Russia’s Draft and the US’s Draft Registration

I find it fascinating how often Americans are being reminded of how similar the United States and Russia have become. 

First, there was the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hey, the U.S. does invasions too. Afghanistan and Iraq come to mind.

Second, there was the recent arrest, prosecution, conviction, and 9-year jail sentence for Brittney Griner for violating Russia’s drug laws. Hey, the U.S. has drug laws too and also sends people away for long periods of time for drug-law violations.

Third, trade restrictions, travel restrictions, and immigration controls. 

Fourth, a central bank, fiat (i.e., paper) money, and legal-tender laws.

Fifth, a government-regulated and government-managed economy, including minimum-wage laws.

We could also mention torture, indefinite detention, mass secret surveillance, tribunals, and state-sponsored assassinations. Both regimes engage in all of them. 

And now there is the draft. Russian President Vladimir Putin is resorting to conscription to force Russian men to go and fight in his war against Ukraine. Thousands of Russian men are now fleeing the country to avoid being drafted.

But hey, the U.S. also uses conscription to force Americans to fight in its foreign wars. That’s what draft registration is all about. U.S. officials require young Americans to register their names and addresses so that they will be ready in case the U.S. government needs them to fight in one of its foreign wars. Just like in Russia. 

And make no mistake about it: If that happens, U.S. officials will be going after draft evaders with the same vengeance that Russian officials are. They will be calling them “cowards,” the term that Russian officials are using against Russian men who are fleeing the country to avoid the draft. That’s, in fact, what U.S. officials called American men who fled to Canada to avoid being forced to fight the U.S. government’s illegal (i.e., no constitutionally required congressional declaration of war) war in Vietnam.

In that illegal war, U.S. officials sacrificed 58,000 American men for nothing. Think about that — 58,000! All dead. 150,000 were injured, some of them permanently. And many of those men were forced to go over there to kill or be killed. That’s what conscription is all about — force. The irony is that U.S. officials were telling those conscripted men that they were fighting for “freedom.” But they could never explain how being forced to fight for “freedom” can actually be reconciled with genuine freedom. Moreover, the thousands of American blacks who were being conscripted naturally had a hard time understanding why they were fighting for “freedom” in Vietnam while they were being beaten up and killed opposing segregation here at home.

When Mohammad Ali refused to submit to conscription, they went after him with a vengeance, just like Russian officials are now doing to people who refuse to submit to their use of conscription force. One of the greatest (and truest) lines ever spoken was Ali’s pointed observation, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” 

Oh, boy, did that anger U.S. officials, especially those in the Pentagon and the CIA. As far as they were concerned, when the U.S. government designates an official enemy, it is incumbent on every American citizen to make that person or entity his official enemy too. 

In any event, young Americans, including women, would be wise to take notice of what is happening in Russia because the exact same thing could easily happen here, and overnight. If they were smart, they would be demanding an immediate end to draft registration and the immediate destruction of all draft records. Conscription has no part in a genuinely free society.

For their part, the American people would be wise to do some serious soul-searching over the fact that our country has come to resemble that of Russia in so many important ways, including conscription.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.