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11 October 2007


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China Hand

I have very little to say on the matter, but I think it is something folks Stateside should consider:

If there were compulsory military service, then the civilian awareness of what war actually is and what the violence actually means would increase exponentially. This, in my opinion, would be an unconditionally good thing.

If there were a compulsory draft, then the risks associated with war would also be shared equally, amongst the entire population. For those priviliged few who might opt into a Bush-family-style pseudo-service, then at the very least there would be a public recknoning of their cowardice and hypocrisy. For those masses who must watch while loved ones put their peaceful lives on hold in order to prosecute war against distant (and, in my opinion, utterly innocent) peoples, then there would be an entirely different kind of reckoning (and for otherwise uncritical, jingoist soldiers to get promoted, whether it be through elections or oppportunism).

Finally, by flooding the military with a mass of otherwise disinclined service members, the current reverence in which military service is held would be tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism and practical estimation. Currently I feel that both of these things are lacking, thus making it much easier for newspapers and magazines to sell distant violence as a rational and profitable alternative.

In the light of these three benefits, I think all other criticisms are merely selfish indulgences. Honestly -- and as much as I personally despise war, and the people who promote it -- I think that at this moment a draft is the best thing that could possibly happen to the United States.

That being said, I would not object to anyone who claimed conscientious objector status; nor would I object to thoughtful protestors who might fiercely and vocally condemn it. All of these things are good and healthy.

I would, however, sneer at the "rather wealthy" sorts who would prat on about its inconvenience -- and my fear is that these would be the ones who framed the public debates.

I am fully aware that there are excellent, honorable, dedicated people in the U.S. military. Yet there are also others who do not share any of those qualities. In the current environment, I think it is next to impossible for the United States public to distinguisn between the two -- nor do I think there is any motivation to make the offort.

I do not blame the military for this state of affairs; it is a responsibility that all our countrymen have shirked, these last few generations. I do, however, feel the military is in dire need of reform -- and it's my opinion that a draft would be the most effective means to that end.


First the good points, directly from my own experience with draftees:

1. If training is done properly, draftees return better for the experience. Your gang and ghetto problem disappears in a very few years. I've seen socially marginal utter criminal misfits turned into pillars of the community - and it was not an isolated occurrence either.

We even had to teach basic hygiene, bed making, clothes washing and worked up from there eventually finishing with basic financial budgetting and issues like insurance, this of course is in addition to military skills.

So point one - it can be viewed as a social program and also a great leveller.

2. It may change American society for the better by remedying the appalling narcissistic culture that has taken hold, in my opinion. Two years of getting by in the military will change peoples viewpoints. It did mine.

3. It provides an inexhaustible supply of men.


1. The professional officer corps will be in shock, because it's ranks will fill with reservists and conscripted junior Lieutenants that will "pollute" the purity of its power structures.

I myself was bemused by the antics of some of the "professionals" in the Australian Army - some of them were overgrown frat boys to use an American term, and they acted like it.

Ultimately the "amateurs" will threaten, and then take over from the "Professionals" - we had a saying "The professionals look after the army in peacetime."

The upheaval will be a problem.

2. Training and force structures will need to change.

3. It will be very very expensive.

All this of course, is predicated on certain assumptions.

(A) No escape from the draft, no exemptions, period. If the Cheneyesque system of deferments and suchlike is allowed to continue, the system will be perverted into yet another political fundraising tool, as the rich buy their kids way out.

(B) It applies to all females as well, starting with Paris Hilton.

(C) Use the Australian model, a years training, then a years posting. Giving people only three months training is just turning them into cannon fodder.

On second thoughts, you might like to consider the Swiss model, although its expensive, where everyone is in the army till about age fifty, and keep their rifle and uniform at home.


As one who went through the involuntary servitude of being drafted and then enlisting for three years, I am of two minds about the Army. It was a green prison with the pleasures of alcohol and cigarettes as the only compensation and with real dangers lurking outside the wire but also it was my first real job and it paid for my first car, a 69 Valiant. I survived.

The draft is an absolute necessary if we get in a pissing contest with China or Russia again, or if the USA attacks Iran. It is the one and only way to get the massed army necessary to counter theirs or to occupy the Middle East.

Without the troops to secure Iraq and Afghanistan, the occupations have failed. The stopgap measure of the voluntary army and lots of contractors has lost the war and the only question is when and how fast the withdrawal will take. The Surge wining Al Anbar Province is only propaganda covering the maneuvering on all sides to secure their power base for when the Americans leave.

