Bring Back the Draft

After the election we heard a lot about how things were going to get crazy, and that we really needed to pace our outrage. It would be all to easy, we were told, to get real fired up for a couple of months and then slip into a lackadaisical acquiescence of our dystonian reality.

“Yeah right,” we said. “Not me. I’m in this fight for the long haul.”

And then it happened. I’m not sure whether it was reassurances from some courts that reason could, conceivably, prevail, or additional despair over a run of luckluster progressive challenges in whackjob special congressional elections. Maybe we just saw something shiny, like, work, or something, and just sort of spaced out for a while. I stopped reading the news for a couple of weeks, and before long slipped into that familiar normalcy that comes so easily to armed white males in western states.

But then I woke up one morning and fired up the ol’ New York Times, and was reminded that while the world may not have stopped spinning yet, we do have a total solar eclipse right around the corner. Also we’ve got no real strategy for what to do in Syria, we’re alarmingly antagonistic with military superpowers, and now we’re running around drawing lines and making threats.

If this doesn’t sound like a recipe for another prolonged, directionless military foray into the middle east, I don’t know what does.

And so it’s time to renew drafting young Americans for combat roles, and to get us thinking a little bit more critically about how we spend the lives of our youth.

There’s a popular idea that the US military ranks are filled by minorities and the poor. And as convenient as that would be for this blog post, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Numerous studies have hinted that military demographics are approaching national demographics. And while the majority of enlisted recruits do come from households with below-median incomes, it isn’t as dramatic as you might think. The same is true for minorities; while blacks are slightly over represented in the armed forces, it isn’t completely lopsided.

But the fact is that while the makeup of America’s armed forces do represent an approximate cross section of our population, less than 1% of eligible individuals elect to go that route.

Certainly, compulsory military service would address the issue of whether or not the armed forces are representative of the population. But I’m not convinced that ballooning our military would be effective in encouraging thoughtfulness in our armed forays. (It seems most likely that it would create a lot of expensive, cush, redundancy and mission creep within the military).

Rather, a new draft for combat roles would use intermittent reinforcement (if it can be used to train dogs, why not an electorate!) of the notion that military engagement really is a big deal. With the draft comes the persistent specter that our friends and loved ones (or ourselves!) will be snatched and away sent to die.

A reinvigorated draft for fighting men and women will not swell the ranks beyond what is necessary, but it will force an awareness and care for how those ranks are deployed. When considering prolonged military intervention we need more skin in the game. A regular draft is the way to ensure that we all pay attention to where and why we’re starting wars.

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