Draft Yet

uncle-sam-we-want-you1

While I oppose bringing back military conscription, there are respectable arguments for doing so. The all-volunteer force allows the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful to avoid the burden of fighting our wars. It also makes sending young Americans into harm’s way easier.

But Dana Milbank offers a nonsensical reason for denying our youth the freedom to choose their own path:

There is no better explanation for what has gone wrong in Washington in recent years than the tabulation done every two years of how many members of Congress served in the military.

A Congressional Quarterly count of the current Congress finds that just 86 of the 435 members of the House are veterans, as are only 17 of 100 senators, which puts the overall rate at 19 percent. This is the lowest percentage of veterans in Congress since World War II, down from a high of 77 percent in 1977-78, according to the American Legion. For the past 21 years, the presidency has been occupied by men who didn’t serve or, in the case of George W. Bush, served in a capacity designed to avoid combat.

It’s no coincidence that this same period has seen the gradual collapse of our ability to govern ourselves: a loss of control over the nation’s debt, legislative stalemate and a disabling partisanship. It’s no coincidence, either, that Americans’ approval of Congress has dropped to just 9 percent, the lowest since Gallup began asking the question 39 years ago.

Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.

That few in Congress have served in the military is lamentable for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that it not only makes them less intimately familiar with the demands of combat but also tends to undermine civil-military relations by making our civilian leaders afraid to challenge our military brass. But the notion that having worn a military uniform somehow makes one immune from partisanship and foolishness is absurd.

Milbank provides no evidence for this assertion, by the way, other than the fact that Congress seems to be more dysfunctional that it used to be.

Off the top of my head, it’s not even obvious that current Members of Congress who are veterans are more willing to “make compromises for the good of the country” than their non-veteran peers. Certainly, recently-departed Representative Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel allowed to retire after escaping conviction for war crimes, didn’t fit that bill. Nor did Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, who served in the Army Reserve.

Looking at a slightly dated list of veterans in the House and Senate, one sees plenty of firebrands. Spencer Bachus. John Conyers. John Dingell. Louie Gohmert. Duncan Hunter. Darrell Issa. Peter King. Charlie Rangel. Bobby Rush. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson.  Jim Inhofe.

It’s interesting, though, that, of Congress’ senior leadership, only John Boehner (Navy) has served in uniform.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country

    It is indeed silly to blame lack of the draft for this problem. A large slice of American culture has gone down this dangerous path, and the “me first” population elects people that tell ‘em what they want to hear. I have always thought Mr. Obama’s biggest problem is that he repeatedly overestimates the American people’s ability to think, reason and see the big picture.

    The draft would solve this to an extent – at least as far as warmaking goes. The me-first folks would be forced to serve just like those with a propensity toward national service, and the large majority of military folks that just want a good career with a low barrier to entry – and are willing to sacrifice significant personal freedom to get it.

    To be sure the other arguments for a national draft are much stronger. Anything that slows down the rush to war is a positive – even if it’s cynical selfishness on the part of a Senator worried about their child in uniform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  2. bill says:

    maybe we need another world war, then there will be more veterans to serve down the line? i don’t know that 20% of my workforce are vets, not a bad number either way. from what i hear, military leaders prefer the volunteer system vs. forcing people (who don’t want to be there) to accomplish tasks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    People forget that the draft, over the course of American history, was an anomaly, and that for most of our time as a nation, the large majority of men did not serve in the military.

    In the 75 year period between the Civil War and World War II, for example, apart from a two year blip in 1917-1918, there was no draft (and even the WWI draft only drafted 13% of American men) and very few Americans served. Being a soldier was, in fact, about as low on the social ladder as one could go.

    And the main period of conscription only ran from 1940 to 1973, a 33 year period, and even then the majority of men eligible for the draft were never inducted into the military. (In World War II, for example, out of about 50 million draft age men, only 10 million were actually inducted).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    Basically the draft is one of the many national myths we tell ourselves. We believe that in the past, all American men served in the military, when in fact for most of our history most men didn’t. Having a large group of legislators with military experience is an historical anomaly brought on by WWII and is not the normal state of things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    Also, if you go back and look at the 83 year period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, you’ll also find that apart from a few blips for the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and Indian skirmishes, very few American men, and fewer Congressmen and Senators, ever served anywhere near the military.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Stonetools says:

    Yeah, these arguments are dumb. But let’s not pretend that something isn’t lost when the current volunteer system essentially exempts upper income people from serving in the military, especially when some of those people are serving in Congress and are banging drums enthusiastically for the next war. Meanwhile the “next war” tends to get fought by people who are overwhelmingly from lower income groups. Of course the war hawks bang on about how they ” support the troops”- from thousands of miles away from the front lines. If I was one of those troops I’d want to slap one of those war hawks upside the head.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. Andy says:

    Yes, dumbest reason out of a long list of very dumb reasons.