Dave of Maryland

I sat dreading the day when the numbers would be pulled for the year & I would know if I was going to 'Nam. I had the same dread the next year when my brother Ken was up. I was years 2 of the lottery, he was year 3. Most numbers that year did not get drafted.

The draft was crap.

Only some had to go. People hated that so badly they had to make the process "fair" with a lottery of some sort.

Even then it was gamed. Even though it had been publicly announced that my number was not going to be called, when the 1-A came in the mail, I got my student deferment papers in order. I had a high draft number and a deferment.

Won't be no damn different this time. Whatever system is used will be gamed. The difference between now & the '60's is we know that all systems not only can be gamed, but in fact - so common belief tells us - are in fact gamed. So it will be the same crap all over again: Poor kids get drafted. Just like the last time. You think that system will last five years?

Unless we draft every man jack at 18. And every female as well. Two years mandatory service. No excuses. No exceptions. Then the system is fair & nobody can complain. (There will still be champaign units, but big deal.)

Leave aside where we're going to get the drill sergeants. Where we gonna get the money to quadruple the military? When we continue to spend more money in equipment per soldier as if there is no limit and do not have the money to replace what's been chewed up in Iraq already? (Not to mention what we will lose when they kick us out.)

The draft is a fantasy.

Mad Dogs

Whether or not we "should" have a draft, I can guarantee you we won't until after it has already become necessary.

Spoken as one who successfully had a high enough number to not get drafted, and then voluteered anyway.

Cloned Poster

PL, you are working from the lower-up, a complete utter farce to solve USA's problems today. Forget about the draft, it will happen anyway if strategic issues happen and US blood will be sacrificed.

What about Leadership and the USA as a beacon? Forget about footsoldiers when the lights of hope are extinguished.

frank durkee

I graduated from college in '54 and entered the Army in early '55. I was with mostly draftees and until I got to my duty post saw virtually no career Officers. those I did see I was impressed by. I have for years supported a universal military service program.
There are many reasons I support this idea. First, If we're going to engage in wars as many as possible should have some sense of how the military opereates [ for good and bad], what the professionals are really like and how they operate, and what it is like to be in an organization that is warrior focused and the bottom line is the lives of your unit not your wallet. I'm not romantic about it, I didn't especially care for my time. I did, however, learn a hell of a lot about things I would otherwise never have encountered. Perhaps it's my Western ranch upbringing, but I think we all owe an obligation to the service of this country. Equally I feel if you don't like how things are going oppose the hell out of them.
I think social mixing, a different ethos and expectations all help to mold one efectively.
I think that continuity and unit cohesion are the main drawbacks. One clear positive mentioned by China Hand is the capacity of the military to train and educate people. this is often overlooked and shouldn't be.
Finally I think the burden of risk should be shared equally by all of us when we decide for what ever reason to go to war. I am appalled by Cheney's " I had better things to do." Especially as I buried a hell of a lot of kids who had no choice but serve,prison, or flee in the Vietnam War period. That seems to me like a serious betrayal of our mutual obligations to each other.
If getting out of Iraq is compicated andy draft would be at least as complicated. Perhaps it is simply my age [75] but we seem no longer to have a sense of mutualness at the basic level of our national existence. We need to recapture that, equalize the risk when comflict is contemplated, and require our elites or their children to share the burdens of being citizens and not just the benefits.
Do I think it will happen; No. Do I think it should; yes.


I, like most in my generation , have not served.

It seems to me that in my fathers generation, a generation that could not imagine not serving, that was a thread that connected Americans. I have personally seen General officers and former privates yuck it up and connect over their warmly remembered and likely greatly exaggerated "misbehavior". Underlying that commradery is the idea that one "did his part" large or small. It was a part of the "buy in" to being an American.

I would have no objection to allowing national service to include the Peace Corp or USAID or something similar as an alternative, as ability, necessity, and conscience permit, but some service, mandatory service, would help our rapidly fragmenting society.


This and your previous post raises the obvious question: "what do we want/need from our military?"

Frankly, I'm of the opinion the military budget needs to be severely cut. We have no significant threat in the immediate future that requires the amount of money we're putting into it, and if we run into budget problems because of it it will put us at a disadvantage in the future.

I question the need for such a massive military spending when we can afford to have our army tied up in Iraq; it seems to be indulgent.

