Two Wars and We Don't Feel a Draft

The benefits of a volunteer military

In war as in life, what doesn't happen is often as significant as what does. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with their setbacks, victories, and casualties, have many things in common with past American wars. But there is one big thing missing this time: the draft.

Hendrik Hertzberg noted recently in The New Yorker magazine that "for the first time in a century, America is fighting a long war—indeed, two long wars, each longer than our participation in both World Wars put together—without conscription."

A few decades ago, the draft was a requirement for any major military undertaking. No one would have dreamed of fighting the Germans and Japanese, or the North Koreans and Chinese, without calling up young men for mandatory service. Not until the waning years of the Vietnam War did the nation elect to rely entirely on volunteers.

It was a controversial step, and one whose durability was very much in doubt. But in the intervening decades, the draft has gone from being indispensable to being unthinkable. Even the extraordinary demands of two difficult wars have not induced a reconsideration.

That change represents a sort of throwback to the early days of the republic. When President James Madison proposed conscription for the War of 1812, New Hampshire's Daniel Webster rose on the House floor in eloquent opposition.

"Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or wickedness of government may engage it?" he demanded. That was the end of that idea, until the Civil War.

It's true that legislation to restore the draft has been introduced repeatedly by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), but without the slightest expectation that Congress would take him up on it. There is simply no sentiment in either party in favor of the idea.

It's not just that no one wants to bring back the bitter divisions and organized resistance the draft produced in the 1960s. It's also that we have established the clear superiority of a military composed of men and women who choose to serve.

David Henderson, an economist who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., says he sometimes asks his students, all officers, how many favor a return to conscription. "It's been zero for the last 15 years," he says. The common view is, "Why would I want people under me who don't want to be there?"

No one would imagine you could run a private business with employees who are forced to take jobs there against their will. Imagine the difficulty of motivating them. Yet we used to run the Army that way.

Back then, it was accepted wisdom that the draft was a more economical way of fighting a war, since soldiers didn't have to be paid much. But that belief was grossly mistaken.

The first reason is that the draft doesn't reduce the cost of carrying on a war. It merely shifts it from taxpayers at large to able-bodied males, a saving for the federal budget but an enormous burden on conscripts. That's why the journalist Nicholas von Hoffman once urged, "Draft old men's money, not young men's bodies."

Another is that it's a colossal waste to cycle large numbers of people, many of them poorly suited to military service, through the ranks for a couple of years just so they can bail out at the first opportunity. The all-volunteer force provides a far bigger return on training dollars, while enlisting men and women who want to do what soldiers do—including combat.

There is no doubt that the current wars have put exceptional burdens on the active duty force as well as reservists—burdens far greater than they expected when they signed up. But future soldiers will have no illusions about what to expect, and they will adjust their choices to fit the new reality.

Thanks to the abolition of the draft, if Americans want to keep making such heavy demands on the military, they will have to pay generously enough to get people to enlist and re-enlist.

It was once a novel experiment: fielding a force to protect freedom without grossly violating freedom by dragooning young men to serve. But it's worked so well we've almost forgotten there's an alternative.

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  • Suki||

    It's true that legislation to restore the draft has been introduced repeatedly by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), but without the slightest expectation that Congress would take him up on it. There is simply no sentiment in either party in favor of the idea.

    Bush didn't do it?

    Good morning reason.

    Wheres do i vote?

  • the power of one||

    Ready - Razzle Dazzle!

  • DJF||

    And we pay for those volunteers by going deeper and deeper into debt so that future taxpayer will in debt slavery for generations.

    And of course the Iraqis and the Afghanis will both blame all their problems for the next 50 years on the US led wars in their country.

  • ||

    Do you seriously think that having a draft will make the military any cheaper?

    The only thing that will make the military cheaper is making it smaller. And it can't be made much smaller as long as we have bases in 150+ countries and feel a need to project naval power everywhere in the world.

    Also, if the Iraqis and the Afghans* blame all their problems for the next 50 years on the US led wars in their country, will they be wrong?

    *correct spelling. Afghanis are the unit of currency in Afghanistan. Afghans are the people who live there.

