To Draft Or Not to Draft:
Resolving US Military Issues

Michele L. Clerici

In the wake of September 11th and the occupation of Iraq, The United States military faces a struggle of retaining manpower and bridging defensive gaps. Active-duty soldiers have been forced into longer assignments while families wait patiently at home for their loved ones to return, only to once again, bid them farewell for another demanding fulfillment of duty. In terms of numbers, the United States forces have been stretched to the limit, and continue to search for new ways to increase military enlistment.

As the possibility of the United States as a weakened superpower penetrates both government and society, debate over possible resolutions to this looming problem has caused a stir among military and civilians alike. Perhaps the most controversial of these is the reinstatement of military conscription.

It has been nearly thirty years since the United States has eliminated military drafting after the Vietnam War. Public support for government and military officials declined heavily during the war as draft calls intensified, taking a severe toll on the morale of both the country and those drafted soldiers off in battle. "The opposition was manifested in a variety of ways: …sit-ins at selective service offices, the burning of draft cards, demonstrations on college campuses, and weddings to take advantage of marital deferments." As the Vietnam War came to an end, the United States realized the ineffectiveness of its forced military participation, and the draft was lifted.

Since then, the country has operated on an All-Volunteer Force and has continued to gain both international power and public support. As some would argue, the U.S. military has rebuilt its strength and success based on this freer force of military enlisted. According to former Secretary of the Army, Louis Caldera, "today's all-volunteer military recruits only motivated, trainable people who, by definition, have other options but who choose to stay in the military because they find satisfaction in serving their country."

However, it remains that the strain on military troops grows larger and larger as the need for more soldiers in new and old areas of occupation continues to increase. Lt. Gen. John M. Riggs argues "I have been in the Army 39 years, and I've never seen the Army as stretched in that 39 years as I have today." Reservists are putting in more time than they imagined upon enlistment, and new "stop loss" policies have prevented soldiers from leaving active-duty even when their service agreements are up.

New York Congressman, Charles Rangel, has pushed the issue even further, believing that without the re-instatement of the draft, our nation's freedom will continue to be a product of socioeconomic imbalance. "I strongly believe that fighting for our country must be fairly shared by all racial and economic groups… the burden of service cannot fall only on volunteers who, no matter how patriotic, are attracted to the military for financial reasons." This argument follows the fact that statistically, larger numbers of lower-class citizens make up the enlisted population because they are more prone to seek out the monetary advantages of enlistment. Rangel predicts that without the draft, "we will be a nation in which the poor fight our wars while the affluent stay home."

This is precisely why legislation for the reinstatement of the draft was introduced to Congress by Rangel. Additionally, a bill was introduced in the Senate in early January by Senator Fritz-Hollings that would "provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." Under this bill, every citizen, regardless of class would be responsible for contributing, in some capacity, to the military force that defends and supports the nation. With these added numbers of non-active and active draftees, relief could be provided for those soldiers spending exhausting amounts of time in the line of duty.

In opposition to this Senatorial legislation, Libertarian presidential candidate, Aaron Russo has formed a petition that outlines this new legislation as an "infringement on our personal freedoms." This continuing debate draws on the experiences of the Vietnam War, and the country's aversion to sending unwilling men, by lottery, into the fatal throws of battle. This petition serves the argument that enlistment in United States forces should remain a choice rather than an obligation, as the nation's very basis for military power is to retain its commitment to freedom itself.

The debate over military conscription continues to become more luminous as the issue of limited manpower and a strain on active troops becomes more problematic. Government legislation will ultimately decide the fate of our national obligations and responsibilities as citizens. The question remains: Is military drafting justified in its effort to provide relief and balance socioeconomic situations, or is it a direct violation of the very freedom our military serves to defend?

Read other articles by Michele

Michele is a communications major at Mt. St. Marys, and
servers as Communications Director