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16 August 2016


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I used to think differently, being a career civilian who would have made a terrible soldier were I to have served, but perhaps, in a sense, that is the point.

An army in which people like me are too common would never be an effective fighting force: I expect that I would have been exactly the kind of recruit with the problems of the sort that would have driven military professionals like you nuts and would never have made anything approaching a real soldier by the end of the term of enlistment, but having the chance to mix with people from all backgrounds, in a setting that requires discipline, teamwork, and "real world skills" in general would have doubtlessly made me a better person even if not a soldier.

On the other hand, I am not sure if a conscript army would necessarily have been a major disincentive towards interventionism: most 19th century European powers maintained a "colonial" army made of professionals separate from the regular army made of conscripts. The latter hardly ever left home, at least for the successful colonial powers. They knew the problem of which we speak even back then. Who is to say that an interventionist US government would not seek to maintain a professional "colonial" army, in fact if not in name?

And, in turn, a peacetime conscript would convert the army as an institution into a sort of school, a social program, to make better people out of the civilian population rather than a fighting force (I've heard of South Korean acquaintances speak of their army essentially in these terms). While I think such an institution has a merit, it certainly would not be an "army." I don't know if many people would accept this possibility.



I agree wholeheartedly with you that all American citizens should serve in the military as part of national service and can be called to serve in combat.

I have been promoting the concept of "skin-in-the-game" for some time with regards to reform of financial institutions as opposed to massive bills with undue complexity and loopholes like Dodd-Frank that place apparatchiks in untenable positions of regulating entities that provide them the revolving door to riches. If board of directors and managements are in first loss position individually they would be more prudent and the likelihood of privatization of profits and socialization of losses would be diminished. Nassim Taleb has propounded on skin-in-the-game more generally in his anti-fragility thesis.

In this context I would like to see prohibition of the use of military force unless Congress declares war. Furthermore, all eligible progeny of members of Congress and the war making "deciders" should be in the initial combat forces deployed. That is skin-in-the-game.

Now, I realize this is a pipe dream as our political and governmental elites are warmongers precisely because as you note it is "politically painless" as the kids of a small minority are in our combat forces. They're not gonna change that situation if they can avoid it.



The Army of the World Wars, the Korean War and VN were all mixed forces of conscripts and some volunteers junior enlistees led by professionals. I was very impressed by the performance of drafted infantry soldiers in VN. They served very well under good leadership until the political rot spread by the Left in America caused them to come to us already hostile to the war and the army. pl


Eric Newhill

In my system the fortunate sons would be sent in representative numbers into the ground forces in combatant MOSs. My radio operator as an infantry platoon leader was an NYU masters degree holder who had asked to be in the infantry. His name was Shapiro. Are we lesser men than he? He and I and all the brothers were as one. pl


Put them in the infantry and see if they break. pl


I respectfully submit that in the 1980s, if my aging memory serves, there were no conscripts in the US Navy, nor were there any in the US Air Force.


it works because they are Swiss.


In practice National Service would be sheltered workshop + boondoggle.



Are you advocating a system similar to Israel, with a (..mostly) mandatory period of active service between high school and college, and then reserves afterwards? I see all manner of benefits to this: overall discipline, less frivolous college degrees, and the political constraints on wars that you mentioned. Isn't it pretty to think so?


For those who have not read it, please read Col. and Prof. Bacevich's book _Breach of Trust_. ISBN 978-0-8050-8296-8. I am on my third read of it. He has or had "skin in the game," if you choose to call the loss of his son the latter. I believe he does not mention it in his publications. I second Col. Lang's call for conscription.


Gen Abrams, after Vietnam, set it up that the Reserves and the National Guard wold be integral to the next war. My understanding was that his motive was that the General Populace would have "skin in the game," and this therefore would act as a brake on reckless wars.

These weekend warriors and two weeks in the Summer got screwed royal by Dubya's and the Obama-Hillary wars. The were expecting to supplement their income with little sacrifice. Many of them served multiple tours in the hellholes of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their suffering and that of their families in these wars of choice did not act as the "brake" Abrams foresaw.

My personal beef with the system that I was deployed in combat for a year to a unit that had not trained together and I was just a replacement on a year's notation. Very lucky to have come back alive. Don't think that's the case anymore.



I agree. How soon can we make it happen?


Yes, the political rot spread by the left like the way they complained about "Project 100,000". This is the program that took 100,000 sub-qualifiers from 1966 to 1969. The damned left.

"A 1995 review of McNamara's book In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam in the Washington Monthly severely criticized the project, writing that "the program offered a one-way ticket to Vietnam, where these men fought and died in disproportionate numbers...the men of the 'Moron Corps' provided the necessary cannon fodder to help evade the political horror of dropping student deferments or calling up the reserves, which were sanctuaries for the lily-white."[7]

Project 100,000 was highlighted in a 2006 op-ed in The New York Times in which former Wesleyan assistant professor and then Tufts assistant professor Kelly M. Greenhill, writing in the context of a contemporary recruitment shortfall, concluded that "Project 100,000 was a failed experiment. It proved to be a distraction for the military and of little benefit to the men it was created to help." For the reason that veterans from the project fared worse in civilian life than their nonveteran peers, Greenhill hypothesized it might be related to the psychological consequences of combat or unpreparedness for the post-military transition.[1]



A draft might keep the social petri dish the military is going through down to a minimum.