  • DJF||

    Military pay has increased even faster then inflation for decades. That is why the Pentagon keep trying to come up with ways to use technology to reduce manning because personnel is their biggest budget buster but most of these projects fail since war is a very manpower intensive activity and because manning is not just a technological problem but a organizational, training and regulation driven problem and those are hard to change in the face of entrenched interests.

    As to getting troops out of foreign countries I agree, lets bring them all home

    As to it not mattering about what the Afghans and Iraqis think, yes it will be wrong, they did plenty on their own to screw up their own countries and since the idiots in Washington love to pay out US taxpayer money to anyone with a sob story, the wars will keep on costing more and more long after they are done.

  • kiwi dave||

    Sure, manpower is expensive, but high quality manpower will always be expensive, and the costs of manning the present US military would pale in comparison to the cost of a universal draft: you'd end up with a military like that of, say, modern Germany, which has a quarter of a million personnel, the vast majority of which are poorly trained (they're only doing a six month stretch) and legally can't be sent overseas (because they're draftees). Feeding, equipping and training these recruits -- who are pretty much useless for any conceivable military scenario -- sucks up such a huge proportion of Germany's military budget that it prevents it from making a substantial contribution to any NATO joint military action because of a lack of properly usable soldiers, good kit and logistic infrastructure. That's exactly why the French, Dutch etc. ended their drafts -- with the end of the Cold War, the draft was a huge money-hole that didn't make them one whit more militarily useful to their (US, UK) allies.

  • Carl||

    like they did with the national guard of our states the federal govt will dream up another grand idea of integrating DHS agents into the dept. of defense and they will begin sending Border Patrol agents to the middle east for tours along with customs & border protection, hell why not ATF too!

  • ||

    This is actually already done and vis versa, in the scenario you provided.

  • Carl||

    TEAM AMERICA!

  • Mike||

    I doubt it will make it any cheaper. It might, however, mean that we have some real opposition to the idea, instead of being able to pretend it doesn't exist.

    Right now the populace doesn't feel the war. A few hundred people have close family who died in it... the rest hun yellow ribbons on their cars seven years ago and then drove to work.

  • jtuf||

    Libya and Venezuela blame all their problems on us. Invasions aren't correlated to having blamed heaped upon us.

  • .||

    Also, if the Iraqis and the Afghans* blame all their problems for the next 50 years on the US led wars in their country, will they be wrong?

    Yes, they most definitely will be wrong. Both countries had serious problems long before the US-led wars and they would still have those problems even if the wars had never occured.

  • .||

    That was directed to Kreel Sarloo. (Damn threaded comments.)

  • chrispy||

    And we made their problems much worse, so no, they won't be wrong.

  • .||

    And we made their problems much worse,

    In what way? Sure, Iraq has a virtual civil war going, but they did under Saddam as well - it was just different groups getting slaughtered then. Now at least they aren't subject to him and the Bathists - they've learned they can resist.

    How is Afganistan worse off than it was? The Taliban is still there, but it doesn't have the power it had before and the people got a taste of what life could be like without its rule. They aren't likely to forget it.

    Frankly I think the US did too damned much for both those countries. We should have gone in, accomplished our stated objectives, then got to hell out. Screw the hearts and minds routine, the nation-building - let them rebuild their countries themselves.

  • prolefeed||

    Frankly I think the US did too damned much for both those countries. We should have gone in, accomplished our stated objectives, then got to hell out.

    What stated objectives?

    Got a link to the list of concrete accomplishments that, upon completion, would necessitate the withdrawal of the troops?

    The feds had statist objectives, sure, but not the same thing.

  • .||

    What stated objectives?

    Good question. Wasn't that pretty much the whole problem with Iraq - that our stated objectives and reasons for being there kept changing? Isn't that why Colin Powell got fed up and quit?

    As for Afghanistan, didn't we invade to capture Osama Bin Laden, break and punish the Taliban, and destroy Al- Qaeda's ability to use the place as a training ground? Did we stick to that?

  • ||

    ""As for Afghanistan, didn't we invade to capture Osama Bin Laden, break and punish the Taliban, and destroy Al- Qaeda's ability to use the place as a training ground? Did we stick to that?""

