The draft is back in the news after a series of tweets from the Selective Service System reminding men that they are required by law to register, as well as guidance from the Biden administration that trans individuals who were born male are also required to register and may, if a draft were enacted, be forced into the U.S. Military.
Is this in our country’s best interest and does it follow the tradition of our nation?
I would argue no on both counts.
The first draft was enacted during the Civil War. It is ironic that during a war with the stated goal of freeing enslaved people we decided to force Americans into involuntary servitude to achieve that objective. This draft, as well as the draft for WWI and Vietnam, saw significant resistance.
During the Civil War, many of those facing conscription were immigrants from Europe who fled to America, in part, because we were a country of free men with a volunteer military. When military officers attempted to enlist these immigrants, who came here to be free from state-sanctioned enslavement, riots erupted. The 1863 New York Draft Riots are the most well-known example. One-hundred-twenty Americans lost their lives trying to resist Lincoln’s draft.
Later in WWI, numerous anti-war and anti-draft activists were arrested and news of their arrests was suppressed as part of a propaganda push by the U.S. government to convince the American people and the world that Americans were enlisting en masse. This, however, was false. About 300,000 people were arrested and imprisoned for resisting the draft, and the majority of the men who entered the military for “The Great War” were not there of their own accord, but had been forced to fight.
And of course, everybody is familiar with the Vietnam-era anti-war movement and the widespread burning of draft cards and draft avoidance.
I would also argue that a draft is not in the best interest of our nation. We’ve all worked a job at some point that we didn’t want to work and didn’t enjoy. Imagine if leaving or avoiding that job would land you in prison. How would your morale fare?
Having a motivated force, high in morale and dedicated to the mission, is vital to a strong and capable military. With draftees, morale is not high. It’s clear from pictures of soldiers and stories of veterans who served in Vietnam that discipline was not the order of the day. From helmet graffiti to drug use in country and murdering officers, the draft caused significant problems and made our military less professional.
Widespread drug use in Vietnam was often connected with draftees. For any of us who’ve served, it’s obvious why drug use in theater is a problem, but stoned soldiers were not the worst problem resulting from the draft.
Approximately 730 incidents of fragging occurred between 1968 and 1971. Fragging is the intentional killing of an officer or noncommissioned officer during combat. The majority of these cases never saw a trial. Officers and noncommissioned officers play an important role in ensuring the combat effectiveness of our military. We should not put them in a position where a large number of those under their charge resent them because of a draft instituted by D.C. elites.
For that matter, I myself as an infantry veteran, have a vested interest in not having a draftee military force. I want the guy next to me to want to be in that job and to be motivated enough to perform at peak levels simply for the fact that I don’t want to die.
The draft would see an influx of unmotivated and undisciplined soldiers resentful of being conscripted and forced into the military. This would undermine good order and discipline, unit morale and cohesion, and the combat effectiveness of our military.
For those reasons, I urge all Americans to demand an end to selective service system.
Brandon Williamson is a U.S. Army veteran, and the director of social media at Young Americans for Liberty. He lives in Wyoming.