The Absence of a Draft Makes Americans Feel Immune to War

The best thing for the U.S. or any movement that truly wants an end to U.S. wars, would be to bring back the draft. The all-volunteer military has made it far easier for the United States to wage unjust and illegal wars, because the vast majority of the population has no direct stake in keeping the peace.

A new study shows the disconnect between Americans and their military is deeper than ever. “This vast experiential chasm between the general population and the U.S. military has reached an all time high during the same decade that has seen ‘the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history.’”

“The Pentagon will wage as many wars as the American public will bear.”

In January of 2003, during the countdown to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I used the pages of an online publication to call for reinstitution of the draft. The article was titled “No Draft, No Peace,” and our readers were very unhappy with me. So, I expect that our resent readers will also be unhappy, because I am once again calling for a return to the draft.

The reasoning is the same as in 2003: that the all-volunteer military, created in 1973, has made it far easier for the United States to wage unjust and illegal wars, because the vast majority of the population has no direct stake in keeping the peace. Or, as we put it nine years ago: “In the 30 years since the last young American was drafted, the U.S. has constructed a volunteer military machine that is disconnected from the life of the nation, a foreign legion-like force to which whole sectors of the population have only the most tenuous ties or…none at all.”

It’s now almost 40 years since the end of the draft, and a new study shows the distance between those families that send sons and daughters into the military, and those that do not, has never been greater. A survey by the Pew Research Center finds that “just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.” That means on any day of the week, only one out of every 200 Americans of either sex is in military uniform. Among young adults, only 39 percent have an immediate family member of any age who has served in the military. And, as the survey notes, this vast experiential chasm between the general population and the U.S. military has reached an all time high during the same decade that has seen “the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history.”

In other words, the United States has been engaged in a decade of constant warfare on multiple fronts, while the military has made do with a smaller proportion of the population that at any time since World War Two. “The last thing the U.S. military wants is a return to the draft, because they know that selective service would instantly shrink their options for war.”

Back in 2003, readers argued heatedly that a draft would encourage U.S. militarists to concoct even more expansive war plans, because they would have access to more manpower. But, in this age of drones, smart bombs and million-dollar per man armies it is not manpower concerns, but domestic politics, that dictates how many wars the generals can fight. The Pentagon will wage as many wars as the American public will bear. At present, the U.S. is busy killing people in four large theaters of war and many smaller ones, yet the Pentagon shows no sign of having a full plate. Indeed, the last thing the U.S. military wants is a return to the draft, because they know that selective service would instantly shrink their options for war, because more people would oppose them.

As it stands, there is every reason to believe that the American public will accept an infinity of wars, as long as most families enjoy complete immunity from having loved ones killed or wounded in battle. For all political purposes, the U.S. military is a foreign legion, made up of people whose lives do not directly touch most of their fellow citizens.

And that’s why we don’t have an anti-war movement – because too few people have even theoretical “skin in the game.” The last decade has shown that a United States without a draft is the most militaristic and dangerous of all.

 

By: Glen Ford