2023-11-03 20:01:14 UTC
Is the U.S. on the cusp of a three-front world war against Russia,
Iran, and China? If such a seismic event were to occur, would our
nationâs 50-year-old all-volunteer force require a boost from â dare
I even say it? â a reinstatement of the draft?
It was Jan. 27, 1973, when most American men aged 19 to 25 were able
to celebrate President Richard Nixonâs abolition of the draft.
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announced, âI wish to inform you that
the Armed Forces henceforth will depend exclusively on volunteer
soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.â
Although Jimmy Carter later reinstated draft registration, American
men have escaped mandatory military service for two generations
because millions of their patriotic brothers and sisters were
willing to serve voluntarily, with thousands of them laying down
their lives for their country.
There were 2,324 military deaths in Afghanistan, along with 3,917
U.S. contractor deaths. Iraq was equally costly, with 4,431 military
lives lost and 31,994 wounded. Many others still suffer from
conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Undoubtedly, the two 9/11-related wars took a toll on recruitment.
One factor is a decline in patriotism. A June Gallup poll found that
only 18 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say they are âextremely proud
to be American.â However, there are numerous reasons why fewer young
Americans are enlisting.
Katie Crombe and John A. Nagl, whose credentials cannot be lightly
dismissed, wrote that âthe U.S. Army is facing a dire combination of
a recruiting shortfall and a shrinking Individual Ready Reserve.â
The âshrinkâ they cite is alarming.
âThe Individual Ready Reserve, which stood at 700,000 in 1973 and
450,000 in 1994, now stands at just 76,000. These numbers cannot
fill the existing gaps in the active force, let alone any casualty
replacement or expansion during a large-scale combat operation.â
As reflected in the title, the authors outline strategic âlessons
from Ukraine,â including that conflictâs casualty rates, for future
planning purposes. The lessons all point to their âCall to Actionâ
for the U.S. military.
Reinstating the draft, or âpartial conscription,â would unleash
powerful social, political, and cultural shock waves throughout
America. After 50 years, any conscription, no matter how âpartial,â
would be off-the-charts contentious.
In addition to traditional ethical and constitutional concerns, it
is hard even to imagine how well the âHell no, we wonât goâ of the
1960s would catch on in a modern era of social media. Many
military-age youth would protest conscription as a violation of
their individual liberty. Even when the draft is not deadly, it can
sidetrack the lives of young men (or even women, if they are made to
register) for years.
A draft may also force many to participate in activities that
potentially contravene their moral, religious, or personal beliefs.
Just imagine if conscription were deemed essential to help defend
our ally Israel. War would break out on college campuses, would it
As in the Vietnam era, a draft could also disproportionately affect
disadvantaged communities. Families with more resources often find
ways to avoid conscription, whereas those of lesser means are more
likely to bear the greater burden. Even where this doesnât happen,
the suspicion that it does will intensify resentments.
Nonetheless, with warring headlines from the Middle East, combined
with Ukraineâs lessons and warnings from Crombe and Nagl â published
six weeks before Hamas attacked Israel â one imagines the Pentagon
is forecasting its conscription needs, âjust in case.â
The potential for the U.S. to help defend Israel against Iranâs
proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, could turn into a more expansive and
prolonged war with American boots-on-ground engagement.
Simultaneously, Ukraineâs fight against its Russian invaders
continues to strain American stockpiles of military hardware and
ammunition that are also needed for Israel.
Meanwhile, the Israeli conflict could negatively affect U.S.
military recruitment. Even before the Hamas attack, every branch was
falling short of its goals except for the smaller Marine Corps.
According to the Department of Defense, for 2023, the Army is short
15,000 recruits, the Navy is down 10,000, and the Air Force 3,000.
With those statistics in mind, think back to what happened on Oct.
19 when several major news outlets were forced to fact-check a
deep-fake AI video showing President Joe Biden âannouncing the
reinstatement of the draft.â In this video, initially posted in
February, Biden appears to state that he will âinvoke the Selective
Service Act, as is my authority as president.â (False â that is the
job of Congress.) The video concludes with Biden saying, âRemember,
you are not sending your sons and daughters to war. You are sending
them to freedom. God bless our troops, and God Bless Ukraine.â
The bizarre Ukraine sign-off was another clue that the video was
inauthentic. Israel was attacked on Oct. 7, and the February video
resurfaced days afterward on Facebook and TikTok. (You can still
watch it here.)
USA Today noted the fake short-lived draft announcement was âshared
more than 400 times in four days. And âonâ¯TikTokâ¯more than 20,000
times in five days.â
Naturally, there was outrage and profanities from those who believed
Bidenâs deep-fake AI-generated draft call.
Since 1980, the Selective Service has required âmen aged 18 to 25 to
registerâ and âparticipate in a national draft lottery, should the
President and Congress reinstate conscription due to a national
emergency.â At any time, Congress could modify the law to require
female registration as well.
But everyone knows that reinstating the draft will spark a fierce
domestic battle, detracting from the war effort. After 50 years, a
21st-century draft would be a national nightmare. But could
reinstating a draft be worse than potentially losing a major war?
Letâs hope Americans donât have to answer that question.