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Reviving the draft: with roughly half of our Army committed to the Iraq occupation, and additional geopolitical challenges looming on the horizon, the return of conscription is a very real possibility.

"Should the Draft Be Reinstated"? asked the headline of a December 21, 2003 Time magazine story. Many National Guardsmen and Army Reservists--men and women who believed they had signed limited contracts to serve as part-time soldiers--are discovering that, in a very real sense, the draft has already been quietly revived.

The December 29 Washington Post profiled two Guardsmen and a Reservist presently deployed to Iraq who had been slated for retirement last year. "On their Army paychecks, the expiration date of their military service is now listed sometime after 2030--the payroll computer's way of saying, 'Who knows?'" observed the Post. The same is true of "thousands of soldiers forbidden to leave military service under the Army's 'stop-loss' orders, intended to stanch the seepage of troops, through retirement and discharge, from a military stretched thin by its burgeoning overseas missions." Over the past two years, the Army has issued 11 stop-loss orders--roughly one every two months.

Although Congress ended the draft in 1973, it subsequently authorized stop-loss orders as a way of retaining personnel with combat experience and special skills. Despite the fact that enlistment in the military is voluntary, each branch of the service can, at the direction of the secretary of defense, prolong enlistments indefinitely, thereby unilaterally redefining the terms of a service contract with an enlistee. "An enlistment contract has two parties, yet only the government is allowed to violate the contract; I am not," observes Staff Sgt. Peter G. Costas, presently deployed as an intelligence interrogator in Iraq. "I would not say it's a draft per se, but it's clearly a breach of contract. I will not re-enlist."

In fact, at least one branch of the military has come remarkably close to admitting that stop-loss orders are tantamount to "a draft per se." As it announced a stop-loss order last spring, the Air Force noted in an official news bulletin that "this action, while essential to meeting the service's worldwide obligations, is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of voluntary service."

Over-stretched and Under-manned

"This is the first extended-duration war the country has fought with an all-volunteer force," notes Lt. General James Helmly, head of the Army Reserve. Although historically the Guard and Reserve were designed to be deployed rapidly and then brought home immediately, they have now entered what Lt. Gen. Helmly calls a "brave new world" of lengthy, dangerous deployments abroad.

Most Guardsmen and Reservists presently deployed to Iraq were initially told the mission would last six months, only to have their tour of duty extended to a year. Lt. Gen. Helmly predicts that in the future, foreign deployments of a year or more will "likely become the norm." This assumes, of course, that the Guard and Reserves will be able to attract and keep skilled personnel. But that is hardly a safe assumption, as even Helmly admits: "Retention is what I am most worried about."

A survey of troop morale published in mid-October by the Army newspaper Stars & Stripes disclosed that nearly half of the soldiers polled did not plan to reenlist. The morale crisis is particularly acute for Guardsmen and Reservists, who have borne much of the burden of occupying Iraq. Laments an Army Reserve officer from Milwaukee, "People are dropping out left and right."

Were it not for the stealth conscription of tens of thousands of volunteer servicemen through stop-loss orders, the Army would face a severe manpower shortage. But the Army has actually used the orders to expand its ranks without legal authority from Congress. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last November, General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, revealed that by blocking the departure of roughly 40,000 soldiers (including 16,000 Guardsmen and Reservists) the Army now numbers 500,000 active-duty soldiers--exceeding the congressionally authorized ceiling by 20,000 men.

In brief, not only is there a quasi-draft presently underway, it has actually been used to expand the military, rather than simply maintaining its troop strength. While this effort has been confined thus far to those who volunteered to enlist, both the administration and Congress are quietly considering ways to expand conscription to the young civilian population at large.

Tuning Up the Machinery

"Since 1980, every able-bodied American male has been required by law to register with the Selective Service System [SSS] within 30 days of his 18th birthday," noted a September 18 ABC News story. "It is that system which will swing into action in the unlikely event that Congress passes and President Bush signs legislation authorizing a draft.... According to current plans, men ages 20 to 25 would be eligible, with 20-year-olds the first to be drafted. A lottery based on birth dates would be used to determine the order in which people are called up."

Many current political leaders (such as Vice President Cheney) enjoyed student deferments during the Vietnam War. Under current SSS guidelines, however, college students could defer induction only until the end of the semester. There is also a system in place to draft medical professionals between the ages of 20 and 45.

Although failure to register for the draft is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, recent practice has been to ban those who refuse to register from receiving student loans or employment with the federal government. However, as liberal journalist Maureen Farrell observes, state governments--with prompting from Washington--have been exploring other ways to enforce compliance: "In May, 2000 ... Delaware became the first state to enact legislation linking drivers' license applications to Selective Service registration and by August 2003, 32 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia had followed suit."