    But I’m surprised to you wrote this:

    The all-volunteer force allows the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful to avoid the burden of fighting our wars. It also makes sending young Americans into harm’s way easier.

    Neither of those things is true. The sons and daughters of the wealthy and power can always avoid the draft. That many chose not to avoid it over the last 200 years is a testament their character.

    Secondly, the notion that the AVF makes wars “easier” is not supported by any empirical evidence and is contradicted by the historical record.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  8. wr says:

    Milbank, like many deep thinkers in Washington, is really good at coming up with ways to fundamentally remake society that don’t happen to inconvenience him at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  9. C. Clavin says:

    You failed to mention Cheney who got a bunch of deferments and still became a war criminal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @Andy:

    The sons and daughters of the wealthy and power can always avoid the draft. That many chose not to avoid it over the last 200 years is a testament their character.

    As I said above, there wasn’t a draft over the last 200 years. Over the last 200 years we only had an active draft from 1861-1865, 1917-1918, and 1940-1973, for a grand total of 39 years. The draft is the exception, not the rule.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. john personna says:

    I’ve been open to National Service because, as I’ve said, with an 80 year life expectancy, why not. A 2 year hitch is no big. But that would depend on finding a lot of easy work for the kids, because there aren’t enough serious defense jobs to go around.

    I think Milbank’s mathematical error is in thinking that a “draft” would affect many, and that the “drafted” would be suited to the work.

    A modern draft, seeking suitable drone operators, would affect far too few for his purposes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  12. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    The politics of the all-volunteer force definitely greased the skids going into Iraq II.

    It was essentially the dog that did not bark. No one said “Hell no, I won’t go.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    That few in Congress have served in the military is lamentable for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that it not only makes them less intimately familiar with the demands of combat

    Um, even most people who’ve served in the military aren’t familiar with the demands of combat. Only a small minority of servicemembers ever get into actual combat with the enemy, the majority serve in support and/or non-frontline functions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. john personna says:

    (I suppose we could train a 10-million man (and woman) standing army, with old fashioned kit. They could build river levies when not drilling with 10 pound rifles. That might satisfy Milbank, and fans of Turner Classic Movies.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Andy: There were ways for the sons of the rich to avoid the draft—whether paying someone to serve in their stead in the Civil War era or going to college/getting into the Guard in the Vietnam era—but the default position was service and many indeed served. In the all-volunteer era, few from the top quintile serve and few from the bottom quintile are able to meet the requirements of service. Consequentally, almost all of the modern force comes from the three middle quintiles; it’s a middle class force.

    It’s true that we’ve had lots of wars, seemingly irrespective of whether we had a draft on. But we don’t have anything like the pressure that ended the Vietnam War today, partly because our wars are killing fewer of our boys but also partly because our wars are fought by a professional warrior class.

    @Rafer Janders: Most of even those who serve in combat zones are never shot at. But even those in the combat support and service support roles undergo combat training and have exposure to the rigors of combat conditions, field duty, sea deployment, and the like. Those without any service have none of that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Andy says:

    @Rafer Janders: I’m familiar with the history and it doesn’t support the idea that a draft forces elites into military service or prevents stupid wars.

    @john personna: What made Iraq possible was a large, standing, expeditionary ground force. There’s no evidence that the war would not have happened or been made “harder” if that force was manned with conscripts instead of volunteers.

    @john personna: It’s been a while since I looked at the numbers, but as I recall around 4 million people each year turn 18 in this country. So if the term of service was 2 years, that would be a labor pool of 8 million people with half turning over every year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    You are just begging incredulity. It seems pretty basic that whenever you have a system of wartime draft, those people who face the lottery will have a great personal interest in avoiding wars.

    You say you see no evidence of that, well duh. There was no such cohort.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. john personna says:

    To be clear, I am speaking of the people who fear being called up, not those already in.

