Many of the fans of The King of Kreskin Avenue remember the draft and military conscription as one of the more unpleasant consequences of the war in Vietnam. Between 1964 and 1973, using a lottery based system, the U.S. military drafted 2.2 million American men out of an eligible pool of 27 million.
Several my friends were drafted. Some served. Some went into the military as conscientious objectors. A few left the country and became Canadians. And, a few were killed serving their country in what I considered to be meaningless deaths.
I very well remember the anxiety in the dorm back in 1971 awaiting the results of the lottery. Being drafted felt like a death sentence and talk of resistance to the war and to the draft hung over the campus like the darkest of clouds preceding the violence of a thunderstorm.
But resistance to the draft was not a product of the fear of losing your life. Resistance was the product of 58,000 lost American lives and an unsupportable, unjust cause. It was a time of unprecedented student activism that came hard on the heels of the civil rights movement, the awakening of feminism, demands for unfettered free speech, and print and broadcast journalism that brought the war to living rooms in raw, dramatic and shocking ways.
By 1973, 6 out of 10 Americans believed that the war was a mistake. Our national misadventure cost billions and billions of dollars, dealt a body blow to our national psyche, and polarized our country in a way that had never been witnessed before.
The lottery died in 1973 when the country moved to a full volunteer service. Today, about 1 out of every 50 young Americans volunteer to serve their country. We thank you for your convictions and service.
But, are you aware that there’s a movement afoot to revitalize the draft?
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich, one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates of abandoning the all-volunteer force in favor of a return to the draft was referenced in The Military Times saying that current wars have stretched the military to its breaking point and a decade’s worth of bonuses and expanding benefits has brought personnel funding to its limits.
Speaking in favor of a draft, Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, warned that our military is at a critical crossroads and might be hard-pressed to meet the global demands of numerous ongoing missions as we face low recruitment and retention rates.
“…if something big breaks, there ain’t a lot in the barn,” he said.
Bringing back the draft has been discussed in the NY Times and LA Times. In an opinion piece by in Time Magazine, decorated veteran Bill Ackerman postulates that bringing back the draft would stop America’s “forever wars”.
He writes, “Imagine if we lived in a society where the commitment of 18- and 19-year-olds to a combat zone generated the same breathless attention as a college-admissions scandal. Imagine Twitter with a draft going on; snowplow parents along with millennial cancel culture could save us by canceling the next unnecessary war”.
Today, there are an abundance of reinstitute-the-draft-pro-and-con articles available, and quite a few suggestions on how a draft can be accomplished.
But what concerns me and is a little known fact is that in 2016, Congress created a bipartisan National Commission on Military, National and Public Service charged with “exploring whether the government should require all Americans to serve in some capacity as part of their civic duty and the duration of that service.”
That report is due in March 2020. Stand by.