FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration

shutterstock_245969281

This past week demonstrated with blinding clarity that 1) Republicans, contrary to their rhetoric, oppose individual liberty, and 2) the establishment news media really couldn’t care less about the presidential candidates’ views.

After the last Republican debate, the media continued its obsession with the reality-TV and horse-race sides of the election. News readers, correspondents, and “analysts” droned on about Marco Rubio’s robotic repetition during the debate and the insult swaps by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. You had to read the cable channels’ “news tickers” running right to left along the bottom of the screen to find out that at least some Republican candidates think young women should have to register with Selective Service in case the military draft is reinstituted. On CNN, at least, this story was not deemed worthy of further attention.

Which is more important? Rubio’s short-term memory problem, the Trump-Bush mud-wrestling match, or registration for the draft?

Here’s a clue: the draft is slavery. It is short-term slavery at best, but it’s possibly debilitating and even fatal. Thus registration with Selective Service is — surprise! — registration for possible enslavement. Anyone who supports individual liberty against state power would oppose conscription. This is no close call.

The draft ended in 1973 during the Nixon administration. (Classical-liberal economist Milton Friedman played a key role in its demise.) In 1980, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation requiring 18-26-year-old men — but not women — to register with Selective Service, supposedly as a signal to the Russians that Carter had noticed their invasion. But the draft was not revived. (We later learned that the Carter administration helped to provoke the invasion by aiding jihadis, hoping Afghanistan would be the Soviets’ “Vietnam.” The 9/11 attacks were blowback from Carter’s operation, and Afghanistan would become America’s second “Vietnam.”)

Ronald Reagan, Carter’s opponent in 1980, criticized draft registration on grounds that it “destroys the very values that our society is committed to defending,” but in office Reagan changed his mind because “we live in a dangerous world.”

According to Selective Service: “Failing to register … is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or a combination of both.” (Counseling “another to fail to comply … is subject to the same penalties.”) Failing to register can also result in loss of government benefits, such as student aid, federal jobs, and job training.

With military combat roles now open to women, the question of extending compulsory draft registration to them has come up. The New York Times reports that “the Marine Corps commandant, the chief of staff of the Army and one of the top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee [Claire McCaskill] said … that women should be required to register. Two days later, two Republican members of the House who are military veterans — Duncan Hunter of California and Ryan Zinke of Montana — introduced legislation that would require women to register.”

That set the stage for the question at the Republican debate. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie endorsed compulsory registration of women. Christie, strangely, said not forcing women to register constituted discrimination against them. Bush said he did not expect the draft to be resumed, but hastened to add that he opposed ending registration.

The remaining candidates said nothing. No one objected to registering women. More revealing, no one called for ending draft registration for men. The candidates of the party that insists it alone favors liberty and limits on government power favor draft registration!

Few people call for a new draft; military leaders reportedly oppose conscription because it fills the armed forces with people who prefer to be elsewhere. So why continue draft registration? The usual answer is that it would promote readiness in an emergency. But that is no reason to violate liberty. The practical value of a quickly dated list of registrants is also doubted.

Some misguided people will argue that if men must register, then fairness dictates that women must register too. It’s an odd notion of fairness or justice, however. Compulsory draft registration is unfair because it violates young people’s rights. Therefore, extending the unfairness cannot be fair. The only fair measure would be to abolish registration and never draft anyone again.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

November 20, 2018
John Davis
Geographies of Violence in Southern California
Anthony Pahnke
Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it
Maximilian Werner
Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation
Masturah Alatas
Undercutting Female Circumcision
Jack Rasmus
Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond
Geoff Dutton
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword is So Hard to Swallow
Binoy Kampmark
Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange
Rev. William Alberts
America Fiddles While California Burns
Forrest Hylton, Aaron Tauss and Juan Felipe Duque Agudelo
Remaking the Common Good: the Crisis of Public Higher Education in Colombia
Patrick Cockburn
What Can We Learn From a Headmaster Who Refused to Allow His Students to Celebrate Armistice Day?
Clark T. Scott
Our Most Stalwart Company
Tom H. Hastings
Look to the Right for Corruption
Edward Hunt
With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?
Thomas Knapp
Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago
November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail