Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bad Idea Number 47: Bringing Back the Draft

Prime Time U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, who served in the Korean War in the 1950's, has once again raised the idea of bringing back the draft - this time arguing for "equality" ( in terms of who will face the risk of death in combat, I guess)in a CNN piece, "A more equal military? Bring back draft". He writes:
Since January 2003, at the height of the debate on the possible unilateral strike against Iraq, I have advocated for a reinstatement of the military draft to ensure a more equitable representation of people making sacrifices in wars in which the United States is engaged.
Currently the burden of defending our nation is carried by less than 1% of the American population. The 2.2 million members of the armed forces in active duty, the National Guard and the Reserve have become a virtual military class that makes the ultimate sacrifice of laying down life and limb for our country. As a result of high combat exposure, combined with multiple deployments, we have seen unprecedented incidences of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and veterans committing suicide.
While our founding fathers had some serious concerns about the existence of a "standing army" the de-professionalizing of the military is, as I have said every time this idea is brought up by Rep. Rangel, a really bad idea.

An excellent take down of the idea is set out here, which hits the key points.

Before you move on, though, contemplate for a second this part of the Rangel piece:
As a result of high combat exposure, combined with multiple deployments, we have seen unprecedented incidences of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and veterans committing suicide.
Explain to me how a draft of unwilling warriors will stop that problem?

People exposed to combat may get wounded and suffer other damage regardless of how they joined the service.

Rangel seems to believe that having a conscripted military can serve as a brake on military adventurism by the executive branch. You know, it seems to me that under our Constitution, Congress has other ways to reign in the executive, if Congress would do its job.

More than that, however, is the part of the Rangel piece is his "Universal National Service Act" that mandates service:

(a) Obligation for Service- It is the obligation of every citizen of the United States, and every other person residing in the United States, who is between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform a period of national service as prescribed in this title unless exempted under the provisions of this title.

(b) Forms of National Service- The national service obligation under this title shall be performed either--

(1) as a member of an active or reserve component of the uniformed services; or

(2) in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the President, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and service related to homeland security.

(c) Age Limits- A person may be inducted under this title only if the person has attained the age of 18 and has not attained the age of 25.
All men and women in a certain age group?
Depression era CCC camp in Oregon

Only about 25%
can currently meet the requirements to for military service.

What are we going to do with the other 75%? Can you say "make work?" Who the heck is going to watch them? Will it be like a prison camp? Or Club Fed? Bring back the CCC (which was voluntary, by the way)?

Bad idea.

Say "no" to involuntary servitude.


  1. It's a bad idea to bring the Draft back, unless they are going to do it Euro or Israeli style

  2. Anonymous5:36 PM

    I take his point, the level of restraint that conscript armies forced on the Germans, Austrians, Russians, Italians and French in 1914 and 1939 is sure fire proof of the validity of Mr. Rangel's thesis.

    I suspect that what he hopes is that a draft would revive the "glory days" of the 60s/70s antiwar and counterculture movents. Far out, man....


  3. "Explain to me how a draft of unwilling warriors will stop that [post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and veterans committing suicide] problem?"

    Completely stopping the multivariate problem is probably not the goal. Lessening the problems by curtailing multiple tours (Viet Nam draftees were called up for 2 years of active duty, and even Marines were required to serve 6-month tours in-country. Today's enlistees contend with multiple tours and longer obligations.

    The draft also mends, as Sharpton suggests, the current isolation of most voters from armed conflicts. More significantly, however, recent Pentagon orders allowing women to serve in combat units removes what had been a serious obstacle to ever re-invoking the draft (ref: http://aquilinefocus.blogspot.com/2009/01/update-further-evidence-that-draft-is.html)

    Disclosure: Due to concern for the safety of both the women and the units with which they might serve, I have been ardently opposed to lowering fitness/performance standards for woman in combat roles. Gen. Dempsey recently removed that objection. Moreover, few women will actually volunteer and make the cut. - Vigilis

    1. So it is less likely to acquire PTSD, TBI in one 1 year tour? Need some support for that.

      My belief is that any draftees will not be front line "point of the spear" folks, but almost pure REMFs. You know, replacing those women who choose to go for the combat roles.