    I’m quite confident that in a “draft counterfactual” there would be many who feared being called up, and probably some would be. Remember the enlistment efforts, and the extra tours demanded of the National Guard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    American history tells us that the military draft and automatic conscription doesn’t always churn out auto-patriotism. The Civil War and World War 1 has a lot of draft dodging, in fact, a lot more than the War in Vietnam engendered.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    DId you really mean that nonsensical bit about making our civilian leaders afraid to challenge military brass ??? Can you spell DADT ???

    At the risk of imperiling your recent ascendancy, give me a break. Nowadays, those stars and bars come with a free set of cammy kneepads individually sized and blessed. Plus there’s a new course requirement at all the staff colleges for proper breast-beating and genuflecting.

    Listen up, my good sir, the problem with the cancellation of the military draft is the same as on Day One. It sends a message to the menfolk of America (and God wasn’t that inclusion of women in the restored military draft by Mr. Milbank a fine bit of legerdemain) that they don’t have an individual responsibility to protect their country and society.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  21. john personna says:

    @this:

    Down-voter, don’t you want as many experiences as possible in your 80 years?

    Is it so important to get out of the school rut and into the job rut?

    (Once people get into the job and family groove, it’s a lot of years before they have real options for change.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. jib10 says:

    @Andy:

    So if the term of service was 2 years, that would be a labor pool of 8 million people with half turning over every year.

    This is why the military does not want the draft back. Way too much churn. Roughly speaking you spend your first year learning the job and the second year training the new guys on your job. And then your done. NCO’s spend all their time riding herd over green troops (how many jobs can you really get good at in just a few months? Do you want some one that green working on your helicopter before you take off?)

    You need 4 years of service for the quality to not suffer. Then your looking at a force of 16 million. Since we dont need anywhere close to that many (current size is approx 1.5 million) there will have to be a lottery on who goes and who does not, with deferments no doubt. Of course drafting people for 4 years is a much harder sell than 2 years. And with most people getting out of the draft (only about 12% would need to be drafted), it would seem really unfair to the people who do get drafted to be forced to spend 4 years in service

    The solution (assuming there is really a problem) is a general public service draft (non-military) of 2 years. Draft everyone, no exceptions but if you volunteer for military service (4 years), you can get out of general service. It probably would be good for most kids to spend 2 years doing something before they go to college or into the job market but it would be a huge and expensive govt program, a massive govt intervention into citizens private lives, and as Rafer has pointed out given our history, fundamentally un-American.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. dunce says:

    It may be called the draft, but it is actually involuntary servitude also known as slavery. Not too surprising coming from a liberal that believes all people belong to the state. There is little difference in who holds the title when you are no more than property.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  24. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    You are just begging incredulity. It seems pretty basic that whenever you have a system of wartime draft, those people who face the lottery will have a great personal interest in avoiding wars.

    I think they would have a great personal interest in avoiding the draft. But we’re not talking about individual actions here – we’re talking about the effects of policy. The claim is that the absence of a draft makes wars “easier.” That contention is simply not supportable no matter what the conventional wisdom might indicate. In fact, there is evidence to support the opposite conclusion. Two examples:

    Vietnam would not have been possible without the draft. A draft was the only way the government could get enough troops to both defend Europe from the Soviets as well as fight in Vietnam. There were not enough volunteers to do both. The benefit of the AVF is that manpower is limited. That forces policymakers to prioritize. With a draft you can face off the Soviets at the Fulda Gap and still have the manpower to fight a major war on the other side of the planet.

    WWI – Wilson tried to raise an army to fight in WWI using only volunteers. He did not get enough, so the government instituted a draft. Without a draft we likely would not have participated in WWI. Someone needs to explain how a volunteer military made our participation in WWI more likely and how a draft made it less likely.

    If we had a draft today, our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan likely would have been much larger because it would be relatively easy to simply call up more manpower – which is exactly what happened in Vietnam. Instead, Congress had a debate about increasing the size of the AVF, but even with the marginal increases that were approved, the military had to lower standards to meet recruitment goals and the Generals never had the number of troops they really wanted for the so-called COIN operations. The reason is the war was unpopular and in a volunteer military people can vote with their feet, which is what they did.