Again, it comes down to the question - what do we want from the military, and what are we willing to pay to get it?

W. Patrick Lang


Yet more supercilious grad school BS. Don't you get tired of that stuff after a while? pl

Richard Whitman

The US military seems to be in love with technological fixes. Perhaps somewhere in the Pentagon there is a "black" program trying to clone the ideal soldier.
Manpower and womanpower problems solved.


Well, as we can't use or afford an Army of 10-20 million men who might be eligible for conscription(to say nothing of women who could fill out non-combat positions very easily) a draft raises the question of equity. Only a small fraction of potential conscripts would be needed (assuming the military retains a volunteer core of professionals).

Who serves ? Who does not ? Should those who do not get drafted pay a surcharge on their income taxes for a number of years instead ? Be placed in the Reserves? Perform a civilian service option ? Have no obligation whatsoever?

Conscription was accepted in the World Wars through the 1950's but it created some of our greatest civil unrest during the Civil War and the Vietnam War. Part of the reason is that the latter cases were widely viewed as being unfair, providing loopholes to the rich and well-connected but drafting the poor and middle-class.

In any potential draft our "future leaders" matriculating at the Ivies need to be the first to go (as they should under a merit selection criterion) or the draft will be a political disaster.


Why don't we just adopt the structure and universality German military draft and force every male to serve for a specified period of time:


The Germans have plenty of ways to get out that are honorable and beneficial for the country as a whole not dependent on family or personal connections like Dumbya.

Political effects would be to a social and political revolution in America like the 1960's because this war has little public support.

The effects on the Military would probably be significant because the draft would produce few career minded NCO's unless the Army offered a significant bonus for reenlistments.

Also, the sycophant, institutional, West Pointers would have to change their "we own this army" attitude but that would be a welcomed bonus.

Maybe it's the Latin male in me but I cannot support drafting women.

If this is truly a war we must not lose, then we should fight to win.

This conscription will provide the Army with enough men to tackle Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and whichever other country Dumbya decides to go after.

Unfortunately, Dumbya and the Dick never served and lack the courage to tell the American people the truth.

Or maybe they are too smart to tell the American people the truth.

Or maybe the American people are too dumb to know the truth.

Whichever way, the draft will never happen.


When I was drafted there was a 6 year obligation - 2 active - 2 reserve
- and 2 inactive reserve.

There were so many Reserve and National Guard enlistees that I
effectively had no military obligation after I got out.

I volunteered for the draft mistakenly thinking that being blind in one
eye would get me classified 4F - The month I was inducted all you had to
do was fog a mirror.

My VietNam experience makes me think that the draft along with
maintaining units permanently in theatre is probably better than
rotating units into and out of theatre.

I have read that it is not good for unit cohesion. That may be but
moving whole units into and out of combat also has the "born yesterday"
effect when the new units don't know what the current situation on the
ground is - what kind of relationships are maintained with the locals,

Of course a draft isn't going to be fair - That's a given - them that
has, gets; them that don't just get ****** Social structures are that

Conscription ensures that the military is more of a citizen army.

We now have a military class from Private to General and I'm not really
sure that that's a good thing.

I do think that having a smaller cadre and having the ability to ramp up
a military force in a timely manner if needed is probably a better model
than we have today.

I wonder how long it would take to institute a draft if we decided to
have one again.

I think the military is in pretty sad shape right now. I believe this is
directly the fault of the current administration.

I wonder how many career staff & planning officers have left the
military in the last 6 years. I think that the upper levels of personnel
in the pentagon were purged in the quest for "right thinking" and
competence be damned. An anecdotal example of this would be the request
for Congress to allow re-purposing money for armored vehicles and then
having it not done because the military was taking a month per vehicle
to install radio/computer equipment. There are allways going to be
SNAFU's but ...


I'm a strong believer in compulsory public service.

While attempting to write my essay on "why we should have a draft" I did the numbers. There are 100 million people in this country under the age of 25 which means 4 million turn 18 each year. Now to house, clothe, train, transport, arm and pay them will take close to 200 billion a year. So my thoughts of compulsory service are humbled.

Thus we are left with the draft. My major concern with the draft is there is no manner of selection that is equal to all. Politically we have not elected represenatives who can come to terms to institute a draft. They are all over the spectrum on this issue for many reasons.

