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Get ready for the draft: with recruitment bottoming out and U.S. military commitments expanding overseas, a return to conscription looms on the horizon.

"The problem," an Army recruiter in Ohio told the New York Times, "is that no one wants to join. We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by."

The deepening morass in Iraq has caused a recruiting drought at home. In April, the U.S. Army missed its recruiting goals for the third consecutive month. The same is true of the Marine Corps, National Guard, and Army Reserve.

Thus some recruiters have chosen to play "fast and loose" by "hiding police records and medical histories of potential recruits," explained the Times. Desperate recruiters in states across the country have falsified official documents, distributed "cheat sheets" to potential enlistees prior to military aptitude tests, or helped drug-abusing recruits beat mandatory drug tests.

Not all of the methods being used to address the manpower crisis are unethical; some are merely desperate. In early May, the Army raised its enlistment bonuses--for the third time since August.

But no matter how finely woven the net, or how widely it is cast, the catch is pitifully small--and much of it would be tossed back under normal circumstances. The combination of expanding military commitments and diminished recruitment has led many to conclude that a return to the draft is all but certain.

Drafts, Military and Otherwise

If conscription is reinstated, it will most likely include not only a military draft, but also compelled national service. It would also apply to both males and females. This was the general outline of a draft revival bill proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of the leftward-most members of Congress. A very similar proposal was made in "The Case for the Draft," an essay published in the March issue of the influential Washington Monthly by Captain Philip Carter, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Paul Glastris.

"America has a choice," write Carter and Glastris. "It can be the world's superpower, or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't do both."

Under their plan, the federal government "would impose a requirement that no four-year college or university be allowed to accept a student, male or female, unless and until that student had completed a 12-month to two-year term of service," with "modest follow-on reserve obligations." Students would be given their choice from three officially sanctioned forms of involuntary servitude: "[N]ational service programs like AmeriCorps (tutoring disadvantaged children), in homeland security assignments (guarding ports), or in the military. Those who chose the latter could serve as military police officers, truck drivers, or other non-combat specialists requiring only modest levels of training.... They would be deployed as needed for peacekeeping or nation-building missions." (Emphasis added.)

Those who choose active duty would have shorter service terms and more generous benefits. Those who choose civilian or reserve duty could also easily find themselves assigned to UN-commanded peacekeeping duty, or serving in hazardous long-term missions like the ongoing occupation of Iraq--just as Guardsmen and Reservists have learned that the Pentagon can redefine the terms of their service contracts at will.

In an early April forum, the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think-tank with plentiful connections to the Council on Foreign Relations, gave the Carter/Glastris proposal a favorable hearing. While the neoconservative Project for a New American Century has not formally endorsed a return to conscription, it and the Center for American Progress agree that the U.S. military has an immediate need for at least 100,000 new soldiers--a present impossibility, given that voluntary enlistment has flat-lined, despite the hike in enlistment bonuses.

For decades, the Council on Foreign Relations has defined the Establishment's foreign policy "consensus." The Center for American Progress could be considered a CFR retail outlet for the benefit of the liberal/Democratic wing of the Establishment; the Project for a New American Century serves a similar function for the Republican/neoconservative wing. Thus it's clear that the dials are being pre-set for policy makers to begin consideration of some version of the Carter/Glastris proposal--universal "national service" for all 18-year-olds, including military conscription, as a condition of attending college.

Conscription and Collectivism

The fact that proponents of a renewed draft intend to make it universal demonstrates that the proposal has no connection to legitimate national defense, but is instead a scheme to establish the principle that all Americans are the property of the state. That principle has been made explicit in previous American experiences with the draft.

The first American draft, which was instituted in 1862 under the Confederate government, conscripted manpower not only for the military, but for economic and industrial purposes as well, in the service of what historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel calls a system of "war socialism." The Carter/Glastris proposal would essentially build on that precedent. In principle, if the federal government can conscript every citizen at 18 for a term of one to two years, it could expand that term of service at its discretion, for purposes of its choosing. And, once again, claims of that sort have been made by the federal government in the past.

Following the April 1917 declaration of war against Germany, the Wilson administration also imposed a system that could properly be described as "war socialism," with conscription as its centerpiece. In his May 28, 1917 conscription proclamation, Wilson maintained that the draft "is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass."

The Wilson administration's implicit totalitarianism was made plain in an August 7, 1918 statement by Bernard Baruch, chairman of the War Industries Board. "Every man's life is at the call of the nation and so must be every man's property," declared Baruch. "We are living today in a highly organized state of socialism. The state is all; the individual is of importance only as he contributes to the welfare of the state. His property is his only as the state does not need it. He must hold his life and possessions at the call of the state." (Emphasis added.)

When he signed the 1917 conscription act, Wilson described the draft as "a new thing in our history and a landmark in our progress." Whether or not the measure was as novel as Wilson thought, it certainly represented "progress" away from the limited government views of the Founders, and toward a totalitarian view of government power. The sole significant Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the draft, the 1918 Selective Draft Law Cases, offered little by way of citing specific constitutional passages, and a great deal of statist rhetoric.

Ruling against several men who had challenged the draft on constitutional grounds, the court claimed that opposition to conscription "challenges the existence of all power, for a governmental power which has no sanction to it and which therefore can only be exercised provided the citizen consents to its exertions is in no substantial sense a power."

The plaintiffs had argued that the draft violated the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition of slavery and "involuntary servitude." Rather than examining that argument on its merits, the court dismissed it with a regal ipse dixit: "[W]e are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement."

Following the armistice that ended World War I, the draft was discontinued--only to be reinstituted in 1940 under FDR, who was devising plans to involve the U.S. in the European conflict even as he campaigned on a promise to keep our nation out of the war. During the debate over reinstituting the draft, Senator Robert Taft (R-Ohio) drew attention once again to the fact that conscription was the keystone of the Total State.

"The principle of a compulsory draft is basically wrong," declared Senator Taft in a September 6, 1940 Senate floor debate. "If we must use compulsion to get an army, why not use compulsion to get men for other essential tasks? ... The argument in favor of conscription is to take this long step toward a system in which the state is everything and the individual is nothing."

Save Our Volunteer Military!

FDR got his draft, as well as measures regimenting much of our nation's economy and manufacturing base. Millions of American men were conscripted into the military to fight under the direction of the "United Nations" (as the Allies were known in WWII, prior to the organization of the same name). Hundreds of thousands more were drafted to fight under UN command in Korea, and in the subsequent Vietnam conflict fought under the aegis of SEATO, a "regional arrangement" as defined by the UN Charter (see accompanying article on page 17.)

Following Pearl Harbor, the military had no trouble finding enlistees to fight against Japan. It would have been much more difficult to recruit Americans willing to die so that Stalin could control Eastern Europe, or Mao could rule China. In similar fashion, military recruitment spiked following 9/11, as Americans enlisted out of a desire to avenge the attack and defend our country. As the Iraq war grinds on and evidence accumulates that the decision to go to war was rooted in deliberate dishonesty, fewer Americans are inclined to join the military. It's not surprising that Americans aren't eager to risk death or dismemberment to prop up an Iraqi regime dominated by radical Muslims.

The federal government is utterly shameless in wasting our money. It shouldn't surprise us to learn that it's been similarly profligate in wasting the lives of draftees as well. Americans have never shirked the duty to defend our nation when it is genuinely threatened. If Washington were compelled to abandon its grandiose designs for "benevolent global hegemony," our volunteer military would be more than adequate to meet the legitimate needs of national defense.
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Title Annotation:U.S. MILITARY
Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 30, 2005
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