    While it may be “common wisdom” the notion that a draft somehow restrains policymakers or causes the population to become politically active enough to end or prevent wars has little, if any, basis.

    And let’s suppose for a minute we had a draft, giving us ready access to a lot of manpower and a much larger military. Suddenly an invasion of Iran or Syria becomes militarily feasible….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    I think you should really have lower confidence when arguing against a counter-factual which you implicitly acknowledge.

    We agree that “they would have a great personal interest in avoiding the draft.”

    I give that weight. You are extremely confident that it would have no weight.

    Go figure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. jib10 says:

    @Andy: Agree. I have not found any evidence that having a draft deters wars. It could be the size of the standing military, volunteer or drafted, that determines how easy it is to get into war. If the prez has enough troops he can deploy them on his own orders and ask congress for permission after the fact. In theory, if he does not have enough troops, he will have to go congress to get authorization and funding for increasing the size of the military.

    Except that appears to not be much of an obstacle either. How many times were troops deployed during the banana wars? We had a very small military and no draft but the Marines were in almost constant combat from 1898 to 1934. Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler, 2 time winner of the MOH, wrote this after his career was over:

    I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

    What seems to matter most is the character of the people we elect. If they want to go to war, they will go to war and there seems to be damn little we can do to stop it. We do have more power over ending it once it starts but we do that by kicking out the people who started the war but that is always a huge mess.

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  27. dazedandconfused says:

    James,

    Just in case you urked and stopped reading too soon on this article, the last part really takes the biscuit:

    The costs would be huge. But so would the benefits: overcoming growing social inequality without redistributing wealth; making future leaders, unlike today’s “chicken hawks,” disinclined to send troops into combat without good reason; putting young Americans to work and giving them job and technology skills; and, above all, giving these young Americans a shared sense of patriotism and service to the country.

    Enormous cost without re-distributing wealth…the way ours is currently distributed?

    Scrub green tile for a couple years and bingo, no more chicken hawks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    We agree that “they would have a great personal interest in avoiding the draft.”

    I give that weight. You are extremely confident that it would have no weight.

    Go figure.

    No, you have it backwards, you are the one that is confident that it would have “weight.” I’m simply pointing out that this hasn’t been true historically. Could the future be different? Of course, but that is pure conjecture and should not be the basis of policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. B Thomas says:

    Actually I think the draft should be re-instated with one difference. It should be open to people of all ages up to 60 years old. With no exceptions. To be fair and non-discriminatory people of all ages and walks of life should be selected in equal proportions.

    The young are all well and good for jobs that require prime physical abilities, but there are many jobs in the Military that do not require great physical health (though older people can be trained). Professionals, such as writers, politicians, accountants and teachers can be drafted. The older people have experience and would be able to ramp up and be productive much faster than the youth of the US. Beside many already have the skill sets needed to do the job.

    It is much easier to offer up a draft and a life altering event if you do not have to participate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. stonetools says:

    I’m afraid that Team Anti Draft appear to be so committed to squelching anti-draft arguments that they are going overboard in insisting that today’s volunteer military is the best of all possible worlds. James seems to want to discount the extent to which economic circumstances are a strong force pushing people into the military. For him the military is all a professional warrior class made up of people happy to serve for God and country.
    In reality , lots of those are in the military for economic reasons-they got a girl pregnant and they have to provide, or the military is their ticket out of a dead end job or dead end town or the ghetto. There is a reason why half of all the women in the military are minority , and its NOT because minority women are hyper patriotic. Quite a few are in the military because the military offers housing and the kind of benefits they couldn’t get in a civilian job. The folks who are re-upping in Iraq(pre-2008) and Afghanistan also aren’t doing so because they just love them some combat : they are doing so because their civilian job prospects often suck.

    Similarly, I have to agree with JP vs Andy. It must play SOME part that the people Congress are sending to war aren’t the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful who have the ears of Congress. Its just easier to send a bunch of minority youth and coal miner’s kids off to some war than the kids of Princeton and Harvard alumni. Congressmen are happy to thank such kids “for their service” while secretly being happy that none of their kids (or the kids of people they know) won’t be any where near the front lines of their “splendid little wars”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  31. JohnMcC says:

    Just a couple of historical facts to perhaps give a little nuance: First, the historical tendency of our country to not have military conscription was not because the Founders and subsequent political leaders preferred a volunteer Army. They preferred having NO standing army. The Federalist Papers is full of references to the dangers a strong military has for a democracy. The lesson of the Romans who went from a Republic to an Empire and their own experiences with the British Army before the Revolution were all the lessons they needed.