      As far as the isolation of most voters from armed conflicts, not sure how that differs from pre-WWII (or WW-I for that matter) conditions when the standing military was itty-bitty.

    2. M.T. -
      Bearing in mind that 30% of U.S. Viet Nam KIAs were draftees (70% were not), VA stats tells us:

      29% of all veterans who ever served in Vietnam have had PTSD that is accepted for compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

      The KIAs I knew personally were draftees to the man and on the "point of the spear". Later on, (by late 1970 and afterward) not so much.

  4. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I'm not convinced that PTSD was less prevalent with short term Vietnam and Korea era draftees, more a question of not being as widely recognized as it is now. Most cases were probably shrugged off as minor personality quirks, since it manifests itself in many different ways (pretty much every visit to the VA for annual checkups features a list of diagnostic questions about it), neuroscience has come a long way since WWI shell shock.

    As far as voter isolation goes, that may also be a regional thing, subject to personal and cultural opinions about the military. I have a couple of friends who have experienced wildly different reactions to their status as woundeed combat vets in different parts of the country, varying from a "serves you right, you murderous scum" approach in Madison, WI and the northeast to a far more positive reception in Texas and Oklahoma. The more liberal places seem rather illiberal in their approach to service members. Voter isolation has been pretty commonplace in US history, one need only look at how much the Army and Navy shrank after the civil war and consider that most of what was left of the army was isolated from the civilian population while policing the western plains to see this. Most people, away from the bases along the Missouri, probably didn't even know a major campaign was underway out West until Custer got himself killed. Yet this involved a majority of the standing army's strength and lasted most of a year.

    Given the complexity of a modern combat soldier's tasking, one is barely trained at the two year point, so most draftees would have to end up in things like the 7th Transportation Bde steveadore companies or in other semi or unskilled support functions. Given that a lot of this (mess halls, street cleaning, building upkeep) is now handled by contractors, draftees would largely be redundant.


  5. Anonymous3:37 PM

    1. All of the services are enjoying the fruits of extraordinarily high recruiting standards.
    2. The figure 25% of candidates meeting requirements is probably high.
    3. I know a small fraction of the minority candidates will prove eligible. The thought of turning away masses of unqualified minority draftees would send shivers up the spines of DOD personnel types.
    4. More fuel for the Hon. Mr. Rangel's ire.
    5. Given year waits for enlistment and a sucky economy, why reinstate the draft?
    6. Doubt he understands that the military is more than a make work project for social engineers and their charges.
    7. Was drafted, myself. Followed Hon Mr. Kerry's described trajectory: screwed up, got booted out of college, got drafted....
    8. By the way, the USMC generally did 13 month tours in VN, the Army 12. In Iraq, the Marines did 7 month tours, the Army 15 -except for special snowflakes.
    9. Will leave PTSD alone.
    10. Really enjoy your radio programs. Very erudite guests -and you guys aren't bad, yourselves.
    V/R JWest

    1. Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.

    2. Anonymous12:08 PM

      1. Don't know enough to agree or disagree .
      2. The only point my dialog intersected with yours was on length of USMC VN combat tour.
      3. Would say the infantry companies I served in were about 50% draftee.
      4. If you wound up in a regular infantry unit, in the latter part of the VN war, you were pretty much a loser.
      5. The literacy rate wasn't real high and the capabilities of my platoon members varied from hopeless to adequate but uninspired.
      6. Having a year and a half of college, had a shot at several opportunities to opt out of infantry service. Blew them all because of a bad disposition accompanied by a big mouth.
      7. The grunts were the lowest tier of the Army's hierarchy of needs.
      8. Draftees, 1965 to about 1970 were a close match.
      9. Rifle platoons took a lot of casualties.
      V/R JWest

  6. Anonymous1:07 AM

    Agreed that a draft is very impractical not only for the reasons above but more so because the politicians won't vote for it. That said, it would still be worth doing because it would quickly turn the country in favor of reforming out "foreign policy". (In quotes because those of us who pay attention cannot tell what it is.) Afghanistan is only the best current example of policy failure. 11 commanders, 11 years, no government supported by the people. Very damaging in all ways to the country and just encourages more. I can tell you how to implement it if you want. It would start with PT in 6th grade.