    I think every month we should have repeated Bush's demand to the Taliban to hand over OBL. Tell them, they have the capability to make us leave, hand over OBL and we'll go.

  • sarcasmic||

    They're smart enough not to believe anything our government says.

  • mr simple||

    Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear, and when I do it's something unusual.

  • ||

    With all due respect to the men from generations past who stood up to fight when the draft card came their way -- seriously, thank you -- I would be out of here yesterday if that shit came my way. Vancouver is a nice place to live.

  • .||

    I will be too, next time - or I would be if I were young enough to have to worry about it.

    BTW, you aren't welcome, neither is the rest of country - the Draft was slavery. Both "servitude" and "involuntary" and fuck the lying, freedom-betraying, Supreme Court for finding otherwise.

  • Sean||

    Let's get a draft going!
    C'mon, we need to finish the Pakistan pipeline and railroad by 2012. How else is China supposed to fill it's energy demands?

  • George V||

    Hmmm...cynicism, sarcasm, or both!

  • Anomalous||

    Black guys, help the white guys.

  • steve||

    Interesting reminder that a large portion of the "greatest generation" didn't want to be there in the first place. Yet these days you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an old guy wearing a WWII or Korean/Vietnam veteran hat. Forced to do it, but now it's the most visible part of their identity, decades later.
    Also, as an officer in the modern military, I must say it would take a special kind of leader to motivate nonvolunteers...and avoid getting fragged.

  • IceTrey||

    2/3 of WW2 soldiers were draftees.
    2/3 of Vietnam soldiers were volunteers.
    Doesn't quite fit the accepted narrative does it?

  • ||

    Perhaps this is a symptom of a messed up version of Stockholm syndrome?

  • Barry Loberfeld||

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Tired old shit about Ron Paul. One can find more of the same at FreeRepublic, if anyone can stand to slog through that wasteland of big-government Republican bullshit.

  • Wind Rider||

    Yeah, Saddam was putting people into plastic shredders, but hey, he did give them choice! Feet or head first.

    Oh, and the Taliban were stoning people for public sport, but at least they were defending morality!

    But aside from that, or the demonstrated clear and present danger that both of these countries had devolved into before they pissed us off, yeah, it's all our fucking fault, cause we've got Wally World.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  • Monk||

    Not to trivialise their death, but how many were killed by Saddam vs how many are dying now? The same amount he had killed in a decade is the same amount that have been dying every month.

  • ||

    I presume you don't see any difference between being executed in prison and dying by falling off a cliff while hiking? Or between dying at the front in battle or being strung up like a rapid dog in a prison camp?

    Hint: it has something to do with choice, and with whether your death is a bad luck incident to your pursuing your goals, or whether it's just the pointless result of a thug's wish for sadistic gratification.

  • a||

    For the 5,000th time, the shredder story is bunk:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddam_Hussein's_alleged_shredder

    Of course, you'll just say that it doesn't matter, Saddam did other bad stuff, etc. But you used that lie for a reason, and I'm sure you'll use it again.

  • Mr. Obvious||

    Dear Mr. Steve Chapman,
    Please pull your head out of your butt. The biggest reason conscription is on the outs in modern militaries is that war, like every other industry is becoming more and more capital intensive and less and less labor intensive.

    If there were truly a clear existential threat to the US that required millions of men to be put under arms, conscription would be back in a flash not matter what the Constitution or civil libertarians said and the public would wholeheartedly support it.

  • Mr. Obvious||

    ^not matter^no matter

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. Instead of multiple bombing missions using hundreds of planes to hit one factory, we can use one plane with several bombs to destroy several factories.

    However I would say that the technology of killing people has reached a point where nothing short of turning back the Industrial Revolution will create a situation where we would need to reintroduce the draft.

  • Mr. Obvious||

    Even if technology exists, economic reality can intrude. The cheapest smart bomb is explosives strapped to a person.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The cheapest smart bomb is explosives strapped to a person.


    Why would anyone volunteer, aside from terminally ill people who want to end their lives anyway?

  • Mr. Obvious||

    If you don't understand how someone can believe in a cause enough to sacrifice their own lives, then no one can explain it to you.

    Of course, coercion can also be used to recruit human guidance systems.

