Can We Really Get By Without A Draft?
By Michael S. Foley
Mr. Foley is the author of CONFRONTING THE WAR MACHINE: DRAFT RESISTANCE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR(2003).
In this season of quagmire war and political campaigning, President Bush has a manpower problem. The Pentagon has announced that troop levels in Iraq will remain at 135,000 until the end of 2005. Thus, with the American military stretched to unprecedented limits, one of the most pressing questions in the presidential campaign will be the riddle of who will fill out the ranks of those stationed in Iraq and fighting the ongoing war on terror.
Once again, we feel the lingering shadow of the Vietnam War. Over the last few weeks, against the backdrop of the Iraq war's heaviest fighting and as images of flag-draped coffins and tortured prisoners remind us of Vietnam, we have also heard the first sustained discussion of the price being paid by reservists and National Guard troops in Iraq.
Observing that 40 percent of the American force in Iraq is made up of middle-class and working-class "weekend warriors," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) has raised the prospect of bringing back the draft. Calling the war on terror a "generational challenge," Hagel called for a long-term strategy in which the burden of fighting the war would be distributed across all segments of American society.
Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon understood this dilemma. In 1965, when Americans had been living with a "peacetime" draft for nearly 20 years, Johnson mobilized manpower for the escalating Vietnam War by dramatically increasing monthly draft calls. Unlike Bush, he chose not to call on huge numbers of reservists and Guard troops for fear of the political fallout. Americans accustomed to the draft as a seemingly permanent part of Cold War American life were more likely to protest mobilizing middle-aged men with jobs and families than younger, single draftees.
But the Vietnam era draft produced tremendous resistance because it allowed deferments and exemptions to the privileged while channeling the poor and minorities into service in Vietnam. In short, the draft did not redistribute the burden of service any better than today's reliance on reservists and Guard troops. As a result, thousands of men openly defied draft laws and welcomed prosecution. And tens of thousands evaded the draft by leaving the country, faking illness or using connections to get appointments in the reserves or National Guard.
Consequently, when Richard Nixon took office in 1969, he recognized the political costs both of the draft and of mobilizing reserve units. He first moved toward a more equitable draft lottery and then eliminated conscription altogether in favor of the current all-volunteer force.
The difficulty today, however, is that in the multi-front war on terror, the all-volunteer force is stretched so thin that the Bush administration is now extending the tours of Guard and reserve units in Iraq -- sometimes notifying them days before they are to come home that they'll have to stay another three or six months. Morale, by all accounts, is slipping. According to one Illinois National Guard soldier in Iraq, the uncertainty of when troops will rotate out of Iraq "is killing us . . . It's like checking on a turkey in the oven 24 hours a day."
Yet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insists that the administration is not even considering reviving the draft. No doubt he understands the political costs of such a step.
Continued reliance on unprecedented numbers of reservists and Guard troops carries political costs, too. The Vietnam War showed that resistance within the military is sure to develop, particularly if the war's objectives are not altogether clear to those fighting it.
By 1968, civilian peace activists increasingly allied themselves with dissenting GIs and returning veterans, sometimes by granting sanctuary to AWOL servicemen in churches. Later, GIs and veterans became the most common and reputable face of the antiwar movement.
What should concern the Bush administration is that, today, a movement among military families and GIs against the Iraq war is growing. As tours get extended, as the strain grows on reservists' families and employers, this is sure to become a political problem for both presidential candidates. All over the Internet -- at the web sites for Bring Them Home Now, Military Families Speak Out, and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- there are dozens of stories from disillusioned servicemen and women and their families. In recent weeks such stories have often appeared in the mainstream press.
The timing of this growing manpower crisis could not be worse for George W. Bush and the presumptive Democratic nominee, John Kerry. As each tries to look tough on national security, both must be aware that there's no appealing manpower option: either keep using alienated reservists and Guard troops, or institute conscription on a population of draft-age men who, unlike their 1960s counterparts, have not been conditioned for the possibility of military service.
It's a losing proposition. Whether or not Bush and Kerry face the issue in the campaign, whoever wins will have to make an unpopular choice after the election.
(Courtesy of the History News Service
Will the Draft Come Back?
by Michael Ferber
There is good reason to think that military conscription will return soon, but let us begin with the official position on the subject, which denies that it will. During the recent presidential campaign, President Bush denied that a draft will be needed for Iraq. He and his Republican operatives dismissed the rumors about it as scare tactics designed to win votes for Kerry and Edwards, who insisted several times that there would be no draft under their administration. Both sides reflected what has been the orthodox view among officers and elected officials since the 1970s: the all-volunteer "professional" armed force is the way to go. This orthodoxy lies behind the official statements on the draft: that it is merely on standby, as it always has been (or should have been) since its reinstatement in 1980. For many months the Selective Service System has posted this statement on its website:
Notwithstanding recent stories in the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces‹either with a special skills or regular draft. Rather, the Agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the President and the Congress so direct. This responsibility has been ongoing since 1980 and is nothing new. Further, both the President and the Secretary of Defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the War on Terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq. Additionally, the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate a draft. Therefore, Selective Service continues to refine its plans to be prepared as is required by law, and to register young men who are ages 18 through 25.
That is the standard view, widely held among Republicans and Democrats alike. But recently there have been unorthodox rumblings and rumors and trial balloons. In December 2002 two conservative Republican Representatives introduced a bill to activate the draft; it died in committee. Last year Representives Rangel and Conyers, both very liberal Democrats in the Black Caucus, put another bill on the table; Hollings introduced it in the Senate; it also gathered little support. In April of 2004 Senator Hagel, a Republican with maverick tendencies, said that Congress ought to consider a draft. An op-ed piece in the New York Times by William Broyles, a former Marine (May 4, 2004), argued that the all-volunteer armed forces makes the underprivileged "others" fight the wars ordered by the elite, but "If this war is truly worth fighting, then the burdens of doing so should fall on all Americans."
