There’s No Good Reason To Bring Back The Draft….And Plenty Of Bad Ones
Motivated mostly by his opposition to the Iraq War, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, along with New York Congressman Charles Rangel, has been among the most vocal members of Congress talking about the idea of bringing back the draft, and forcing young men, and presumably women, into military service whether they like it or not.
Let’s leave aside for the moment the individual rights argument against the draft….and it is a powerful one in that it argues that no person should be forced to put their life at risk against their will, or otherwise forced to engage in “service to their country” that they don’t wish to perform, and ask ourselves if it is really militarily efficient.
According to a study requested by Congressman Murtha himself, the answer is no:
The report, requested by Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, says that drafting people could make it easier for the Army to reach its 2012 goal of 547,000 soldiers. It might also save some money if Congress opted to pay draftees less than volunteers. But the downside, the report claims, would be a less effective fighting force, thanks to a sudden influx of draftees who would remain in uniform for much shorter spells than todayâ€™s all-volunteer soldiers.
â€œUsually, greater accumulated knowledge and skills come with increased experience,â€ the report notes. â€œBecause most draftees leave after completing a two-year obligation, a draft might affect the servicesâ€™ ability to perform those functions efficiently.â€ To maintain the same capability, the CBO suggests, the Army might have to grow, which could eliminate any savings. On the other hand, increased training costs for draftees – with less time in uniform, more have to be trained – could be offset by cuts in advertising and bonuses now used to entice volunteer recruits.
The report says that while 91% of last yearâ€™s recruits were high school graduates, only 80% of U.S. residents aged 18 to 24 have attained that level of education. And high-school graduates, the military says, make better soldiers than dropouts. The CBO, which does not make recommendations but only charts options for lawmakers, estimates that somewhere between 27,000 and 165,000 would be drafted each year. That relative small slice – some 2 million males turn 18 each year – could resurrect the problems seen in the Vietnam era when deferments and friendly draft boards kept some well-connected young men out of uniform. Under current law, women could not be drafted.
If it doesnâ€™t make military or economic sense to launch the draft, what about the notion of fairness? Critics have claimed that minorities are over-represented in the all-volunteer military because they have fewer options in the civilian world. The CBO disputes that, saying that â€œmembers of the armed forces are racially and ethnically diverse.â€ African Americans accounted for 13% of active-duty recruits in 2005, just under their 14% share of 17-to-49-year-olds in the overall U.S. population. And minorities are not being used as cannon fodder. â€œData on fatalities indicate that minorities are not being killed [in Iraq and Afghanistan] at greater rates than their representation in the force,â€ the study says. â€œRather, fatalities of white service members have been higher than their representation in the force,â€ in large part because whites are over-represented in the militaryâ€™s combat, as opposed to support, jobs.
As more than one military expert has made clear in the years since 9/11, the draft simply doesn’t make sense in the modern military. In the past — whether it’s World War I, World II, Korea, or Vietnam — brute force of arms was a far more important factor on the battlefield than it is today. Today, it’s not the number of men that matter, it’s their ability to use and understand the technology of modern warfare that matters.
And that’s not something you can instill in a raw draftee off the streets the way you could teach him to march and shoot a rifle at Nazis or Japs in WW 2.
But that’s only part of the equation. The other part is the one I mentioned before, the individual rights part. Outside of an immediate threat to the internal security of the United States, what right does the Federal Government have to force me, you, or our children to fight and die in a foreign land ? None that I can think of and, quite honestly, the Thirteenth Amendment would seem to make clear that no person can be forced into servitude against their will.
And then there’s yet another part to the equation.
When a government is able force it’s citizens into military service, it has the ability to raise an army that can accomplish nearly anything, including expanding spheres of influence and creating empires. As Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state. And a state capable of making war when it wishes, is capable of expanding its power, both at home and abroad, far beyond what anyone ever intended.
H/T: Outside The Beltway