  • ||

    No you're retarded if you believe that American will kill themselves as suicide bombers.

  • ||

    You're Unamerican if you don't think retards will strap bombs on themselves.

  • ||

    Hehehehe.. you gotta sell 'em on the 72 virgins. That's where we get em lined up, people.

  • omg||

    Really, conscription should be called exactly what it is: slavery. It shows the absurdity of the civil war especially, as the "north freeing the slaves" argument rings rather hollow when you see that it enslaved millions while it was carrying out this lofty goal.

  • ||

    This should apply to any sort of mandatory national service. I've read several people go on about great it would be if everyone had to do a year or two of national service, but that gets you into the same dilemma as the draft, albeit without lives on the line. If taking care of national parks or helping inner-city youth is worth doing, it's worth having people do it who want to be there.

  • Wind Rider||

    Having served in the all volunteer military, I can say little other than to echo the sentiment of "why would I want someone around that doesn't want to be here". There was a scattering of individuals who fell for the "you'll get to spend your time with us paying for your college, while you live in a beachside condo" tripe, a la Private Benjamin, but they self identified rather quickly, and were placed somewhere (when possible) where they wouldn't be a danger to themselves or others, including assisting them in separating from the military.

    The other aspect that hasn't been noted, aside from saying that it took a special kind of leader to herd people that didn't want to be there, is to point out that the situation of having an all volunteer force actually dissuaded or limited the possibilities of having dumbasses in charge that thought it cool to pull stunts worthy of George Pickette at Gettysburg. Those that played fast and loose with the people in their charge tended to be weeded out rather quickly, before they attained a position where they could do something so stupid as to waste their soldier's lives glory hunting. Not a perfect system, as the occasional ijit would stumble into a position of authority, but by and large the effect has been a positive one, more favorable to those with actually at least half a brain and leadership abilities. Both of which are much more conducive to mission accomplishment.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    There was a scattering of individuals who fell for the "you'll get to spend your time with us paying for your college, while you live in a beachside condo" tripe


    I never heard any recruitment commercial claiming that servicemen get to be billeted in beachside condos.

  • ||

    No, they just promise the chicks will be swooning all over you in your Dress Blues.

  • IceTrey||

    Hey, General Picket was under orders when he carried out his attack. It was also part of a coordinated attack including an assault on Cemetery Ridge, a massive bombardment and most importantly a flanking maneuver by Stuart. Unfortunately for Picket non of those were successful.

  • jtuf||

    Moving to an all volunteer military was a great change.

  • jtuf||

    As always, I'm open to proposals for reducing our overseas military operations as long as they have specifics. We have military personal in dozens of countries. If you can only name two of those countries, they you should do a bit of research before presenting your proposal.

  • Mike||

    How about this:

    Last brigade of 2ID along with its CAB and associated elements of Eighth Army out of ROK to include Eighth Army rear elements at Camp Zama Japan.

    F-16 wing at Misawa AB retro to the States or position to Andersen AB Guam.

    All elements of III MEF and surobrdinate units move to Guam. Air Force 18th Wing elements move to Andersen as well.

    Now for the big one....ALL USAEUR elements move back to the States (including 173d in Italy).

    End result..no Army/Marine ground forces permanently stationed off US territory.

    AF and Naval elements remain as enablers on foreign shores until new National Military Strategy can be formulated.

    That´ll be a good start.

    Previous subby was right. Military will only get "cheaper" on a macro level if it gets smaller.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    Our volunteer military is working too well. It is why we have never-ending wars... hopeless wars. Wars on terrorists. As wasteful and insane as wars on drugs.
    My solution: Abolish our War Department. 'Twould make us so much more "secure."

  • sarcasmic||

    We have all those wars because they are conducted by lawyers, not generals.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    We have all those wars because they are conducted by lawyers, not generals.


    How so?

  • ||

    Because a bunch of assholes in D.C. decided we needed to 'sell' the War. So we talk about 'nation building' and 'winning the hearts and minds'. You think a General came up with that brilliant strategy?