More telling than these speeches and proposals, however, is the fact that in late 2003 the Selective Service System sent out a call to fill the vacancies on its two thousand local draft boards. These vacancies had been vacant for years (there are about ten thousand seats on the local boards, and a similar number on the appeal boards), and nobody much cared. Is it just a coincidence that in late 2003 it was first becoming obvious that the US "mission" in Iraq had not been "accomplished" after all? Congress allocated an extra $28 million for the SSS in its 2004 budget, which is lot more than it costs to keep up its disingenuous website.
Pressures on and in the Military
It is now obvious that American and other Coalition forces cannot control large portions of Iraq, or even Baghdad. Two or three soldiers are killed each day, and several more badly wounded. The Islamicist jihadists, whom Saddam Hussein had kept out of Iraq, are now all over the place, and large percentages of both Sunni and Shi'a Iraqis have turned against the occupiers, whom they call not only "Crusaders" but also "Mongols" in memory of the destruction of Baghdad by those barbarians in the Middle Ages. These two great divisions of Muslims, who have murdered each other for over a thousand years, seem to have put aside their differences to fight a common enemy. The new Iraqi army and police forces refuse to fight most of the insurgents and openly collaborate with them. Few new countries are likely to join the "coalition of the willing" at this late date; Spain, Honduras, the Philippines, and five other countries have recently joined the unwilling. With Tony Blair on the ropes politically, the United Kingdom will not send many more soldiers either.
The Pentagon has virtually admitted that its situation is untenable. Early in 2004 it extended the stays of 20,000 troops in Iraq, among 50,000 troops overall, in the so-called "stop-loss" policy. At the end of October 2004 it extended the stays of another 6500 soldiers by two months. Soldiers are not re-enlisting in requisite numbers‹only about half of them, according to a Stars and Stripes report on October 2003. The same is true of National Guard members: according to an Army survey in the summer of 2004, some 43% plan to leave when their contracts expire. Three hundred new recruiters have been hired and sent out to talk young men into joining up; bonuses for joining have just doubled (now $10,000), or, for some specialties, tripled. Troops are being pulled out of South Korea and Germany and readied for deployment in the desert.
With forces in Iraq already stretched to the breaking point, with the insurgency spreading and growing more coordinated, with no "exit" in sight and no help on the horizon, the pressure to revive the draft is now very strong. Indeed, as John Kerry said, "They have effectively used a stop-loss policy as a backdoor draft." About 60,000 of the 140,000 US troops in Iraq are in the National Guard or Reserves; more and more members of the Ready Reserve are being called up. Only on a technicality can one deny that the draft has already begun.
It's worth noting, by the way, how different the Iraq case is from Vietnam in this respect. Very few Reservists or National Guardsmen were ordered to Vietnam, even though the US deployed about four times the number of troops there. That is of course why George W. Bush joined the National Guard: along with medical and psychological exemptions and fleeing to Canada, joining the National Guard was one sure way to avoid combat, and every young man knew it was so. But it is no longer so.
The American Strategic Dilemma
For years, and long before the attacks of September 11, a group of strategists connected to something called the Defense Policy Board‹Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, and others‹has bluntly advocated an American invasion of the Middle East, starting with Iraq but not stopping until Syria, Iran, and even Saudi Arabia are "democracies," that is, in safe, pro-western, open-for-business hands. Securing the oil for America and Europe has much to do with it, of course, along with settling "the Palestine Question" once and for all, but the ultimate target seems to be China, the only remaining possible superpower, which needs Middle East oil and will be less likely to cause us trouble if we control it. This group's ambition is breathtaking and just short of lunatic. It will certainly require a massive mobilization of American troops. Iran knows something about warfare, and is not likely to welcome the United States Marines with flowers. We might topple the Saudi regime, but that would unleash the Islamicist militants, not to mention the Shiites, who agree with Osama bin Laden that Crusader troops must never violate the land of Mecca and Medina. It is a recipe for permanent war against all of Islam, and while that may be music to Christian Fundamentalist ears it is terrifying to those who believe this life is at least as important as the next.
This apocalyptic plan, however, seems to have fallen to pieces in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Najaf, as US troops are unable to contain a resistance that expands with every week. We still hear accusations against Iran, even from Colin Powell, who is not one of the Wolfowitz faction, but it seems unlikely that we would dare attack Iran while sinking in the Iraqi quagmire, not to mention our problems in Afghanistan. If so, then the one plan that would certainly demand a draft has been ruled out. That leaves Iraq itself.
If US troop strength remains at or near its present level, President Bush will preside over a defeat for US arms. Even if Kerry had won, I believe, as President the stigma of potential defeat would (in many eyes) have stuck to him, and he might have felt persuaded that a withdrawal would in fact be a geostrategic catastrophe for US "interests." President Bush is much farther out on a limb, and his advisers will scream if he entertains the thought that we should 'cut and run." Perhaps, as the prospect of ruin grows larger and more imminent, another current of the Republican Party will take control, dismiss Rumsfeld and his cohorts, and let Bush, who cannot be re-elected anyway, take the heat. I don't know. But the temptation will be very great to escalate the war‹Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon could not resist doing so‹in order to force a conclusion that looks like a victory. Several intelligence and military experts have said it would require a force three times the present size. If that is what happens, I think a draft is inevitable.
What the Draft Will Look Like
It is likely that the new draft will be somewhat different from the last one. The current plan (which could of course be modified) is to draft twenty-year-olds first in a lottery. There will be no long deferments: if you are a student you may finish your semester, and if you are a senior you may finish your year and graduate. There is talk of drafting women, for the first time in American history. Emigrating to Canada will no longer be as easy as it was (at least 75,000 young men went there during the Vietnam war): there is a new understanding with the Canadian government, and economic conditions are worse there than they were in 1968. If you think you are a conscientious objector on moral or religious grounds you must wait until you are drafted before you file a claim; it cannot be done upon registration at age eighteen.
Would the Draft be a Good Thing?
Not only the Pentagon and politicians but most Americans are opposed to a return of the draft. Nader and Kucinich have both fiercely attacked it, and most liberals and anti-war activists agree with them; so do libertarians, of course, and many conservatives. It infringes our freedom, it disrupts lives, it forces some young men to do things against their consciences, it gives the government large armies which tempt it to go to war‹these are some of the arguments that have been mustered against conscription for hundreds of years.
