Chance of a Military Draft in the US? Less Than Zero!

Wouldn’t it be the height of hypocrisy if Mr. Bone Spur approved a military draft (with the help of Congress)? The fact that the Selective Service website crashed following the drone assassination of Iranian General Suleimani (“US government agency website crashes amid panic over military draft,” Guardian, January 4, 2020), and will lead to a draft, is the stuff of pure imagination. The repercussions will not be comical, however, since the insatiable appetite for profit in the war industry and the expansion of empire is nothing but dangerous and ugly. Since September 11, 2001, and the democracy movements in some countries in the Middle East and in some countries in Africa, the drumbeat and horror of endless wars has been deafening for those who care about these issues and are willing to listen.

The military seems to be getting all the members it needs because good jobs are not available for lots of people from the first 20 percent of income distribution (labelled as the fifth quintile), an economic class that includes many people of color.

Here in the US, the reporting from the war zones where endless wars have been fought for nearly two decades is almost nonexistent, and that keeps any real scrutiny of US wars out of the media and far away from personal and national consciousness. It isn’t like the early days of the War on Terror when most embedded reporters became part of the campaign to glorify war. News from war zones hardly makes it to the front pages of major newspapers, or within the endless babble and chatter of television and Internet media.

Try to imagine the response of male middle-class young adults if a draft was voted in by Congress. The streets would explode. Even Nixon the consummate warmonger knew this in 1973, when he ended the military draft and created the volunteer military. There haven’t been many times since that the draft was even a remote possibility for the middle class. The prospects of a draft seemed possible during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981, but that quickly evaporated with Reagan. Even as the US expanded the volunteer military when the war in Afghanistan morphed into another war in Iraq, the military began to issue waivers that allowed for the acceptance of some who had committed crimes and some with limited intellectual ability. Since then, economics has done the job of bringing in the needed troops.

There have always been those who joined the military for reasons they identify as patriotic and an elite corps of officers trained at military academies and colleges, but the rank and file of volunteers come from the lowest 20 percent slice of the economic pie.

Women, now accepted in all military specialties, would automatically be exempted from a draft, although it is likely that some feminists and feminist organizations would demand equal treatment if a draft was implemented.

Being in harm’s way or subject to a military draft is something that most who have come of age following the Vietnam War era can’t even imagine. The government wants to keep it that way. Even with reduced fatalities and injuries from battle today, with massive military might and war sometimes waged from the skies, both from drones and from piloted aircraft, the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq produced many horrific injuries, especially at the onset of the war in Afghanistan, with troops going into battle and on missions where they were subjected to attack by improvised explosives that ripped apart the poorly shielded vehicles in which they rode. Those kinds of horrific injuries would drive potential draftees into the streets because few want to even remotely have their own skin in the “game.” Even fewer want the horrific psychological injuries that war creates.

Here’s a quote from a professor at Rutgers University:

I don’t know what it means in a democracy that you let some people fight your wars and everybody is not responsible,” she said. “American citizens are not implicated in the consequences — bodily human life, economically — of war, and they should be. (“Will There Be a Draft? Young People Worry After Military Strike,” New York Times, January 3, 2020).

Well, first we’d need a just cause, then a just war, and finally a democracy. We have none of those here! What we do have is the thread that holds the potential of a nuclear holocaust that could be unleashed in an environment of endless war and incompetent leaders.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).