    Second, if the ‘job’ of the military is to ‘blow stuff up and kill people’ — a quote I recall from the Gulf War I period — it is no longer necessary or even helpful to have large formations of soldiers. The changes made by the digital and similar revolutionary economic forces have made the massed armies of the past an interesting historical study. Compare the number of employees Amazon needs to the number required by Sears & Roebuck during the WW2 period; the same forces that changed business have changed war-making. A very small force of technologically superior soldiers can unleash the most amazing hell on any given place at any time.

    Whether we are better off, and what we should do about it are separate discussions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. JohnMcC says:

    Another stray thought: The size of our milltary (in dollars, in manpower, in political muscle with congress — any way you want to slice it) is a reflection of what we think our safety requires. In the 21st century, we seem to need more ‘safety’ that the next ten (or more) nations of the world think they do. The amount of military might that we ‘have to have’ is — IMHO — far, far beyond ‘excessive’.

    We should find some way to reduce our military commitments and then reduce the size of our military proportionally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. Eric Florack says:

    a leftist advocating the denial of freedom?
    Nah, couldn’t be, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  34. gVOR08 says:

    Hey, give Milbank a break. He knows how to end the dysfunction in Washington, but his superiors at WAPO won’t allow him to say it, so he has to write dumb stuff to fill a column. I’ll say it for him – Elect fewer Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  35. Barry says:

    James: “While I oppose bringing back military conscription, there are respectable arguments for doing so. The all-volunteer force allows the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful to avoid the burden of fighting our wars. It also makes sending young Americans into harm’s way easier.”

    Somebody once compared and contrasted the lists of names at Harvard for alumni dying in WWII and Vietnam. The latter list was far shorter than the raw death counts would imply.

    Contrary to your belief, James, the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful were quite able to avoid the draft; the default option of serving was only the default for the working class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. JohnMcC says:

    @Barry: Our friend Dr Joyner is both a veteran and the son of a career Army NCO (best as I recall). We have had a similar discussion; my contention that service in the peace-time military is destructive of the good parts of the human spirit did not sit well with him. Spare him the need to comment on the quality of the manpower that fills military payrolls during peacetime. He has an opinion formed in his childhood.

    I am serious about this.

    His opinion of the peace-time military service involves his opinion of his childhood family. As — in my own way — does mine. And possibly, my friend Barry, does yours. He has his rights to his opinion and we do not honor him nor ourselves by debating the issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. grumpy realist says:

    @dunce: The exact argument could be made about impressing pregnant women to be forced to support a fetus against her will. Involuntary servitude. At least in the army you don’t have forced organ donation.

    Surprising that the conservatives don’t see it that way….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @Andy: Maybe we should just have a mini-draft? “All offspring of congresscritters and politicians MUST serve in the army.”

    The sins of the father are carried out to the seventh generation, indeed.

    Actually, why not just say that any pro-war congresscritter should join up and put his money where his mouth is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    a leftist advocating the denial of freedom?
    Nah, couldn’t be, right?

    Privacy and freedom are preferred by the right – really? Yes, reinstituting the draft is in so many respects similar to the trans-vaginal probes that conservatives seem to prefer, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  40. Barry says:

    @JohnMcC: “He has his rights to his opinion and we do not honor him nor ourselves by debating the issue. ”

    I’m not debating that issue; you are the one who brought it up. I’m debating the idea that in a historical or hypothetical future draft the children of the elites won’t have outs.

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  41. Barry says:

    @grumpy realist: “Maybe we should just have a mini-draft? “All offspring of congresscritters and politicians MUST serve in the army.” ”

    Add ‘all pundits who advocate a draft must go themselves’, and ‘all politicians advocating a draft must go themselves’. Both regardless of age or prior service – for McCain, think of it as a Quarter Quell :)

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  42. grumpy realist says:

    @Barry: Well, if I ever run for POTUS part of my platform is that all TV talkshow participants and radio talkshow hosts, pundits included, get booted out at the end of three years and are then forced to be quiet for ten years. They get clapped up in one of those Greek monasteries carved out of rock and told to pray for ten years, no contact with the world.