But there are good arguments on the other side. As William Broyles wrote, should not the burden of a war be shouldered by all Americans, not just those in the "economic draft"‹those to whom the training and pay in the Army looks good? Only one member of Congress has a child in Iraq, and very few have a child in the armed forces at all. Perhaps Congress would have been more sober when it voted to authorize a pre-emptive war if more of its children had faced death. In a republic, as we have been told for two thousand years, the citizens themselves must fight when necessary, and we should not rely on mercenaries, even mercenaries from our own nation. The ones who deliberate must be the ones who face the consequences.
Of course the trouble with Broyles' demand that the burdens of fighting "should fall on all Americans" is that he knows perfectly well that the burdens would fall, at best, on all young Americans. Young Americans do not plan wars and give orders to invade, but they are the ones who must do the killing and dying. But at least, under a fair and random draft, some of them would be the sons and daughters of the policy-makers, or at least the sons and daughters of wealthy and influential people.
The best argument for bringing back the draft‹and the main reason Bush will do his best not to‹is that it would bring back draft resistance. (I don't mean draft dodging, what George Bush did, but draft resistance.) Twenty thousand young men from 1967 to 1971 turned in their draft cards and pledged to refuse induction. Thousands stood trial for their own draft refusals, hundreds went to prison, and dozens took "sanctuary" in churches around the country, forcing the police to carry them out over the bodies of parishioners. They gave the government fits, and they were a factor in its decision to withdraw American troops.
The draft, then, is not just a tool the government uses to control its young people, but a tool young people can use to control their government. If it returns, I believe a new generation of young men, and perhaps young women, will arise and say no to it, and we who went through it thirty years ago will be ready to help them. Such a resistance might drive the pre-emptive war-mongers from power and prevent a war against all of Islam, and even the prospect of such a resistance might lead to a withdrawal from Iraq.
Michael Ferber is a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, and sits on the board of New Hampshire Peace Action. In 1967 he helped organize a church ceremony in Boston in which draft cards were returned to the Justice Department; for that act he stood trial in Federal Court for conspiracy to violate the draft law.
Even Homer Nods: Chomsky and Conscription
February 4, 2005
Even Homer Nods
Chomsky and Conscription
By JACOB LEVICH
Noam Chomsky is so rarely wrong about anything that it feels impertinent to correct him. But his recent remarks on the draft, printed in CounterPunch (Feb. 2), are in need of scrutiny, especially since they might give false comfort to people who rightly worry that a revival of conscription is in the cards. Chomsky says the US is unlikely to reinstate the draft because of "the Vietnam experience," which was "the first time in the history of European imperialism [sic; he must have meant to include North America] that an imperial power tried to fight a colonial war with a citizens' army." He continues:
"I mean the British didn't do it, and the French had the Foreign Legion in colonial wars, civilians are just no good at it. Colonial wars are too brutal and vicious and murderous. You just can't take kids off the street and have them fight that kind of war. You need trained killers, like the French Foreign Legion."Chomsky has been saying this a lot lately, and consequently the notion that conscripts can't fight dirty wars has taken its place among the Top Ten left-of-center myths about the draft, right alongside "the draft is fairer to the poor and minorities" and (don't laugh) "the Establishment wouldn't support wars of aggression if they thought their children might get drafted."
Because Chomsky is usually so reliable, a lot of good people seem to be swallowing his argument uncritically, which is why it calls for correction.
I won't dwell on Chomsky's use of the term "citizens' army," a pleasant-sounding euphemism for forced military service that is gaining popularity among apologists for the draft. But it's worth noting that the US force now in Iraq is already a citizens' army, consisting mostly of Guardsmen and Reservists who have been wrenched away from their families to spend 24 months in hell. It's probably true that some draftees would shrink from the brutal realities of war against the people of Iraq, but no more than the thoroughly demoralized civilians who are there now. From Washington's point of view, a draft could hardly make things worse.
What really puzzles me is Chomsky's bald assertion that the Vietnam War was the first time a European power tried to fight a colonial war using draftees. That's just not so.
To begin with, it's mysterious why Chomsky limits himself to European powers. Surely his argument should apply equally to imperialists on other continents, unless he thinks Europeans are especially sensitive about colonial slaughter -- and he can't possibly think that. At any rate, he's mistaken even in the case of Europe. Just to name one counterexample, the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935-36, a murderous colonial war by any standard, was fought with conscripted troops.
What's significant here is that fascist Italy introduced universal conscription precisely for the purpose of facilitating colonial expansion. So did imperial Japan. And once you let Asia into the equation, Chomsky's argument truly collapses. The 1930s and 1940s saw several of the most brutal colonial wars in history, including the Rape of Nanking and comparably horrific episodes during Japanese invasions of Southeast Asia and Korea. Throughout WWII numerous sideshow conflicts were conducted across the globe as the big powers vied to pick off colonial assets. All this was accomplished with draft armies.
Typically during the modern era, the draft has not hindered but aided imperialist designs. Universal conscription originated in Europe with the French Revolution, but it was Napoleon who first saw how a "citizen's army" could be exploited as an overwhelming military asset -- one which he put to use in conquering most of the European continent. His colonial war in Spain -- the original guerilla war -- was fought, with relentless brutality, by conscripted troops.
Although Napoleon lost his empire to the Russian winter, the advantages of conscription were not lost on the other European powers, which followed suit during the late 19th Century as they sparred over colonial prizes in Africa and Asia. The sole exception was Britain, which didn't need the draft, since it enjoyed use of the Indian Army as a virtually limitless reserve force.
Following WWII, the great powers variously used proxies, mercenaries, volunteers, UN "peacekeepers," and conscripts to fight their colonial wars. Results were mixed. In general, all categories of soldier proved capable of producing the kinds of atrocities required by their masters -- the My Lai massacre, for instance, was perpetrated by draftees. On the other hand, Chomsky's exemplary "trained killers" -- the French Foreign Legion -- botched both the Algerian and Vietnam Wars, and their supposedly exceptional morale is a myth. (See Bernard Fall on the deserters and defeatists at Dien Bien Phu.)
