There seems to be an increasingly popular sentiment online, embodied in a post which reads, “Bring Back the Draft! Repost if you agree!” Well, I heartily disagree.
Before we go any further, I served in the United States Army, active and reserve, enlisted and commissioned officer; for well over a decade. I’ve been a soldier; I’ve led soldiers and I’ve commanded soldiers. What follows flows from that experience.
I understand the sentiment about reinstating the draft, as wrong-headed as I find the notion. The blight in our national psyche and our sense of heritage is manifest. We see young (and not so young) people who hold their country and its heritage in contempt. We see our great institutions, including the government, infested by this blight. We see our schools and our “institutions of higher learning” churning out drones who hold nothing but disdain for the nation. That blight spreads into our workforce, our media, and our commerce. Nothing would be a faster cure for that blight than a good dose of military discipline, right?
Imagine if you will that you are building a house. You have plans drawn up. You have furniture picked out. You hand select the materials for the interior and the exterior. Then you turn your plans over to a builder and an architect of questionable competence, who build your house on a foundation of quicksand. And you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to keep your mansion from sinking into the mire, all to avail. That’s what reinstating the draft means.
You cannot instill civic virtue into someone to whom it is alien, who doesn’t want it, and who resents having it thrust upon them. Like houses, soldiers (a term used generically here) are built on a solid foundation of moral conscience and civic virtue that it is far too late to install by the time they go to basic training. Taking someone who holds nothing but disdain for the nation and her heritage and demanding that they suddenly have another emotion, that they give their very lives for that nation; is a recipe for more resentment.
But let’s entertain for a moment the notion that we should reinstate the draft. Those men (and women) upon reaching the age of majority are required to not only register but serve a compulsory term of military service. That the products of an anti-American school system which peddles loathing for the United States and her founding principles may now be compulsorily recruited en masse by the Armed Forces. That’s the cure for our national illness, isn’t it? Let’s see where that takes us.
What we’ve done as a nation in reinstating the draft is made a conscious decision to spread the blight to the last institution that to date has largely resisted it: the Armed Services.
Something like 3% of the overall populace serves in the United States Armed Forces. An extremely small percentage for the size of the populace they protect. Yet the United States enjoys one of the most effective and feared military forces in the world. Technology? Perhaps. But having been there, I’d submit that the reason our armed services are so effective on the battlefield is that the people who wear our uniform volunteer to do so. They are motivated by moral conscience, civic virtue, and a sense of honor and duty that were carefully cultivated in them by caring parents and loving families. By communities, churches, and organizations that imbued in them the sense that this was a nation worth defending.
The last thing any good trooper wants in the foxhole next to him when it hits the fan is some angry kid who is nursing the conscript syndrome. They want to know that their buddies chose to be there and that their life is as important to their buddy as he is. Compulsorily drafting a bunch of selfish kids who have no sense of duty other than to themselves, and who have been taught that it’s right and it’s holy to hold that view, is the quickest way to diminish the effectiveness of our armed forces. Worse still, the price for their dereliction will be paid in the blood of that precious 3% who volunteer.
So, reinstating the draft does nothing to improve our civic discussion or our sense of heritage. What it will do is to layer on resentment for the nation that far too many people have already been indoctrinated with and reduce the lethality and effectiveness of our armed forces. It opens the door to mediocrity.
“But, but … but .” I hear you say, “What about World War II? That was a conscript military who saved the very world.” Yes, you’re right they did. There are anecdotal incidents galore of people who committed suicide because their local draft board would not allow them to fight. But I invite you to consider the communities and educational institutions of the early 20th Century through the 1940s and 1950s versus the communities and educational institutions of today. Consider the kinds of everyday citizens they produce in each case. There I believe you will find your answer.
So how do we address the blight? How do we roll it back or kill it? We continue to push to reform our schools. We counteract their Leftist message each and every night at the dinner table; as Ronald Reagan suggested. We elect officials to our school boards who share our views. We hold our colleges and universities accountable for their indoctrination by starving them of funds. Refuse to contribute to their “academic trusts” and “alumni funds.” Don’t buy their athletic tickets. And most importantly: let them know why they can no longer expect your support. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan yet again, “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
You see, WE are the designers and the architects. We have the finest raw materials and the best furniture. But we’re turning that over to incompetent builders and shady architects in the form of our education system. We can fix it, but not with a draft. That will only compound the problem and pollute a noble institution.