  • JMD||

    The reason we have been at war for nearly 10 years with out the majority of Americans being impacted in the slightest way is our lack of a draft.
    If we would institute a draft that actually put the burden of war across all the strata of our society, we wouldn't maintain these long protracted wars. Vietnam is a perfect example of what happens when the draft isn't implemented correctly.
    If the war is important enough to fight, then it's important enough for EVERYONE to feel the burden.

  • ||

    Much as I would have hated being drafted, I have gradually come around to your line of thinking, JMD. We would be out of the Middle East by now if every son and his mother in the country feared he was going to get sent off to die waging an optional war.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    My point, and I think the opinion of others here, is that most (if not all) wars are NOT important enough to fight. They are just a bureaucratic, shovel-ready jobs program.

  • Andrew||

    EVERYONE to feel the burden

    Everyone being males age 18-30? or would we really draft everyone including John & Jane Q. Indifferent Middle Aged Draft Won't Touch Me Voters this time?

    The draft so far has been used to target a very thin slice of society that can't outvote the rest. You want to prevent wars by stopping the inflow of people, that the AVF is the way to do it. If people perceive their lives are being thrown away for a worthless cause, they won't enlist period. The same goes for treatment of soldiers. The real reason stop-loss policies were reversed isn't the bitching from those being extended, it's because potential enlistees seeing that they will be screwed on the way out won't join in the first place. Under a draft, who cares? Just use the vast power of the state to sweep in some more cannon fodder.

    Let's also remember that the draft has never put everyone in uniform. Even during World War II, less than 15% served. To pretend that exchanging a small portion of the population who are volunteers for a small portion of the population who are conscripts is spreading the pain is a fucking moron.

    Finally, Steve Chapman states "burdens far greater than they expected when they signed up". At this point, everyone in uniform, active or reserve, joined or extended since 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, and in 6 months, the invasion of Iraq. The overwhelming majority of service members are already in the post-Iraqi invasion category. They know what the score is when they sign their papers.

  • sarcasmic||

    I agree with the point that people losing friends and loved ones who were forced to fight against their will creates political incentives to bring the fighting to a close.

    However I do not consider that to be an argument in favor of reinstating the draft, I see it more as an observation.

  • Andrew||

    But that's just it, it doesn't work. The draft & the Vietnam war went on for years with a loss of life far greater than now & still public opinion was in favor of the war. For every "I don't wan't my child to die" parent, there's a "man up & do your duty" one.

    The idea that inflicting pain or death on a person will be transmuted to their friends or family is sick. Draftees aren't individuals in their own right, they're just chattel possessions of a family. It's the whipping boy theory of ending war.

  • sarcasmic||

    I didn't say it ends the fighting, just that it creates incentives.

    I'm agreeing with you.

  • ||

    I think in the given hypothetical, it would be assumed it would be a real defensive war: one where the attacks are on American soil, not overseas or on enemy territory.
    In that case, it would be very easy that a draft would conscript a very larger portion of the population.

  • ||

    Riiight. Because history shows that the largest and most costly wars Americans have fought (the Civil War proportionately, the Second World War absolutely) only happened because there was no draft.

    Er...except there was. Drat. Well, I'm sure you've got a theory that can explain why all the actual historical evidence seems 180 degrees away from your belief, id est every war from Caesar on down fought by draftees has been larger and bloodier than a war fought by volunteers.

    Could it be that once you've got a draft going, people start thinking this war has got to be WON, a final CRUSHING victory, no matter what -- and that kind of rigid uncompromising passion is what keeps things going on and on and on, long past any rational resolution, like the crazed German draftees fighting and dying for a clearly hopeless cause from 1943 through 1945? Long past when a cooly-rational professional force would have negotiated a settlement? What's up with that?

    You're focussed on the motivation not to get into a war in the first place, instead of how people are motivated once the war has already started and that decision lies in the past.

    If it was indeed the case that people routinely thought that far ahead, and made decisions accordingly, then the rate of accidental pregnancy and abortion wouldn't be what it is. But they don't. People routinely get pregnant -- or get into wars -- without fully thinking through the likely consequences. Then they're in the middle of the thing, and if you want to know how things will turn out, you have to look at how people are motivated in the middle of the thing. That's why your theory, while classic and often repeated, is evident nonsense to anyone who actually knows his history.