In the end, "volunteers vs. draftees" is the wrong way of looking at the problem. What history actually shows is that imperialist powers will eventually use whatever type and size of force they believe to be necessary from a military point of view, regardless of morale issues and political cost. LBJ was well aware that expanding the draft would be a risky proposition; he did it anyway because he saw no other way of winning the war. There's a good chance Bush will do the same.
If any further example is needed, remember that the most vicious, brutal, murderous, and protracted colonial war in the world today is being fought -- at tremendous cost to military and domestic morale -- by draftees. I'm talking, of course, about Israel's war on the Palestinian people. Given Chomsky's tireless truth-telling about Palestine, it's an inexplicable oversight. Even Homer nods.
Jacob Levich, email@example.com, is a frequent contributor to Counterpunch.com and a founding member of People Against the Draft, www.nodraft.info.
The Return of the Draft
With the army desperate for recruits, should college students be packing their bags for Canada?
TIM DICKINSON / Rolling Stone 27jan2005
Uncle Sam wants you. He needs you. He'll bribe you to sign up. He'll strong-arm you to re-enlist. And if that's not enough, he's got a plan to draft you. In the three decades since the Vietnam War, the "all-volunteer Army" has become a bedrock principle of the American military. "It's a magnificent force," Vice President Dick Cheney declared during the election campaign last fall, "because those serving are ones who signed up to serve." But with the Army and Marines perilously overextended by the war in Iraq, that volunteer foundation is starting to crack. The "weekend warriors" of the Army Reserve and the National Guard now make up almost half the fighting force on the front lines, and young officers in the Reserve are retiring in droves. The Pentagon, which can barely attract enough recruits to maintain current troop levels, has involuntarily extended the enlistments of as many as 100,000 soldiers. Desperate for troops, the Army has lowered its standards to let in twenty-five percent more high school dropouts, and the Marines are now offering as much as $30,000 to anyone who re-enlists. To understand the scope of the crisis, consider this: The United States is pouring nearly as much money into incentives for new recruits -- almost $300 million -- as it is into international tsunami relief.
"The Army's maxed out here," says retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, who served as Air Force chief of staff under the first President Bush. "The Defense Department and the president seem to be still operating off the rosy scenario that this will be over soon, that this pain is temporary and therefore we'll just grit our teeth, hunker down and get out on the other side of this. That's a bad assumption." The Bush administration has sworn up and down that it will never reinstate a draft. During the campaign last year, the president dismissed the idea as nothing more than "rumors on the Internets" and declared, "We're not going to have a draft -- period." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in an Op-Ed blaming "conspiracy mongers" for "attempting to scare and mislead young Americans," insisted that "the idea of reinstating the draft has never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by anyone in the Bush administration."
That assertion is demonstrably false. According to an internal Selective Service memo made public under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency's acting director met with two of Rumsfeld's undersecretaries in February 2003 precisely to debate, discuss and ponder a return to the draft. The memo duly notes the administration's aversion to a draft but adds, "Defense manpower officials concede there are critical shortages of military personnel with certain special skills, such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network engineers, etc." The potentially prohibitive cost of "attracting and retaining such personnel for military service," the memo adds, has led "some officials to conclude that, while a conventional draft may never be needed, a draft of men and women possessing these critical skills may be warranted in a future crisis." This new draft, it suggests, could be invoked to meet the needs of both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
The memo then proposes, in detail, that the Selective Service be "re-engineered" to cover all Americans -- "men and (for the first time) women" -- ages eighteen to thirty-four. In addition to name, date of birth and Social Security number, young adults would have to provide the agency with details of their specialized skills on an ongoing basis until they passed out of draft jeopardy at age thirty-five. Testifying before Congress two weeks after the meeting, acting director of Selective Service Lewis Brodsky acknowledged that "consultations with senior Defense manpower officials" have spurred the agency to shift its preparations away from a full-scale, Vietnam-style draft of untrained men "to a draft of smaller numbers of critical-skills personnel."
Richard Flahavan, spokesman for Selective Service, tells Rolling Stone that preparing for a skills-based draft is "in fact what we have been doing." For starters, the agency has updated a plan to draft nurses and doctors. But that's not all. "Our thinking was that if we could run a health-care draft in the future," Flahavan says, "then with some very slight tinkering we could change that skill to plumbers or linguists or electrical engineers or whatever the military was short." In other words, if Uncle Sam decides he needs people with your skills, Selective Service has the means to draft you -- and quick.
But experts on military manpower say the focus on drafting personnel with special skills misses the larger point. The Army needs more soldiers, not just more doctors and linguists. "What you've got now is a real shortage of grunts -- guys who can actually carry bayonets," says McPeak. A wholesale draft may be necessary, he adds, "to deal with the situation we've got ourselves into. We've got to have a bigger Army."
Michael O'Hanlon, a military-manpower scholar at the Brookings Institute, believes a return to a full-blown draft will become "unavoidable" if the United States is forced into another war. "Let's say North Korea strikes a deal with Al Qaeda to sell them a nuclear weapon or something," he says. "I frankly don't see how you could fight two wars at the same time with the all-volunteer approach." If a second Korean War should break out, the United States has reportedly committed to deploying a force of nearly 700,000 to defend South Korea -- almost half of America's entire military.
The politics of the draft are radioactive: Polls show that less than twenty percent of Americans favor forced military service. But conscription has some unlikely champions, including veterans and critics of the administration who are opposed to Bush's war in Iraq. Reinstating the draft, they say, would force every level of society to participate in military service, rather than placing a disproportionate burden on minorities and the working class. African-Americans, who make up roughly thirteen percent of the civilian population, account for twenty-two percent of the armed forces. And the Defense Department acknowledges that recruits are drawn "primarily from families in the middle and lower-middle socioeconomic strata."