The long-dormant SSS showed ominous signs of life last fall. In early November, "Defend America," the official Web page of the Selective Service System, posted a notice advertising for volunteers to fill slots on draft boards across the country: "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 local and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men ... receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines."

Not surprisingly, the notice provoked a public furor, prompting the SSS to pull the notice from its website--and a terse denial from White House spokesman Scott McClellan that President Bush was planning to reinstate the draft. But the incident offered a timely reminder that the apparatus of conscription still exists, and can be activated by Congress--which is presently considering bills from both sides of the aisle that would reinstitute the draft in some form.

In late 2002 Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of the most radical members of Congress, introduced a bill that would conscript all Americans--both male and female--between the ages of 18 and 26 for either military service or some other form of federally dictated "national service." "Under a draft," explains Rangel, "every economic group, every social class, men and women, would be given the opportunity to contribute to the defense of their country."

What Rangel proposes is a contemporary American version of the French Revolution's Levee en Masse--essentially an indiscriminate draft of citizens for service in either the military or another state-designated public enterprise. It also jibes nicely with the eighth plank of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto, which calls for "Equal liability of all to labor [and] Establishment of industrial armies...."

Rangel, a member of the House Progressive Caucus and a close friend of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, is among the most radical-left members of Congress. Thus it's hardly surprising to see him embrace Marxist prescriptions for coercive social engineering. It might seem at least somewhat surprising, however, to find nearly identical proposals emanating from supposedly conservative Republicans.

Reps. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) and Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) are co-sponsors of the Universal Military Training and Service Act, which would require all males ages 18 to 22 to undergo "basic military training and education as a member of the armed forces," as well as vocational training, indoctrination about "homeland security," and instruction in U.S. and world history. Under the Smith-Weldon plan, draftees opposed on grounds of conscience to bearing arms would be required to participate in a civilian national service program.

A Civilian Service Corps (CSC) proposed by Democratic presidential contender (and retired four-star general) Wesley Clark would blur the distinction between military and non-military service. Americans of both sexes would be permitted to register for service in the CSC for up to five years as an alternative to military service. The president would be empowered to call up CSC reservists to carry out disaster relief, humanitarian work, or tasks related to homeland security. In addition, noted a CBS News summary of Clark's proposal, "Civilian reservists also could be sent overseas for jobs like reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq"--missions that are accelerating the depletion of our overstretched military.

Social Benefits?

Defenders of conscription--whether or not it includes military service--insist that forcing young people to serve the state is a worthy end in itself, whatever our nation's military or security needs might be.

According to Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), "There are huge social benefits that come from [the draft].... When I look at the problems of some of our kids in America nowadays and then I go visit the troops, I see what a great benefit it is to give people the opportunity to serve their country.... I'm not on a crusade, but I think today's youth could use more of that type of discipline."

In his 1988 book, A Call to Civic Service, Northwestern University professor Charles Moskos, the acknowledged "intellectual father of national service," praised "the merits of obligatory and unpaid ... labor to do the necessary work of society that is dangerous, grueling, or dirty." The "war on terrorism," Moskos contends, illustrates the need for a "new-style draft": "We need guards for our nuclear power plants, dams and public facilities. We have done little to create the necessary border patrollers, customs agents and cargo-ship inspectors. Short-term draftees, under professional supervision, could perform these duties admirably. It takes less than four months to train a military police officer--precisely the kind of role most needed in peacekeeping missions and guard duties. This would free up professional soldiers, and it would stop the unprecedented activation of reservists."

Moskos proposes a "three-tiered draft system" in which Americans ages 18 to 26 would serve terms of 15-24 months in either the military, a homeland security corps, or a civilian service program like AmeriCorps--"and there is no reason women could not be drafted for the latter categories." Indeed, most current proposals for reviving the draft take for granted that women will be included in some capacity. (See sidebar.)

All proposals for conscription begin with the premise that individuals owe service to the state, which can use them in any way it sees fit. While this arrangement is beneficial to collectivist social engineers who seek to expand the welfare state as well as the warfare state, it actually undermines the fighting effectiveness of our military: The same government that has no compunctions about wasting other people's money on myriad socialist schemes can just as eagerly waste the lives of other people's sons--and daughters too.

"A return to the draft is a very bad idea whose time passed with the world wars, Korea, and Vietnam," declares General Robert Scales Jr. (U.S. Army, Ret.), a former commandant of the Army War College. "These wars were tragically wasteful because in large measure they were fought with drafted soldiers. Drafted soldiers are far more likely to die in combat than long-service professionals.... Drafting teenagers and committing them to combat within only a year of enlistment will create an Army of amateurs. Our Army in particular has a sad history of committing to battle men who are too young and inexperienced to have much hope of surviving against a hardened and skillful enemy."

