Thursday, November 13, 2014


Young men registering for military conscription, New York City, June 5, 1917.
By Bain News Service, publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it?Daniel Webster (December 9, 1814 House of Representatives Address)
Back in January (here) I expanded a bit on some thoughts and comments on des affaires militaires which arose from an earlier January post (here) on whether or not the Air Force should remain an independent service.

Lately a most excellent post over at Ask the Skipper about women and the draft (here) got me to thinking. Which is no easy task, I can tell you.

That opening quote from Daniel Webster is part of a comment I left over at the Skipper's place 
vis à vis the draft.

Now twice in the past couple of weeks I've had folks tell me how the Supreme Court decided that something was or was not Constitutional. Or that because the current Federal government did something a certain way means that they did it the right / wrong way.

Now normally when someone waves the Supreme's flag I counter with "Dred Scott." Let me refresh your memory on that score - 
The case raised the issue of the status of enslaved individuals who had been held captive while residing in a free state. Such states and territories held that a slaveholder forfeited his property rights to his enslaved individuals in a state that prohibited the institution of slavery and where there was no law to support his controlling the slave. Congress had never before addressed whether slaves were free if they set foot upon free soil. The Dred Scott ruling overturned the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional, holding that slavery was protected in the Constitution, therefore Congress could not regulate it in the federal Territories and deprive a slave owner of his property without due process. W
So color me skeptical when someone argues that the Supremes ruled on something. Last I checked those be-robed luminaries are human, just like you and me. The Dred Scott decision was not the first massive error made by the Supremes, it certainly was not the last.

So if you'd like to disagree with me in this post, do so after perusing the Constitution yourself, don't disagree based on some politically-motivated Court ruling. (Do I have zero respect for the Supreme Court? No, it's a little higher than zero. But judicial activism is not a recent phenomenon.)

So the draft is today's topic, conscription if you prefer.

I object to conscription, for two reasons:
  1. Conscription is, by it's very nature, involuntary servitude. Which is prohibited by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.)
  2. If a nation needs to rely on conscription for its defense, I ask you, is that nation worthy of the blood of its children. Because that's what conscription demands, blood.
No doubt there are some folks digging into history to proclaim that the Supreme Court declared conscription Constitutional in 1918. Of course they did. It's what the powers-that-be wanted. After all, World War I was raging in Europe and we needed to go "Over there" and...

Really, what vital U.S. interest was threatened by the Germans in World War I? As a point of fact, prior to the Zimmermann Telegram there was a great deal of pro-German sentiment in the U.S., after all there were (and still are) a large number of Americans of German ancestry in this country.

Powerful interests in the U.S. wanted conscription, so the U.S. got conscription. (In regards to the Dred Scott decision, powerful interests wanted slavery, so of course the Supremes found a way to make it "Constitutional" - quotes are intentional.)

While I understand that some of my uniformed brothers and sisters feel that a little military service would be good for many of America's youth, and therefore they like the "idea" of a draft. I have to ask - 
do my brothers and sisters wish to see their kids thrown into uniform, hastily trained and handed a rifle to go off and fight ISIS, or Al Qaeda or the Taliban? I don't. (Though my kids all volunteered for service, my grandchildren might face this in the future.)

Also bear in mind, the job of the military is to defend the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Blow things up and kill people to be blunt about it. Not to teach young Americans the value of discipline. At least that's my take on it.

There is no draft right now, though there is a mechanism in place to institute one should the need arise. 
Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male immigrants living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. It's important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces. Source
Should women be susceptible to a draft? Law says no, men only.

My feeling is that no one should be susceptible to the draft.

If the country is not worth fighting for, why do we need a draft?

If an enemy lands on our shores and men (and women) don't flock to the colors in droves, what is it we have that is worth defending? If the people have to be forced into uniform, what is the point? No one said a word about needing a draft after 9/11. Young Americans turned out in large numbers to volunteer.

A draft?

I'm with Daniel Webster on this one. What do you think?


  1. When you draft soliders (or whatever), under our present system, as history has shown, you wind up with the dregs of society as anyone with half a brain can score any one of a number of deferments. So instead of a fit, motivated volunteer force, you end up with units comprised of people who are often unfit for military service by virtue of character or attitude and you can't do jack with them. I don't want some unmotivated social misfit as MY back-up when things get heavy and we saw this bit us in the butt during the Vietnam war. The Israelis, Germans and other countries who employ mandatory national service have seen the same problems.

  2. Young Americans turned out in large numbers in 1917 and in 1941. There was also a draft in place, so many "voluntarily" waited to be called. Young Americans turned out in large numbers post-WWII as well and right up through the end of the draft. I've seen some papers which suggest that a large percentage of those drafted post-WWII (excluding Vietnam era) would likely have voluntarily served a two year hitch. "Experts" predicted that the AVF would die aborning for lack of volunteers, but it didn't work out that way.

  3. But wait, there's more. I'm against involuntary conscription as a matter of principle and I read the Constitution the same way you do, Sarge. I'm also the county representative for the Nebraska Panhandle Region draft board. In that capacity, if the draft is reinstated, my job would not be to select individual draftees (SS will do that) but to hear exemption cases. The law is pretty specific on exemptions, and I would unhesitatingly bow to the law in hearing such cases. I believe that my fundamental operating principle if push comes to shove would be this -- "if you didn't want to be drafted you should have changed the law." Following that line of reasoning leads me to this premise -- if it's incumbent upon sovereign citizens to voluntarily serve in defense of the Constitution, it's also incumbent upon those sovereign citizens to do away with involuntary conscription.