A societywide draft would also make it more difficult for politicians to commit troops to battle without popular approval. "The folks making the decisions are committing other people's lives to a war effort that they're not making any sacrifices for," says Charles Sheehan-Miles, who fought in the first Gulf War and now serves as director of Veterans for Common Sense. Under the current all-volunteer system, fewer than a dozen members of Congress have children in the military.
Charlie Moskos, a professor of military sociology at Northwestern University, says the volunteer system also limits the political fallout of unpopular wars. "Without a draft, there's really no antiwar movement," Moskos says. Nearly sixty percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq was a mistake, he notes, but they have no immediate self-interest in taking to the streets because "we're willing to pay people to die for us. It doesn't reflect very well on the character of our society."
Even military recruiters agree that the only way to persuade average Americans to make long-term sacrifices in war is for the children of the elite to put their lives on the line. In a recent meeting with military recruiters, Moskos discussed the crisis in enlistment. "I asked them would they prefer to have their advertising budget tripled or have Jenna Bush join the Army," he says. "They unanimously chose the Jenna option."
One of the few politicians willing to openly advocate a return to the draft is Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, who argues that the current system places an immoral burden on America's underprivileged. "It shouldn't be just the poor and the working poor who find their way into harm's way," he says. In the days leading up to the Iraq war, Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft -- with absolutely no deferments. "If the kids and grandkids of the president and the Cabinet and the Pentagon were vulnerable to going to Iraq, we never would have gone -- no question in my mind," he says. "The closer this thing comes home to Americans, the quicker we'll be out of Iraq."
But instead of exploring how to share the burden more fairly, the military is cooking up new ways to take advantage of the economically disadvantaged. Rangel says military recruiters have confided in him that they're targeting inner cities and rural areas with high unemployment. In December, the National Guard nearly doubled its enlistment bonus to $10,000, and the Army is trying to attract urban youth with a marketing campaign called "Taking It to the Streets," which features a pimped-out yellow Hummer and a basketball exhibition replete with free throwback jerseys. President Bush has also signed an executive order allowing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship immediately -- rather than wait five years -- if they volunteer for active duty.
"It's so completely unethical and immoral to induce people that have limited education and limited job ability to have to put themselves in harm's way for ten, twenty or thirty thousand dollars," Rangel says. "Just how broke do you have to be to take advantage of these incentives?" Seducing soldiers with cold cash also unnerves military commanders. "We must consider the point at which we confuse 'volunteer to become an American soldier' with 'mercenary,' " Lt. Gen. James Helmly, the commander of the Army Reserve, wrote in a memo to senior Army leadership in December.
The Reserve, Helmly warns, "is rapidly degenerating into a broken force." The Army National Guard is also in trouble: It missed its recruitment goals of 56,000 by more than 5,000 in fiscal year 2004 and is already 2,000 soldiers short in fiscal 2005. To keep enough boots on the ground, the Pentagon has stopped asking volunteer soldiers to extend their service -- and started demanding it. Using a little-known provision called "stop loss," the military is forcing reservists and guardsmen to remain on active duty indefinitely. "This is an 'all-volunteer Army' with footnotes," says McPeak. "And it's the footnotes that are being held in Iraq against their wishes. If that's not a back-door draft, tell me what is."
David Qualls, who joined the Arkansas National Guard for a year, is one of 40,000 troops in Iraq who have been informed that their enlistment has been extended until December 24th, 2031. "I've served five months past my one-year obligation," says Qualls, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the military with breach of contract. "It's time to let me go back to my life. It's a question of fairness, and not only for myself. This is for the thousands of other people that are involuntarily extended in Iraq. Let us go home."
The Army insists that most "stop-lossed" soldiers will be held on the front lines for no longer than eighteen months. But Jules Lobel, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who is representing eight National Guardsmen in a lawsuit challenging the extensions, says the 2031 date is being used to strong-arm volunteers into re-enlisting. According to Lobel, the military is telling soldiers, "We're giving you a chance to voluntarily re-enlist -- and if you don't do it, we'll screw you. And the first way we'll screw you is to put you in until 2031."
But threatening volunteers, military experts warn, could be the quickest way to ensure a return to the draft. According to O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institute, such "callousness" may make it impossible to recruit new soldiers -- no matter how much money you throw at them. And if bigger sign-up bonuses and more aggressive recruitment tactics don't do the trick, says Helmly of the Army Reserve, it could "force the nation into an argument" about reinstating the draft.
In the end, it may simply come down to a matter of math. In January, Bush told America's soldiers that "much more will be asked of you" in his second term, even as he openly threatened Iran with military action. Another war, critics warn, would push the all-volunteer force to its breaking point. "This damn thing is just an explosion that's about to happen," says Rangel. Bush officials "can say all they want that they don't want the draft, but there's not going to be that many more buttons to push."
What We Do Now: A Peace Agenda
By David Cortright
As the Bush Administration continues its illegal and unjust military invasion of Iraq, we must steel ourselves for the difficult days that lie ahead. We must also recognize that our work for peace has only just begun.
We should not retreat from our core criticisms of Bush's war or be intimidated into silence. This war was and is completely unnecessary. Iraq was being disarmed through peaceful diplomatic means. It made numerous concessions to UN demands and was in the process of destroying missiles and disclosing its weapons activities when the United States attacked. Unprovoked war against another country without the approval of the Security Council violates the UN Charter and is illegal under US and international law. Such a war can never be just.
The outbreak of war makes our work more important and necessary than ever. It creates enormous new challenges, but it also offers new opportunities. We must organize a broadly based campaign to address the causes and consequences of this war and to prevent such misguided adventures in the future.
We can start by recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of the past few months. We have created the largest, most broadly based peace movement in history--a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe. Never before have US churches, from the Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Council of Churches, spoken so resolutely against war. Never before have so many US trade unions supported the antiwar movement. In practically every sector of society--business executives, women's groups, environmentalists, artists, musicians, African-Americans, Latinos--a strong antiwar voice has emerged. Antiwar rallies and vigils have occurred in thousands of communities, and many cities have passed antiwar declarations.