Our volunteer military is more than capable of dealing with any foreseeable foreign threat to our nation--when it is used wisely in the service of our legitimate national interest. Ending our needless and counter productive occupation of Iraq would go a long way toward solving our deepening crisis of military manpower and morale. Reinstituting the draft, however, would simply give the architects of that catastrophe an unlimited supply of young people to waste on their demented schemes for global hegemony.

RELATED ARTICLE: Will they draft your daughter?

by William Norman Grigg

Writing in American Opinion magazine (a precursor to this publication) more than 30 years ago, former California Congressman John G. Schmitz predicted that one consequence of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would be the conscription of women into the military. Indeed, some of the ERA's most militant backers considered that prospect a selling point.

"The equal rights amendment would make voluntary, as well as compulsory, military service available to women and men on the same basis," declared New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, a radical Marxist and founder of the modern feminist movement. Writing in the April 1971 Yale Law Review, Professor Thomas Emerson, another radical ERA proponent, insisted that exempting women from the draft would be intolerably "sexist":
 Such obvious differential treatment for women as exemption
 from the draft, exclusion from the service academies, and more
 restrictive standards for enlistment will have to be brought into
 conformity with the Amendment's basic prohibition of sex
 discrimination.... Under the ERA, the Women's Army Corps would
 be abolished.... Women will serve in all kinds of units, and they
 will be eligible for combat duty....

Thus Rep. Schmitz was hardly an alarmist when he warned that under the ERA, the federal government would have "not merely the 'right,' but the 'constitutional obligation' ... to snatch our daughters into the Army, with all that would imply even now, when we at least maintain separate women's units and do not set the women to driving tanks or clearing minefields...."

Despite the death of the ERA in 1982, much of Schmitz's prediction has come to pass. Women who volunteer for military service are subject to stop-loss orders. Following the first Gulf War in 1991, Congress relaxed many of the restrictions on women in combat. As a result, noted the January 4 Miami Herald, women personnel in the second Gulf War "have participated more extensively in combat in Iraq than in any previous war in U.S. history. They've taken roles nearly inconceivable just a decade or two ago--flying fighter jets and attack helicopters, patrolling streets armed with machine guns and commanding units composed mostly of male soldiers. Seven female soldiers have died in combat."

In the 1991 Guff War, for the first time in our nation's history, mothers were called away to war, albeit for service away from the front lines. In the sequel, mothers who leave children behind find themselves in the thick of combat. Many of the female soldiers involved in the current conflict are single mothers who leave their children in the care of grandparents or friends; such was the case with Lori Piestewa, who was killed in the same ambush in which Jessica Lynch was seriously injured.

In many other instances, children in two-soldier families are left temporarily (at best) orphaned when both parents are called up. Twenty-three-year-old Sgt. Erin Edwards, a commander's aide in the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, "left her 3-year-old son and infant daughter with her in-laws because her husband serves in the Army in South Korea," noted an AP dispatch. "I would love to be at home with my kids, but I'm doing this for them," commented Edwards of her children. "I wouldn't want to do anything else."

Simone Holcomb of Colorado Springs, who like her husband Vaughn is in the Army, would rather have spent time with her children--but wasn't initially given the choice. When she and Vaughn were both called up for service in Iraq, their seven children were left in the care of Vaughn's mother and ex-wife. After the couple was called to serve their country abroad, Vaughn's ex-wife filed for custody of the three daughters they had prior to the divorce.

After Vaughn and Simone were granted an emergency leave to contest the claim, a judge ruled that one of them must remain behind to care for the children. It was decided that Vaughn would return to his tank platoon, and Simone--defying an order to return to Iraq--would remain behind. She was given an administrative punishment and threatened with criminal charges for going AWOL. Eventually Simone was taken off active duty and quietly reassigned to the National Guard without further punishment.

The Holcomb family's predicament prefigures what we can expect if advocates of a revived draft prevail. Radical feminists of Abzug's loathsome ilk supported conscription as a way of forcibly reconfiguring society. Although feminism reverently invokes "freedom of choice," it, like every other variant of collectivism, ultimately aims to enhance the power of the state at the expense of liberty. Feminism's chief target is the conventional family, particularly the increasingly embattled role of traditional mother.

"No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children," insisted feminist "foremother" Simone de Beauvoir. "Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women would make that one."

A society that permits the military to take willing mothers away from newborns and send them into battle is nearly ready to force that role on unwilling mothers as well.
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Title Annotation:Military
Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 26, 2004
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