Bring it back and let some of these facebook "ISIS Hunters" get off their couches.

SAC Brat

I think a military draft is a good idea, just like I like labor unions. Leaders can get useful results with both groups. Managers tend to pee their pants in the same situation, as they don't like their poor decisions challenged. What was David Hackworth's opinion on draftees?

Maybe we need to breed out the gwendolyn genes.


Well, all I can think of is what my father would have thought about the prospect of his granddaughters ever having to face the draft. My guess is that he would be heartbroken. What, after all, was the purpose of the many sacrifices made by his generation?


Thank you, Colonel. Yours is an approximation of my own thoughts. I somehow cannot equate working in a daycare, founding a community garden, or tutoring the illiterate with military service. Those might be worthwhile endeavors but they are not on a par with military service and, in my opinion, would not provide the common bond across socioeconomic and racial groups that military service does.



I agree 100%; although, I would also include national service and job training but the military gets the first cut at the physically fit. The simple fact is that globalists are totally against the little people having any kind of power. A trained militia is the hallmark of a free and sovereign state.


"..And if you don't - you can't vote .. "

Wait until you see the turn out rate this year. I don't think it will be much of a deterrent.


An older and a younger brother both served as volunteers in the RAF. Both benefited enormously from the technical training they received and look on their service time very positively.

In principle I agree with a system of what in the UK was designated National Service. The downside for elites, I suppose, is that it exposes the great unwashed to the reality of the "elites" who are supposed to be their betters and can result in


Denis Healey, Intelligence Service Major at the close of WWII and later Foreign Minister and Defence Minister in Labour Governments in the 1960s/70s certainly attributed the landslide of Attlee's Labour Party against incumbent PM. Churchill to the chinless wonder factor: seeing rulers up close and personal, unmediated by agitators or party rags. It's one thing to have some firebrand tell you that those above are idiots and quite another to observe it for yourself.



Generally I agree with your arguments, but on this I have to strenuously disagree. Without getting into a full-throated essay on the perils of conscriptions, I'll concentrate on a few broad points:

- One feature of the AVF is that it's self-limiting - unpopular wars mean fewer volunteers. With a draft, politicians can simply order up more forces to fill in the shortfall and kick the can down the road until they are out of office. For example, the war in Vietnam would not have been possible without a draft because with a hard cap on end strength and an AVF our government would have faced a strategic choice between allocating manpower to defending against the Soviet’s in Europe and elsewhere versus fighting a major land war in Vietnam. A draft is what allowed our government to avoid that choice as it enabled us to maintain force levels to meet the Soviet threat and fight in Vietnam at the same time.

- Conscription allows politicians to double-down on bad choices. Consider the last 15 years and what our political leaders would have done with the ability to generate extra military manpower through a draft. It's likely many more forces would have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq in pursuit of unattainable strategic goals. The so-called "surges" would have been bigger, would have lasted longer, would have produced more casualties on all sides and still would have failed strategically. With a draft, the surges could have gone on for years – The COINdinistas would be very happy with that. With an AVF, the hard reality of OPTEMPO ensured that wasn’t possible.

- The evidence that conscription increases the political pain for politicians is weak. Vietnam is the obvious example, since opposition to the draft and the war did not shorten it much less stop it. The war and draft opposition only caused us to abandon the Vietnamese as soon our active intervention was over.

- While I share your sentiment than there should be no deferments for any future draft, I'm extremely skeptical that would ever actually happen. It hasn’t happened at any point in our history. It certainly won't happen with this Congress, which is in thrall to the nation's elites and powerful.

- War or even combat experience does not guarantee good judgment when it comes to utilizing military force. John McCain and John Kerry, probably the most well-known veteran politicians, have not demonstrated much restraint when it comes to stupid wars of choice.

- Finally, there are a whole host of practical issues. Every year over 4 million people turn 18 in the USA. Even if that pool is limited to men and only half those men are physically and medically able to serve, that would still almost double the current end strength with just a short 2 year term of service. To what end? What are all they supposed to do? They will either sit in garrison, painting rocks, carousing and causing endless problems for NCO's or they will be "put to use" by our venal political class in the next grand scheme to right the world's wrongs. To quote Madeleine Albright, "What's the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?"

No thank you. I’ll take the AVF, imperfect as it is, over a peacetime draft that would, IMO, lurch the US more toward militarism than its already gone.


what social affect do you want? I want young Americans who know how to care for the place they came from than destroy places they have no connection to.


I agree about bringing back the draft and have thought so for some time.

Perhaps we should start a campaign to reply to “thank you for your service” with “your welcome and you can repay me by supporting a return of the draft”.

That just might start a conversation.


That issue could mean the end of feminism. Ever notice how feminism really got going right after the draft for men ended?

Karl Kolchack

This idea sounds good in theory, but in reality would not only be unaffordable to a nation already nearly $20 trillion in debt but would saddle the armed forces with millions of unqualified recruits. As it is, the military claims it is having trouble finding recruits who are not academically (too poorly educated to read the manuals), mentally (on antidepressants or antipsychotics) or physically (too fat and out of shape) unfit for duty.

A better idea is to slash military spending by 75%, which would still give the U.S. the largest military budget on the planet. Then the primary mission of the armed forces would have to go back to being DEFENSE, like it used to be.

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