The pioneers of a warless world are the young men [& women] who refuse military service
—Albert Einstein courtesy of Syracuse Cultural Workers on Facebook
I was nineteen the last year of the draft. Nixon and congress had decided that an all-volunteer army was the right way to meet the manpower needs of the military, so the draft was coming to an end. But not before my year of eligibility. This you may recall was in the waning years of the Vietnam war. But at the time the country was still very much in Vietnam.
The draft in that era had a couple of attributes. The order in which individuals were inducted was based on a lottery. And student deferments were basically non-existent. So it was with great anxiety that I anticipated the lottery drawing. I was home from college when it happened. It may have been over Christmas break. This was long before 24-hour cable news or the internet. So I was nervous and pacing all day. I turned on the earliest newscast available in the Los Angeles market, which happened to be on the local ABC station. They were smart enough to show all of the lottery numbers. But given that they started with January, and went month-by-month, my anxiety increased as I waited for August. Then finally. 205! Two-hundred-and-five. I was, in all likelihood, entirely safe.
Today we still have the all-volunteer army instituted by Nixon. And we remain mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can't find the exact quote, but George W's Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is reported to have said that when you have no draft you have no anti-war movement. I did find multiple reports in which he said that he was opposed to the draft, but not necessarily for that reason.
I have to wonder whether the opposition to what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan would be more pitched if young men (and perhaps women) were at risk of being inducted into the military against their will.
And I wonder how our presence in Iraq might be different had the military contained a greater cross-section of society, as is more the case when there is a draft.
As one who was at risk for the draft himself, I can't wish that on the young people of today. But the questions, I think, are worth asking.