The Empircal Case Against The Draft

I wrote last week about Congressman Charles Rangel’s call for a resumption of the military draft. My primary opposition to the draft remains the fact that I don’t believe that the state has the right to force a person to engage in labor of any kind, especially labor that would likely involve serious death and injury. However, it’s worth pointing out that, philosophical arguments aside, the practical arguments that might be made in favor of reinstating the draft just don’t fly:

Regardless of one’s opinion of the management and progress of the war on terrorism, the concept of an all-volunteer force has been an amazing success by virtually any measure. The U.S. military is sustaining combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq while continuing to meet obligations around the globe. And even with unemployment rates near record lows, the military still has tens of thousands of young men and women on waiting lists to join the active-duty force.

What, then, about the argument that the majority of military volunteers come from minority groups, disadvantaged backgrounds, or otherwise from situations where they have nothing better to do than join the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps ? Well, that’s pretty much hogwash:

Each year about 180,000 men and women enlist in the active-duty forces (another 16,000 are commissioned as officers, and tens of thousands more, including many active-duty veterans, join the National Guard and the reserves). Those who enlist come from all parts of the country, from all races and ethnicities, and from households across the economic spectrum. Far from being concentrated among the poorly educated and economically disadvantaged, military recruits, the data show, represent the best of America’s youth. More than 90 percent of recruits have high school diplomas, compared with 80 percent of American youth overall. About two-thirds of today’s recruits score in the upper half of standardized aptitude tests. Military recruits are also more physically fit than American youth in general, and they are subject to strict character screening.

Finally, recruits come disproportionately from neighborhoods with above-average incomes. This was true before the war with Iraq, and it remains true today. In fact, those recruited during the war are more likely to come from affluent neighborhoods than are those who were recruited before the war.

In other words, we don’t need the draft to fight the War on Terror, and we don’t need the draft to alleviate some alleged socio-economic discrimination. Put more succinctly, we don’t need the draft.

  • Adam Selene

    Even if we \”needed\” conscription, it is morally abhorrent, or should be, to any one that believes in the \”rights of man\”. If we are in such dire straits that we need to mobilize our full manpower and we cannot do it voluntarily, we cannot, and should not, survive as a free society.

  • Doug Mataconis


    I agree 100%, but there are times that I think its important to point out that liberty, in addition to being right because its the right thing to do, is right because its the only thing that works

  • BillSylvania

    Just draft the “independent contractors”, they want to be in Iraq, then draft people from Halliburton. We cannot apply a draft to 300 million people to get a few thousand for one war.