The fact that this effort could not prevent war reflects not the weaknesses of our movement but the failures of American democracy and the entrenched power of US militarism. The Bush Administration has shown utter contempt for public opinion at home and abroad. It manipulated legitimate public concerns about terrorism to assert a false connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda and refused to tell the American people or Congress how much the invasion and occupation would cost until after the war was already under way.
Our short-term objectives will depend on how the war unfolds, whether it is a short, "successful" military campaign or becomes a drawn-out war of attrition with constant sniper or guerrilla attacks. We hope there will be few casualties, both for Iraqis and Americans, but we know that a quick victory will bolster the very policies we abhor. We urge our government to do everything possible to avoid unnecessary death and destruction. Our short-term political agenda should include the following demands and issues:
§ Protect the innocent. The United States should provide massive humanitarian assistance and economic aid for the Iraqi people and other vulnerable populations in the region. We should support the reconstruction and development of Iraq. This assistance should be administered by civilian agencies, not the Pentagon. We should also demand, or if necessary provide, an accurate accounting of the civilian dead.
§ Support our men and women in the armed forces. We regret that their Commander in Chief has sent them on an ill-advised and unnecessary mission, but we respect and thank them for their service. We urge special support for the families of service members and reservists who have been sent to the Persian Gulf. We call for greater efforts to address the medical problems that will result from service in the gulf. More than 167,000 veterans are currently on disability as a result of their service in the first Gulf War. We condemn the cuts in veterans' benefits approved by the Republican-controlled Congress and call for increased availability of medical care and other benefits for veterans.
§ Bring home the troops. We urge the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq as soon as possible. We oppose the creation of any long-term or permanent US military bases in Iraq.
§ No war or military threats against Iran. We oppose any attempt to coerce or threaten Iran with military attack. It is no secret that extremists in Washington and Israel favor a military strike against Iran as the next phase in the "war on terror." This would be a further catastrophe for the cause of peace and must be vigorously resisted.
§ No war for oil. We oppose any US effort to seize control of Iraqi oil or to demand a percentage of Iraqi oil revenues. Ownership of Iraqi oil should remain with the Iraqi people. Iraq was the first Arab nation to nationalize its petroleum resources, and it must be allowed to retain control over this wealth to rebuild its economy and society.
§ Peace in the Middle East. The United States should give active support to a genuine peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. We should pressure both sides to accept a peace settlement that ends the violence and creates two sovereign and viable states.
§ Support for regional disarmament. The Gulf War cease-fire resolution of 1991 specified that the disarmament of Iraq was to be the first step toward the creation in the Middle East of a "zone free from weapons of mass destruction." The elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq should thus lead to their elimination throughout the region.
Our response to war and military occupation in Iraq must also include a longer-term vision of an alternative US security policy. The Bush Administration claims that the deadly nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction requires a radical new foreign policy of military pre-emption and the unilateral assertion of American technological power. This is the policy being implemented in Iraq. We must offer an alternative vision, one that takes seriously the terrorism and proliferation threat but that provides a safer, less costly and ultimately more successful strategy for countering these dangers.
The outlines of our alternative strategy are visible in the policy proposals we have suggested in the current debate over Iraq. We support the disarmament of Iraq, North Korea and other nations regarded by the international community as potential proliferators. We favor vigorous UN weapons inspections to verify disarmament. We call on our government to work diplomatically through the UN Security Council. We endorse targeted sanctions (restrictions on the finances and travel of designated elites, and arms embargoes) and other means of containing recalcitrant states. We endorse lifting sanctions and providing incentives as means of inducing compliance. We support the international campaign against terrorism and urge greater cooperative efforts to prosecute and cut off the funding of those responsible for the September 11 attacks.
At the same time, we recognize that disarmament ultimately must be universal. The disarmament of Iraq must be tied to regional disarmament, which in turn must be linked to global disarmament. The double standard of the United States and other nuclear states, in which we propose to keep these deadliest of weapons indefinitely while denying them to the rest of the world, cannot endure. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968 was based on a bargain--the nuclear powers' agreeing to pursue disarmament in exchange for the rest of the world's renouncing the nuclear option. The longer the United States and its nuclear partners refuse their obligation to disarm, the greater the likelihood that the nonproliferation regime will collapse.
The only true security against nuclear dangers is an enforceable ban on all nuclear weapons. Chemical and biological weapons are already banned. The far greater danger of nuclear weapons also must be subject to universal prohibition.
A global prohibition against all weapons of mass destruction is the best protection against the danger of terrorists' acquiring and using them. In effect, the disarmament obligations being imposed on Iraq must be applied to the entire world. All nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles should be banned everywhere, by all nations. This is the path to a safer and more secure future.
Of course, a ban on weapons of mass destruction would be meaningless without robust means of verifying and enforcing such prohibitions. A world of disarmament will require much stronger mechanisms of monitoring and enforcement than now exist. The policies we have supported for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq--rigorous inspections, targeted sanctions and multilateral coercive diplomacy--can and should be applied universally to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. The UN weapons-inspection capability should be increased a hundredfold and deployed throughout the world to monitor and verify the universal ban on weapons of mass destruction. Nations that refuse to comply with verified disarmament requirements should be subjected to targeted sanctions and coercive diplomatic pressures from the UN and other regional security organizations. Nations that cooperate with disarmament mandates should receive inducements in the form of economic assistance, trade and technology preferences, and security assurances. These policy tools, combined with a serious commitment to sustainable economic development for developing nations, are viable means for helping to assure international compliance with a global disarmament mandate.
This is not a pacifist vision that eschews all uses of military force. The threat of force is sometimes a necessary component of coercive diplomacy. In some circumstances the actual use of force--ideally in a targeted and narrow fashion, with authorization from the UN Security Council or regional security bodies--may be necessary. In contrast with the policy of the Bush Administration, however, the proposed approach would allow the threat or use of force only as a last resort, when all other peaceful diplomatic means have been exhausted, and only with the explicit authorization of the Security Council or regional security organizations. In no circumstance would the United States or any other nation have the right to mount a military invasion to overthrow another government for the ostensible purpose of achieving disarmament. Rather, the United States would respect the Charter of the UN and would strive to achieve disarmament and settle the differences among nations through peaceful diplomatic means.