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  43. cleverboots says:

    Restoring the draft is a horrible idea. I am a member of the Vietnam War generation and we were drafted for all the wrong reasons-a needless war that accomplished nothing of value and destroyed thousands of American lives. Bush and Obama have continued the 50 year idiocy of fighting pointless wars. There is no end to this in sight. It seems we are forever doomed to defend the interests of every country BUT the USA. Our entire mindset on defending OUR interests has turned into a mindset on any war any time. Until we get back to a policy of war as a LAST resort and only then if such a war would protect the USA from it’s enemies, we must not consider reinstituting the Draft, if in fact we ever do.

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  44. DrDaveT says:

    I am stunned that none of the many commenters here has made the obvious statistical point:

    There are ~23 million veterans in the US, which is about 10% of the adult population. 20% vets in Congress is a disproportionately high number.

    Yes, the percentage in Congress has declined — but it should. There were 30 million veterans in the US a few decades ago, 98% of them male. Congress was also essentially all male. Today, there are not only far fewer veterans (as WW2 vets die at a rate of several per minute), there are far more female Congresspersons, nearly all of whom were young adults in an era before women served in significant numbers.

    To a first approximation, what bozo here is actually decrying is the increase in women in Congress, augmented by our failure to fight a recent war that required 50 million soldiers. In his defense, he probably isn’t bright enough to realize that.

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  45. Thomas says:

    @stonetools: “I’m afraid that Team Anti Draft appear to be so committed to squelching anti-draft arguments that they are going overboard in insisting that today’s volunteer military is the best of all possible worlds.”

    You’re battling a straw man here.

    “”For him the military is all a professional warrior class made up of people happy to serve for God and country.”

    No, that actually wasn’t implied or suggested in his post. Good try though. At some point you might want to actually try addressing the points being made, though, rather than the ones you wish people were making because they’d be easier to argue against (“Anyone who’s against the draft just doesn’t care about inequality!!!!!!111!!!”)

    Anyways – it’s not so much that the all-volunteer military is the “best of all possible worlds” – rather, it’s more that it’s the lesser of two evils. While the arguments in defense of the draft (“it will reduce inequality in the military!” “it will stop unnecessary wars!”) are adorable in their idealism, the fact of the matter is that they don’t stand up to historical reality. If those arguing in favor of the draft were to actually look at how it worked in practice (and if they were to actually experience what it is to be a young male living in a time of military conscription), they would realize that ideals and reality don’t always match up.

    Yeah, a return to conscription would get more people protesting in the street – but it took more than eight years of “escalation” and mass protests to bring the Vietnam War to an end. And in spite of the millions who did protest, there were millions of others who continued to support the war through to the end. Sometimes because they were blindly patriotic, sometimes because they had no vested interest (not everyone had a military-age son), and sometimes because they had lost a son there and they felt it would be a “disgrace” to “surrender.”

    As much as we like to look back and pretend that the Vietnam War brought all of America together in opposition to the military’s continued involvement in an unjust conflict, in reality a large portion of the country was always in support of the conflict. No matter how unjust and illogical our time in Vietnam seems now, there were and are people who defend it – and that group is MUCH larger than you’d like to imagine.

    And as for the inequality issue – the draft probably would help to an extent, but the benefit of having a more equal military would not in any way outweigh the enormous evil of forcing young people into servitude. Plus, as much as I hate to make the “argument from rock song,” all you have to do is listen to the song “Fortunate Son” (or a whole bunch of other protest songs from the 60s) to see that these concerns about a “class gap” in the military are not unique to the post-draft era.

    In short, “Team Anti Draft” (at least on this page) is largely arguing from an understanding of how things ACTUALLY turn out under a draft – they understand that, in reality, the draft doesn’t solve the problem of inequality in the military and it doesn’t end wars. In many cases, it has the exact opposite effect – it ensures that the military has the bodies it needs to continue any conflicts . (And in the mean time you have the immense evil of young men being forced into involuntary servitude to fight an immoral/unjust war.)

    On the other hand, Team “Maybe a draft isn’t such a bad idea” – you included – has only demonstrated its naivete and its lack of historical understanding.

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  46. Eric Florack says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Yes, reinstituting the draft is in so many respects similar to the trans-vaginal probes that conservatives seem to prefer, right?

    You have examples, or are you just spouting, again?

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