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See Also: Letter to Rangel on the draft, by John Judge, 9/27/03

Reinstate a Military Draft?

The draft is no route to democracy or fairness.

Date: Fri, 03 Jan 2003 03:09:39 -0500
Subject: Re: [counter-recruitment] Draft Beer, Not Kids

I agree with most of what Ron Jacobs says. I think far too many Black veterans feel that a draft serves to level the odds that white middle to upper class kids will do military duty in wars. There are many factors that belie this. Here are a few of them:

  1. Even if a draft could be constructed which would bring a truly diverse and representative population to the gate of the US military, once they enter they are in the most racist, classist, sexist and authoritarian organization in the society. Poor, undereducated and people of color will be assigned by way of biased tests and commands to the dead-end jobs and the most dangerous, including combat. This is true under the current poverty draft as well, and the front lines of the Gulf War were, as during Vietnam, predominantly Black and Hispanic with a smattering of white officers. White poor fill out the rest of those ranks in most cases.

  2. The reason a draft cannot be egalitarain is that by its very nature it will reflect the class and race biases of the broader society. Racism and classism are not just attitudes, they are institutionalized systems that operate with our without overt prejudices. In the past, as noted, the draft was used to "channel" youth to certain jobs, national service positions, reserve duties, or higher education. Former SSS Director Hershey said it "accomplished for American youth what dictatorships do for youth in other countries" by putting them in "an uncomfortably warm room with a number of pre-selected doors".

    Let's say Rangel envisions a draft without quite so many doors open to the well to do. Law and common sense require at least deferments or exemptions for severe hardships, medical conditions or disabilities, and objections of conscience, if no others. The ability to articulate, document or gain these deferments clearly rest on class and race position and experience, and will still cut disproportionately across those lines in terms of who is drafted.

  3. The current poverty draft, which is structurally racist and classist and sexist, creates a military of economic conscripts that is 36% African-American while the population is 14% Black. But the Selective Service System was even more systematically racist, because 56% of draftees were Black during Vietnam years.

  4. The current Total Force Doctrine uses the reserve forces before the active duty in combat. The draft forces people into active duty positions. Modern war strategy avoids extended ground wars like the plague, and does not exhaust the huge turnover of reserve and active forces in our 2-million plus enlisted military. Enlisted reservists would be called into combat before the draftees in other words unless the law was changed or the strategy. No draft is needed despite the huge turnover of enlisted personnel which requires almost half a million new recruits each year. The worsening economy is providing them.

    Having draftees makes war more likely since there would be an inexhaustible potential base from which to draw combatants. The leadership of the resistance to the Vietnam war among GI's came from the enlisted ranks, not the draftees. There were more CO claims filed at the start of the last Gulf War by the "volunteer military" members than had been filed by Vietnam era GIs, but they were ignored.

  5. There will be political costs to the draft as well, including increased resistance to the war at home. But with or without it, that resistance is already here inside and outside the military and will build. Rangel should be sat down with by veterans and others who know the real history and issues of the draft and dissuaded from his attempt to use social engineering to whiten the military. No son of a Congress member was ever drafted into Vietnam, and it gave them no pause.

    The current Congress knows that the ratio of opposition to the resolution that Rangel voted against among the public was 400-1,000 to one. That is where the crux of a democratic issue lies. The draft is no route to democracy or fairness. We need a real tool that can express popular will and legislation to protect the rights of the enlisted members who will oppose this war on grounds of conscience and common sense, most of whom will again be Black and poor.

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