Our immediate challenge in implementing these short- and long-term objectives is to change the political direction and leadership of the United States. In the upcoming political debates we must devote our energies to building support for our alternative foreign-policy vision and creating a mass political constituency that can hold candidates accountable to this vision. Our chances of preventing future military disasters depend in the short run on removing the Bush Administration from office and electing a new political leadership dedicated to international cooperation and peace. This is a formidable political challenge. It will be extremely difficult to accomplish by November 2004. We must begin to organize for this challenge now, however, and we must remain committed to this objective into the future, planning now for the additional election cycles that will probably be necessary to realize our goals. We must also recognize the enormity of the challenge we face in diminishing the unelected power of the national security establishment, which functions as a shadow government regardless of who is in office. These great challenges will be met only by a sustained, massive citizens' movement dedicated to the long-term challenge of fundamentally reshaping America's role in the world. The work begins now, as the military invasion of Iraq continues. We have no time to mourn. A lifetime of organizing and education lies ahead.
'War on Terror' or Real Security?
by David Cortright and George A. Lopez
A nation's long struggle to figure out who fights its wars
By Mike Feinsilber
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 -
Remember Dec. 1, 1969?
You almost certainly do if you are a male civilian born on Sept. 14 of any year
between 1944 and 1950.
On Dec. 1, 1969, Congressman Alexander Pirnie, a member of the House Armed Services
Committee, reached into a fishbowl and drew out one of its 366 blue plastic
capsules. (One was for Feb. 29 of leap years.)
It contained a slip of paper bearing the date Sept. 14. If you were born on that
date, your draft lottery number was 1. Thousands of young men unlucky enough to have
that birthday knew they could anticipate mail from their local draft board.
The induction notice actually started with the word "greeting" (some bureaucrat must
have decided, one inductee, one greeting), but legend turned the salutation into the
The word took on a sardonic place in the vocabulary of the day. "Greetings," one
young man would say to another. "Ha, ha, ha."
"Greeting," the message would say. "Having submitted yourself to a Local Board
composed of your neighbors for the purpose of determining your availability for
service in the Armed Forces of the United States, you are hereby ordered to report."
The mailman no longer carries that mail. Thirty-one years have passed since the
country drafted anyone. But now, with the country told by its leaders that it could
be in a 100-year war against terrorism, there is talk of reviving the draft.
Talk only, so far. It would take an act of Congress to resume drafting. Congress
seems to have no appetite for that. The president opposes it and so does his rival
for the presidency. So does the Pentagon. Opposition comes from the political left
and right. In polls, eight out of 10 say no.
Says law professor Donald N. Zillman of the University of Maine, a student of the
draft, "Once the election is past us in November, we may face some very hard
questions. If we don't have enough people to meet the needs, we may have to draft.
The re-enlistment rates for the National Guard and the reserves are way down."
Support for a new draft comes from a handful of academics and a handful in Congress,
acting, they say, in the name of fairness.
In time of war, this democracy has often had a quandary in deciding how to raise its
armies. In the Civil War, in World Wars I and II, in Korea, in the Cold War and in
Vietnam, the answer has been conscription.
Conscription carries problems. The country always has more young men than the war
So the question becomes one of fairness: Who gets drafted, who gets excused?
Fathers? College students? The clergy? Farmhands? Defense workers? Teachers? Those
who conscientiously object to bearing arms? The flat-footed?
When Rep. Pirnie reached into that fishbowl, the country had become fed up with a
draft that offered too many escape hatches. So Richard Nixon decided to let the luck
of the lottery decide. Over the next six years, the country had six more lottery
drawings to catch young men who had turned 18 since the previous one.
After Vietnam, Congress raised the pay of soldiers and opted for an all-volunteer
army, which it still has. The draft was history.
Much of that was a history of opposition and inequity. In the Civil War, Northerners
could sidestep service by paying a bounty of $300 or by hiring substitutes to serve
in their place (sometimes as much as $1,500). Substitutes turned out to be lousy
fighters, often deserting and hiring themselves out again. It was a racket.
In July of 1863, in the third year of a war far bloodier than anyone had guessed,
President Lincoln had run out of volunteers and instituted a call for 300,000
conscripts. That enraged anti-war Democrats who saw "a rich man's war but a poor
An anti-draft mob of 50,000 went on a rampage in New York City. The rioters were
mostly Irish immigrants. And their targets were black people living in the freedom
the North afforded former slaves. For five days, the rioters terrorized black
neighborhoods. They lynched several blacks, attacked a black church, an orphanage,
saloons, hotels. More than 100 people were killed. Lincoln sent troops fresh from
the battle of Gettysburg to restore order.
Historian John Whiteclay Chambers II says the Civil War draft produced 46,000
conscripts. Another 118,000 men escaped the draft by hiring substitutes.
In the manpower-short Confederacy, conscription was even more essential. Resentment
was aroused by the exemptions for slave overseers on big plantations.
In World War I, President Wilson learned from Lincoln's experience and allowed no
bounties, no substitutes. The draft provided two-thirds of all the doughboys who
The World War II draft was also vital, and successful, with 10 million inductions.
The draft aroused bitterness during the Korean War and became a fact of life in the
early decades of the Cold War, something young men just came to expect. But it
turned into an anvil for the protests that ultimately forced Richard Nixon to find a
face-saving way to get out of Vietnam.
The Vietnam draft inducted nearly two million men, but historian Harry Summers Jr.
put the number of draft dodgers at 570,000. Of that total, only 8,750 were convicted
and only 4,000 imprisoned. With the war over, Presidents Ford and Carter pardoned
most draft evaders.
"The Vietnam-era draft was a national disgrace," Summers wrote. "A high school
graduate was twice as likely to serve in the military as a college graduate."