  • ||

    The draft, the best recruiting tool the Navy and Air Force ever had.

  • ||

    Let's not give Daniel Webster too much credit here: we don't to "compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or wickedness of government may engage it," so instead we'll come to their houses and compel them to pay for those who volunteer.

    Is it somehow less evil to get shot by your own government for failing to pay it, than to get shot by an enemy in Europe or the Pacific or Asia or Afica?

  • ||

    Err, we don't exactly murder people who don't pay taxes here..yet..

  • IceTrey||

    "No one would imagine you could run a private business with employees who are forced to take jobs there against their will. Imagine the difficulty of motivating them."

    The Nazis seem to have figured it out.

  • ||

    And American landowners for around 300 years.

  • covellomama||

    If the draft is no longer being utilized, why do 18 year old men still have to register for the Selective Service?

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Young men, not young women, have to register, because young men are the cannon fodder of society. But don't expect much sympathy from the feminist movement, which often tars men's rights advocates as whiners.

  • ||

    Ask Jimmy Carter. It was his idea.

  • ChrisO||

    The draft only works in a nation like Switzerland that considers war a purely defensive measure. It's essentially the militia model. If every able-bodied adult cycles through the military for a short stint, then the entire adult population is capable of assisting in the defense of the country from foreign invaders.

    However, it's also easy to see why such a model doesn't apply very well to the modern USA. Foreign threats to our shores come from isolated terrorist nutjobs, not invading armies.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Even in Switzerland, the draft is slavery and therefore unworthy of a society of freedom-loving individuals. 'Nuff said.

  • ||

    No draft...and look how long our two wars have persisted. That's two WRONGFUL wars.

    If we'd had a draft, this would not have been allowed to happen. That's the argument FOR a draft. It's bad enough to force political consequences.

    One other strong point is to be made. A military without civilian conscripts during war time is a lot less likely to make trouble for the "powers that be." That's why our military HATES the idea of having draftees around. And, yes, that's exactly why they need to be there.

    We got into these wars for reasons that still don't usually get publicly recognized, and we've stayed in them for reasons that certainly would not stand up under scrutiny. Those troops within the military who have resisted them (however that might have been) deserve our thanks; those have been our true patriots. They could have used the support of people who'd been drafted.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Let me get this straight. You want young men to be forced to serve against their will—so that they'll do the right thing and rebel against their superiors? Other people's spirit of rebellion can't be turned on and off like water from a faucet. How can they be depended on to rebel against abuses of authority after being enslaved by the draft, an abuse of state power to begin with?

  • ||

    Don't even bother. I'm sure he imagines that every volunteer enlistee is just frothing at the mouth to shoot dead any innocent civilian they can. They don't understand that it's illegal to obey any order that isn't lawful, in the event of some civilian detention/child-murdering order.

  • Detroit83||

    We don't feel a draft because politicians, the Pentagon, political correctness, and money have covered up the holes.

    The draft ended in 1972 and was replaced by the all volunteer force. Nixon was running for re-election and our committment to Vietnam was winding down.

    Shortfalls in recruiting would not effect troop levels in SE Asia. Even so, by the time the end of the draft was felt, it would have been well been into 1973 and more withdrawals were already in the pipeline anyway.

    Enter the "all volunteer force."

    It has rarely ever been able meet its recruitment goals. When it has, it has been because of either major cash incentives, or major unemployment levels.

    After the danger of getting shot at in Vietnam had passed, there were sufficient volunteers until Congress repealed the GI bill. Recruitment fell off drastically afterwards and did not rebound until the recession of the early 1980's when it reached the point of the military actually being overstrength.

    It was never publicized, but when the first Iraq war came numbers were again on their way down. As far as that war went, shortfalls in recruitment were made up by the activation of large numbers of reservists and guardsmen. And the cold war had cooled to the point where an entire army corps and it support troops could be redeployed from Europe to the combat zone.

    Once weekend warriors found out the hard way they had a good chance of getting shot at, they stopped volunteering so readily. The trend continues.

    Once again, there has been an economic downturn, which has caused recruitment to go up. The generals can say "we're meeting our recruiting goals!"

    What they've never said is, thousands of military jobs are now being done by civilians, either as government employees or through contracting out.