So the only answer is to enhance what is occurring right now in our military. Increase pay, institute merit bonuses and enhance retention bonuses.

When the 18 year olds find out that the Special Forces are getting up to 150K to re-up these kids will come running to join.


On a lighter note, a draft would certainly spell the end of the policy against open gays serving in the military.

Either that, or the nation would quickly discover a staggering number of gays and lesbians who come out of the closet upon receiving their draft notices.

john in the boro

Good question. I think we should return to a military draft just as soon as the Congress reclaims its responsibility for declaring war. The former should derive from the latter.

I find myself in agreement with some of the respondents to this question. The draft did provide a “right of passage” for many. Certainly, military service is a proud tradition. Nonetheless, the draft, as applied in the 1960s and early 1970s, did not quite live up to my idea of fairness. Just the same, the draft boards probably did about as well as any group of civic minded politicos could do.

I think bringing back the draft in the context of the current situation ignores that context. The Selective Service exists to supply manpower through the induction process to fill vacancies that cannot be filled through voluntary enlistments. All that is required is for the Congress to pass a law to activate the system. Therefore, I conclude that the Congress does not think the situation is dire. Certainly, President Bush sees “a return on success.” Obviously, the current strength of the force is up to the task.

All of my military experience was in the volunteer Army. Without congressional declaration of war, without dire necessity, I think a return to the draft would be throwing fuel on a simmering fire. Public support for Iraq has largely evaporated. My memory of the Vietnam years leads me to expect a similar reaction if significant numbers of young men find themselves conscripted. The administration did not plus up the Army and Marines when it could have shortly after 911. Furthermore, the manpower crunch was predicted several years ago. The dumb goal has been met for this decade.

All the same, I have not been retired long enough not to feel the pain of friends and their families going through serial deployments. Summing up my thoughts, Congress should reclaim its responsibility for declaring war. Once declared, the Congress should determine whether national manpower requirements necessitate activating the Selective Service system. Such deliberate and deliberated political decisions would invest the greater part of the nation’s leadership and result in better and longer-lasting public support.


I am completely opposed to consciption. The "Draft" is without a doubt involuntary servitude, regardless of what anyone drawing a government pay check says, or said.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Yet more supercilious grad school BS. Don't you get tired of that stuff after a while? pl

Well, at the very least you changed two words!
Is this the best you can do?
You, Col. Lang, are endanger or becoming an adjective of your own post!
If I wanted regurgitated repetitious name calling, I would have gone to A. Coulter or M. Malkin webs! So much for name calling, IT! is beneath your position and achievements!


The last line.
That's been farmed out to the new mercs/praetorian guard!



China Hand

I disagree.

Compulsory public service would not be only a net expense. An entire economy would spring up around it. It would entail a massive increase in bureaucracy and require much oversight, but the logistics involved would not only be a net expense. 4 million kids entering public service each year would provide a lot more manpower than the U.S. might reasonably require for military campaigns alone, and that could be used in schools, public works, research, medicine, and any number of areas where shortfalls in manpower are affecting efficacy of U.S. public services.

Military service would be one branch of that -- and perhaps the largest -- but with that many available soldiers one would not expect them to be kept as full-time soldiers the way the current military does.

In this vein, I think the recent whispers of a "Department of Peace" that have been heard in various quarters are making a lot of sense.

Of course, one would expect there to be a lot of outcry along the lines of "Communism!", "New Deal!", etc.

@ Frank Durkee: Thanks for the sympathetic reading of my post. It was composed late at night (I'm currently translating a 52 page document), and wasn't as clear as I had hoped. I'm relieved to see that it wasn't incomprehensible after all.

Clifford Kiracofe

Is there a relationship between force structure and threat? Or do we need more of everything-- weapons, troops, stuff -- or whatever, just because the Decider and future Deciders say just because...?

What is the threat -- WMD, "Terrorists", just what in particular are realistic "scenarios"...?

Is the US the world's policeman? For what purpose? How does this address our vital national interests? (What are they anyways these days?)

How many troops do we need for what purpose, and why?

Is Huntington's "The Soldier and the State" valid? Useful as toilet paper?

1. How does the "privatization" of warfare process fit in? This is the Shultz-Rohaytn (hence Cheney etal) vision thing, more privately owned merc outfits like Blackwater.

2.Is there a relationship between military recruitment of criminals and a potential rise of (violent) crime at home in the US down the road? Any crime stats out there past or present on this?