Now, with the draft mothballed, the Selective Service System, the government agency
that has overseen the draft since 1917, is left with two tasks. One is to knock down
waves of rumors that the country is about to draft again. The other is to register
men between 18 and 26, just in case. The agency rostrum carries 14 million young
About one in 10 young men simply ignore the registration requirement, even though
more than 30 states require men to register to get a driver's license.
In Congress, the champion of the drive to restart the draft is Rep. Charles Rangel,
a New York City Democrat who doesn't like the war in Iraq but likes even less the
fact that it is being fought by a working-class army. Rangel thinks the
all-volunteer army is not that.
"We would never have gone into Iraq if they were sending the sons of the White
House, the sons of the Pentagon, the Congress, the CEOs," Rangel said in an
interview. "It's easy to have a pre-emptive strike against a country that is not a
danger to the United States when you're fighting a war with somebody else's
In the Senate, Republican Charles Hagel of Nebraska, while not necessarily favoring
a draft, believes it has to be considered because of the military's manpower needs.
The draft is "a steam engine coming right down the tracks at us," he says.
Like Rangel, most proponents want a draft that takes everyone, and requires civilian
service for the men and women the military doesn't need. Since 4 million Americans
turn 18 every year, nearly all would go into civilian service.
"There would be no preferences, no deferments, no chances for the well-off or the
well-connected to dodge military service," says Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., another
But the generals in the Pentagon prefer a professional army, and Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld argues it is wasteful to train draftees in the skills needed by a
high-tech army, only to lose them after two years. He says the armed services have
300,000 men and women "doing tasks that are not military."
On the left, a columnist in the Nation magazine fears a draft would "further
militarize the nation." On the right, President Reagan's defense secretary, Caspar
Weinberger, says that if it is true that the military takes a disproportionate
number of people of color "that simply demonstrates that there is a higher degree of
patriotism among black and Hispanic youths of draft age than among whites of draft
Doug Bandow, a scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, says mandatory national
service, as Rangel proposes, would be unfair: "Some people would get lucky enough to
go fight in Fallujah while others get to sit in the D.C. public library and shelve
Probably the most prominent advocate of universal service is military sociologist
Charles Moskos of Northwestern University. He senses that the country will support
an unpopular war only when it sees the children of national leaders in the war.
"Imagine if Jenna Bush were in Iraq today," he says. "We would be much more committed."
This spring, The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, could find only eight
lawmakers with children in the armed forces and only two of them saw service in
Iraq. By contrast, in World War II, 62 senators and 211 representatives had
offspring or grandchildren in uniform.
Law professor Zillman says only about 30 percent of present lawmakers have served in
the military and the number diminishes every time an old veteran a Bob Dole or Strom
Thurmond leaves Congress, to be replaced by someone unlikely to have served.
"It would be a very dangerous thing to have a Congress largely free of personal
military experience," he said in an interview. "We are getting dangerously close to
that now. I think there is a shared integrity if Congress calls men and women to
serve if they have themselves served."
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed re-instituting a draft in 1940,
isolationists feared his plan would draw the country into Europe's war. Pacifist
women kneeled on the White House sidewalk, praying for the legislation's defeat.
Sen. Burton K. Wheeler of Montana predicted it would "plow under every fourth
After France fell to the Germans, Congress enacted FDR's bill. Among the early 1941
draftees: Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers, the American League's most valuable
player in 1940.
Some shirked. The Justice Department investigated 373,000 suspected WWII draft
evaders and 16,000 were convicted.
Nothing has ever equaled the anti-draft sentiment of Vietnam. Draft resistance gave
rise to draft-card burnings, sit-ins, attempts to stop troop trains. On campuses,
the effort to avoid the draft "was commonly accepted as legitimate and normal," says
historian Christian G. Appy, author of "Working-Class War."
Up to 50,000 evaders went to Canada, Britain, Sweden, or graduate school. Others got
braces on their teeth.
Some did nothing but get letters from a doctor or psychiatrist. At one induction
center in Seattle, Wash., registrants who came in with letters were simply sent
home, according to Lawrence M. Baskir and William A. Strauss in "Chance and
Circumstance," a book about the Vietnam draft.
According to Appy, "The institutions most responsible for channeling men into the
military the draft, the schools and the job market directed working-class children
to the armed forces and their wealtheir peers toward college. Most young men from
prosperous families were able to avoid the draft, and very few volunteered. Thus,
America's most unpopular war was fought primarily by the 19-year-old children of
waitresses, factory workers, truck drivers, secretaries, firefighters, carpenters,
custodians, police officers, salespeople, clerks, mechanics, miners and farm
And thus some baby boomers who later became prominent in public life managed to
sidestep military service. The list includes two vice presidents and two presidents.
Dan Quayle, joined the Indiana National Guard in lieu of being drafted. Bill Clinton
went the college deferral route. George W. Bush joined the Texas National Guard.
Dick Cheney asked for and got five student deferments before he turned 26 and
ineligible for the draft in 1967. He is famous for his explanation: "I had other
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Republican Leader Dick Armey, Republican Whip
Tom Delay, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz are also among those who might have, but did not, wear the uniform.
The paths taken by two young men who entered life with no special advantages tell
much about America's ambiguous feelings toward compulsory military service.
Elvis Presley, born in 1935, was probably the most famous draftee in history. He got
his draft notice on Jan. 20, 1958, took basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, sailed
to Europe, was stationed in Friedberg, Germany, for 18 months where he drove a jeep
for a sergeant.
Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in 1942 and became a boxer. After defeating Sonny
Liston in 1964, he affiliated with the black-separatist Nation of Islam and said he
had rejected his "slave name" in favor of Muhammad Ali. Drafted, he refused
induction, explaining his religious faith prevented him from serving and, anyway, "I
ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."
He was stripped of his boxing title, convicted and sentenced to five years in
prison. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction; four years later, Ali regained
Except for their fame, Presley and Ali were typical of their generation in a country
that has always had difficulty deciding whether the draft was American or
un-American, a necessary evil or a democratic duty.
EDITOR'S NOTE Mike Feinsilber was drafted during the Cold War and served in the Army
for two years. He retired recently after 22 years with The Associated Press in