    Since civilian numbers are never mentioned, it never gets figured into the equation.

    All the while, none of the services have ever had sufficient numbers of physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc. since the draft ended. They've had to hire civilians to meet shortfalls.

    Add to this that combat losses have been light compared to previous wars.

    None of this even addresses whether or not the all volunteer force even actually works. It has yet to have to fight a real ground war against a competent enemy.

    So no, we don't feel any drafts after two wars. But it's only because the holes are plugged up...artificially.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Since the U.S. is militarily overcommitted all over the world, why is it necessarily bad news if recruitment figures run low? Why not celebrate this trend as Adam Smith's invisible hand guiding America away from militarism? Fewer personnel means fewer opportunities for politicians to wage their wars.

  • ||

    Geez you're ignorant.

    (1) Recruiting goals are like sales goals, dude. Naturally you keep them a bit higher than can realistically be achieved. That's what makes your recruiters sweat. Even so, your nonsense about these goals "not being met" is highly deceptive, as they're "not met" by very small margins. It's never been the case, say, that they want 40,000 recruits this year and they only get 20,000, or 500, or none.

    (2) Your theory that recruitment suffers from the danger of combat is in violent contradiction to the fact that re-enlistment rates are very strong. How can the danger of combat be more dissuading to those who've only heard about it than to those who've actually been through it? Either the danger is overblown, or else other factors are more important in recruitment, e.g. whether someone has a better career path option, which, yeah, depends on the economy, duh.

    (3) Thousands of "military jobs" that don't, incidentally, involving picking up a weapon and firing it at the enemy are indeed done now by civilian contractors, like driving trucks, flying cargo planes, cooking food, et cetera. The thinking is that if you're spending gobs of money training men to fight with modern weapons, it's stooopid like only a Democrat can be to put him to work cooking eggs and bacon for 100 men in a camp kitchen. Hire some civilian for that, and let the rifleman go be a rifleman.

    (4) I've never heard of the military hiring civilians lawyers en masse -- and how could they? Military law is very different civilian law. You need to train in it. The fact that they might sometimes hire docs, nurses, or engineers (not combat enginers, mind you) fits under point (3), above. Just makes good sense to outsource stuff that isn't your specialty.

    (5) Did I mention you're an idiot who clearly knows exactly nothing about how the military works? No? Well, you are.

  • ||

    +100

  • ||

    "It was once a novel experiment: fielding a force to protect freedom without grossly violating freedom by dragooning young men to serve. But it's worked so well we've almost forgotten there's an alternative."

    "...fielding a force to protect freedom..."

    Son, is that what you think they're doing? You need to wake up and smell the corruption.

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    gsds fgNice post.It's all in the eyes and where they are looking~

  • ||

    The reason that there is not a draft is simple: It would not be so easy to go to war if a draft was in place. However, without the prospect of being in harm's way, or having a family member there, its easy to support a war as others are doing the fighting and dying. If indeed a war is necessary to the survival of a nation then all should participate without reservation. Had there be a draft in effect our current misadventures in the Middle East would never have happened. But, with about one percent of the population bearing the burden everyone else can keep their children safely at home while viewing the war as a sporting event.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    History proves you wrong. The draft has not discouraged nations from involvement in dubious wars. This is an empirical fact.

  • ||

    The all volunteer force has many advantages that have already been mentioned. The biggest is the improvement in the quality of personnel placed into the military.

    Throwing conscripts into the mix would endanger everyone involved and create significant oversight costs that the volunteer military doesn't need.

    Military pay costs reflect the professionalism, education, and capability of the people involved. Not to mention the risks one takes to be a part of said organization.

    As it stands right now, a conscript force would be unable to perform the kinds of operations that the all volunteer force can based off of this issue alone. The all volunteer military turns away a significant percentage of people attempting to join the force as they are simply unable to do the things we need them to do to the standard required.

    Simply put, modern warfighting is an extremely technical and complicated art. Your average person isn't up to it either physically or mentally.

  • CE||

    End draft registration then. Demand this as a campaign plank from all candidates.