Per the Army:
" The U.S. Army met its recruiting goals for the last year but enlisted thousands of new soldiers with criminal records and fewer who have earned high school diplomas, according to figures released Wednesday.

The spike of new enlistees given "character" waivers for fiscal 2007 continues a steady upward trend in the number of recruits with past arrests and convictions allowed into the Army since the start of the war in Iraq.

More than 11 percent of the Army recruits needed waivers for problems with the law -- up from 7.9 percent the previous year and more than double the percentage in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, stressed that a vast majority, about 87 percent, of those allowed in with waivers had misdemeanors for such offenses as joy riding or violating curfew. Most faced little punishment beyond community service for their actions, Bostick said.

But at the same time, the number of enlistees with felony convictions and arrests in their pasts has increased. In 2003, the Army allowed 459 enlistees with felony arrests and convictions into the service compared to 1,620 this past year. The startling figures come at a time when the Army is trying to grow amid persistent questions about how the armed forces can increase force size during a time of war without significantly lowering the quality of recruits."...

From a law enforcement perspective, we can infer a growing cadre of better trained violent criminals returning from military duty. But local police forces will also have increasing numbers of Iraq, Afghan, (Iran) vets."...

3. Mission?

" Duane Schattle doesn't mince words. "The cities are the problem," he says. A retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at U.S. Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq's cities as the prototype for tomorrow's battlespace. "This is the next fight," he warns. "The future of warfare is what we see now."

He isn't alone. "We think urban is the future," says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment." And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired Army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle's operation, has a similar assessment, "We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years."


There raft of pros and cons about a draft are too numerous for a single page comment.

The most compelling need for a draft: it is the only way to keep the military-industrial complex off the battlefield. Corporations hold too much sway over military matters. It should be clear to any red-blooded American that corporations (all of them multi-national in composition) are only allied to Wall Street, money and profits. Are not KBR, Blackwater and the rest of them enough of an example? Corporations have ruined the nation's industrial base with outsourcing everything in the name of profits. They will do the same if they get the inside track on waging war.

A large home-grown military force with professionals and conscripts is the only way to neutralize the mil-indus complex.

There should be a ten year revolving door policy to keep corporations away from the double-dippers, many of whom claim alleged "vital experience".

The current Army Association show in Washington is a great example of goodies that the military does not need. Why can't the military dream up its own needs as it once did?

Cold War Zoomie

"The spike of new enlistees given "character" waivers for fiscal 2007 continues a steady upward trend in the number of recruits with past arrests and convictions allowed into the Army since the start of the war in Iraq."

My uncle was given a choice in the 1950s - jail or the Marine Corps.

Wasn't that fairly common in the old days - substituting military service for jail time?


i advocate a volunatary civilian/miliatary national service option for men
and women over any compulsory miliatary or national service.

Universal military service is needed in situations like WWII when our country is faced with a situation
that requires us to choose "making-war" our paramount national priority.

Universal national service is needed when a country is faced with extreme labor needs that it
requires a special levy on everyone to perform tasks that the country is unable to do otherwise.

A unified civilian/military national service option could be created that would offer young people opportunities
to learn through civilian or military service while contributing to the common good of our country.

This program would have to continually strive to attract young people. It would have to offer
real benefits or it would not be able to sustain itself.

The miliatary would be able to offer a number of opportunities: a multi-year term of active service;
a multi-year term of active and reserve service, etc,; all opportunities providing valuable training
and education.

The civilian side would be able to offer similar oppotunities. There are many spheres of activity that this
service could be targetted to: law enforcement, teaching, environmental conservation, governent
service internships, community centers, health services internships, etc,.


I personally think it would be a great idea for a draft, or at least some sort of process for mandating public service for the young people in our country. The main hestitation I have in my own mind would be the impact on the US economy. With inflation running at such a low rate, the sudden absence of 4 million (I'll accept China Hand's estimate)workers from the private economy would cause most industry to have to find workers elsewhere. What is the solution? Gastarbeiters? Or further outsourcing to China and Mexico? Are we prepared (politically or economically) for either of those options, or another?

And Jose - your comment about "sycophant, institutional, West Pointers " is out of line. I might accept that there is a cadre of syncophant institutional professional officers out there, but to characterize them all as West Pointers is ignorant. You do a dis-service to my Latin friends (male and female)that are West Pointers. Thankfully I don't characterize all Latin males based on one or two sad examples.

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