Mr. Friedlander: RE: "An End to the Draft?" Oct., 68 issue of REASON. Unfortunately, the election of Mr. Nixon does not mark the end of the draft. You well, know that the Government would not reject the draft in principle, for it would toll the death knell for all other illegal and extralegal federal activities.
Mr. Nixon does not (and should not) possess the power to abolish conscription and create an all volunteer professional army. Due to our system of "checks and balances" such power resides in the legislature—and not in the executive. Hope for the best, and expect the worst.
The article in question neither advocated nor endorsed specific action with regard to the draft. It was presented merely as information. When considering exactly what the President should do to speed abolition, there are two major issues. First the constitutional issue: President Nixon is designated the commander-in-chief, and a simple recommendation to his generals to improve living conditions and begin treating soldiers like humans, would not, strictly speaking, be unconstitutional. As the number of volunteers increased (and it would), the need for draftees would decrease—perhaps to zero, eventually. Thus the Selective Service would be slowly phased out by supply and demand. Formal repeal of the law would, of course, be the responsibility of Congress. Second the moral issue: Given the context of a vaguely worded Constitution, and the coercive nature of the act in question, such efforts would be commendable. Such efforts would violate no one's rights, and to the extent that they reduced the number of draftees, would actually tend to increase freedom. Not only is this President Nixon's legal prerogative, but, as chief executive, it is also his moral obligation. In addition, it should be clear that the "power" to remove the chains of innocent men is not the variety of "power" that the authors of the Constitution has in mind when they designed the system of "checks and balances." So long as the President makes very clear that his recommendations are exactly that, so long as he does not expand the already dangerously swollen powers of the Presidency, he is perfectly justified in his intentions.
As to the likelihood that Congress will act on this issue, I offer this quote from the New York Times of 11/16/68, as supplied by Howard Katz of the Association for a Volunteer Army (AVA): "Senator Mark O. Hatfield plans early in the new Congress to revive efforts to replace the draft with an all-volunteer Army in a move that would implement a Nixon campaign proposal. The Oregon Republican says he hopes beforehand to iron out with President-elect Nixon their major difference on the proposal—the matter of timing."
Mr. Katz's organization has been working hard to eliminate the draft. But, as Mr. Katz pointed out, the battle is not over. AVA plans numerous activities in the months to come to help transform Nixon's promises into reality. Readers wishing to learn more about AVA, should write: Association for a Volunteer Army, c/o Howard Katz, 85- 4th Ave, Apt 6m, New York City 10003.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters to the Editor".