  4. When you draft soliders (or whatever), under our present system, as history has shown, you wind up with the dregs of society as anyone with half a brain can score any one of a number of deferments. Murphy's Law

    Based on serving three years in the Army in units that were at least 25% US. I didn't see this. In addition, my Combat Engineer unit was well over 50% minorities. Pukes are pukes, especially the ones with half a brain. What determines the worth of any unit is the quality and commitment of the NCOs. The draft itself? I'm ambivalent.

    1. I pretty much agree with what you say, WSF. I'll add that USAF got some very high quality people with low lottery numbers during Viet Nam (I knew a lot of those kinda guys), sort of a silver lining to a VERY dark cloud.

  5. Without a draft, I doubt very much we could have stayed and fought in Viet Nam. I rest my case.

    1. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    2. It was good for McDonnell Douglas, Monsanto, Hercules Powder Company, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and RMK-BRJ (Raymond International, Morrison-Knudsen, Brown & Root, and J.A. Jones Construction).

  6. As far as I'm concerned, if they bring back registration/draft, it should be for EVERYBODY... Women want equality, they GET equality... In all things...

  7. Conscription has been admirably commented on already, so I would like to reply to your brief comments on the US supreme Court. Guess how it was determined that the Supreme Court was the final arbiter on the meaning and reach (jurisdiction) of the Constitution. You guessed it, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter because they said they are. It's almost impossible to imagine that sovereign states, who were most concerned about exchanging British Tyranny for Federal Tyranny would have contemplated giving the Federal government the sole authority to determine the limits of its own powers, and the meaning of the document drafted to constrain its overreach. Google Marbury vs. Madison for details. For a clear example of Federal overreach, google Wickard vs. Filburn.

  8. And now you have 80 percent of the USDA budget going to federal food welfare programs. Never let a crisis go to waste. Ole Saul took much of his training at FDR's knee.

  9. 334 in the last draft lottery.....................................................

  10. From Article 1:

    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    To provide and maintain a Navy;
    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    Please note that the power to raise and support Armies (including the Air Force) is separate from their enumerated powers over the militia.

    Vested in that power to raise Armies is the inherent authority to conscript soldiers. I argue that it wasn't more clearly defined as the drafters didn't foresee a need to more specifically list that power, as it was generally understood at the time that a sovereign power had that authority.

    One can argue whether a draft is good or bad policy (and I usually fall on the "bad" side) or whether any draft should include women.

    I would further argue that when you hear calls for mandatory national service in fields outside of the military, that clearly becomes indentured servitude, and is outside the constitutional scope of power.

  11. Excellent comments, thank you all. Some I agree with, some not so much. But if I wanted everyone to agree with me I wouldn't post stuff like this.

    XBradTC - I would quibble (just a bit) with your comment that "it was generally understood at the time that a sovereign power had that authority" primarily because many of the "understood" powers of a sovereign power were precisely what sparked our revolution. On the other hand, the founders had a deep and abiding distaste for a standing army. With good reason.

    All in all, a most informative exercise. I may do this again, toss an idea out with my take, then let you all run with it.

    Good stuff.

    1. ...primarily because many of the "understood" powers of a sovereign power were precisely what sparked our revolution.

      My counter is that the revolution was largely sparked because, while the Americans were considered British subjects, the King asserted authorities over them that he did not have over Englishmen represented in Parliament.

    2. Excellent point XBradTC. I was thinking of the powers assumed by sovereigns on the continent. Well, played.

  12. Another example of the fallibility of SCOTUS is that only 5 out of 9 recognized the 2nd Amendment rights of individuals in Heller.

  13. Among all of you veterans I can probably say that I was the only draftee. Second to the last group to be drafted, Sep 1972. I was a bit melancholy awhile back when a top Sgt of the Army retired after 37 years service - the last draftee in the Army (we officially held the designation Army of the US). Like me, he went in Sep 72.

    I would say from a practical perspective the draft probably will not be used for the foreseeable future. Out term was 2 years - I extended 3 months. With all the training needed these days, 2 years is too short a time for the services to recoup their training investment.

    From another perspective though I think the draft was invaluable.

    In my basic training platoon at Ft Ord, we looked like a stereotypical group from a Hollywood screenwriter.

    There was a guy from Beverly Hills.

    2 Indians from the rez.

    A black from the ghetto.

    A number of middle class kids.

    We all had to get along and learn to work as a team.

    Can't think of another situation where one would get such a disparate group together.

    A common argument against the draft is that you bring in people who don't want to be in the service.

    Well, it wasn't anyone's initial idea. but many chose to make the service their career.

    I was close to it.

    Many days, I wish that I had.

    At the height of Vietnam draftees counted off by 2.

    Half for the Army, half for the Marines.

    In fact, I was sworn in by a Marine LT.

    If we have a true national emergency I see no problem with the draft.

    But the nature of war these days - I doubt we'd see another situation like WW2.


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