  • ||

    Irvine CA has built the US's first and only memorial to ongoing wars ever in the US. It has space for 8K names from
    Iraq / AfPak (over half filled at
    construction Oct 2010) and will, necessarily, be updated yearly with new names of the dead. Northwoodmemorial.com

    No need for perpetual wars to be lost before getting memorials in the new world order.

  • ||

    Who needs a draft when chickenhawks can feel like tough guys by playing Modern Warfare or Call of Duty on their Xbox and living vicariously through the MIC by way of jingoism and obnoxious defense spending as a surrogate for actual military service?

  • ||

    Military Keynesianism. All the pride with none of the fighting!

  • ||

    Mabey you should take into account the private armies being deployed and paid for by the US!

  • ||

    Even if there is a new draft most people of draft age wouldn't be accepted because they're all too fat from sitting in front of the internet 22 hours a day.

  • ||

    Don't be naive. Trust me, the Army can have that fat off you in no time.

    It's a wonder what can be achieved when you don't give a damn how miserable you make people and you have the authority to shoot any who don't obey.

  • ||

    The issue ism't taking it off. It is keeping it off once we have invested crap loads of money in their training and don't want to kick them out for being a fat!@@.

  • ReagansGhost||

    "Defending freedom"? Is that what our soldiers are doing? Whose freedom is that again? These "volunteers" are either mercenaries responding to an economic draft, or they're deluded about what the US military does. As Steve Chapman also seems to be.

  • ||

    Yes. The hundreds of thousands that volunteered in response to 9/11 are mercenaries. That's what it is. Way to hit the nail on the.. nevermind that was your thumb.

  • ||

    This seems historically naive. That a professional volunteer army was superior to a draftee army was accepted wisdom from the time of the Romans right on down to the 19th century, when the concept of sheer mass of numbers and total war was pioneered by Napoleon.

    It was introduced in the United States in a big way (excluding colonial militias, a different beast) in the Civil War out of some degree of desperation after the initial slaughter and stalement. After that, it was the bright idea of the Progressives, Wilson's and FDR's crowd, who then as now thought compulsory national service for everyone a nifty idea, and loved the idea of massed ranks of strapping youth in identical uniforms, thinking the identical Good Social Thoughts, a point of view fully shared by their Fascist heirs in Europe.

    The argument that it wasn't a good idea for the giant wars of the 19th and 20th century, from the Civil War through the Second World War, is highly debtable. These wars were largely fought by rifles, grenades, tanks and machine guns at short range. You didn't need a lot of training or even necessarily motivation other than stay alive as long as possible to effectively participate.

    The situation is arguably very different today, with a very technological fighting force that can make excellent use of long technical training and strong "career" motivation, and where the crude visceral motivation of not wanting to die right now is of somewhat lesser importance and use.

  • ||

    You do know that the Selective Service is still in operation, but in a state of dormancy. One of the main reasons that Congress doesn't want to bring back the draft is that now their mostly grandsons and the sons of all those rich folks they represent can now be drafted. At the end of Viet Nam the draft laws were changed so if you were hidden from the draft in college or the University, if your number was drawn, you had to report at the end of the Semester. If you were a Senior, you went to graduation and then had to report. Congress will continue to spend many hundreds of billions on contract labor to avoid drafting.

  • ||

    I would like to see the editors of Reason deal with the issue of American troops overseas, especially in Europe, Japan and South Korea. Why is America still “defending” countries that have enough people and recourses to take fend for themselves? In the European left, there is a level of Anti-Americanism that borders on bigotry. A member of the Swedish parliament stated Americans were incapable of writing great novels. I doubt she would have made the same statement about Muslims. Major politician figures in Europe often run an Anti-American platform. Few ask out troops to leave.
    Americans are like the police who show up at the domestic dispute. The police will stop the husband and wife from beating each other, but soon the couple is beating up on the police.
    Three times in the 20th country, Americans were called on to stop Europeans from killing each other. Enough already!

  • ||

    No draft? America has had a draft throughout the entire Iraq-Afgan War--it's called Stop Loss. You volunteer to go in, but then they won't let you out. They can legally do this, because buried deep within every enlistment contract (where no one ever looks) is a clause that says that if they feel like it they can force you to stay in the military for the rest of your life.

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