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Is A Military Draft Inevitable?

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Is A Military Draft Inevitable?


A confrontation with Iran at some level appears to be a foregone conclusion. Presidential candidate John McCain has stated that there are scenarios that would necessitate the reinstitution of a military draft. Even with Obama and a Democratic Congress could the law of supply and demand leave them with no choice in the event of a military conflict?

Our troops continue be stretched thin all over the world. Are we one more conflict away from a draft? How big will the conflict have to be? Will we be at war with Iran over nuclear reactors? Will the “cold war” over the North Pole heat up as Russia builds up its Antarctic military defenses? The Antarctic is thought to hold 25 percent or more of the worlds untapped energy resources. Maybe North Korea will fuel up(unleaded of course) one of those Taepodong-1 missiles and lob one over the ocean at us. Wherever it comes from, my gut tells me it will be something different than we expected.

Is a military draft a political issue or a simple issue of supply and demand? Can we predict the future by looking at the politics and economics of past drafts?

The last time we saw a draft was the Vietnam War. The last soldier was drafted in 1972. The draft officially ended in 1973. Prior to that time, the draft was historically a reaction to a specific military event. President Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service And Training Act of 1940 in response to the United States entering World War II.

Prior to World War II, the last draft was in response to World War I with the establishment of the original Selective Service Act, establishing local, district, state, and territorial civilian boards to register, classify, examine, and either induct and ship out or defer men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty for service in World War I. The draft was incredibly unpopular and volatile. For the first drawing 50,000 men applied for the very broad exemptions allowed by the first act. More than one quarter million eligible males failed to register at all. There were often mass roundups and arrests of draft dodgers.

The first national “conscription draft” was the Civil War. The North began conscription in 1863 when Congress gives President Lincoln the authority to require draft registration by all able-bodied men between the ages of twenty and forty-five, regardless of their marital status or profession. You were able to pay a fee to have a “substitute” fight in your place. You were also in the clear if you could cough up 300 dollars to the government. The corruption, politics and favoritism associated with the Civil War draft in part set off the New York City Draft Riots depicted in the movie Gangs Of New York.

The Confederate Draft was such a mess that it really never achieved the needed manpower infusion. There was massive non-compliance leading the Confederate states to begin conscripting slaves.

Prior to the the Civil War, the calling up of military was primarily reserved for state militias. The was often conflict between federal authority to call up the militias and the states willingness to comply. This was a particular problem in the War of 1812.

The constitutionality of the draft has been challenged several times. The first time was the very unpopular World War I draft. The United States Supreme court held that the draft was constitutional in the case of Arver v. United States. Lower court cases have followed Arver.

The current military stance is that there is no need for a draft even with any military recruiting shortfalls that may occur. It is the position of military leaders that a draft would actually decrease the quality of the average volunteer solider in the field. All branches of the military have in fact met or exceed their quotas for whatever that is worth. Is the fulfilling of a “peacetime” quota a symbolic and meaningless statistic?

People have been opining and predicting the need for a draft since the Civil War and the riots that followed.. Without exception it has taken a precipitating military event to bring one about. In my mind it is not a right wing versus left wing, Republican versus Democrat argument. There are so many variables and external forces that any prediction bases on political alliances and agendas is futile. I prefer to look at the constant economic variable that has driven world economies since pelts were being traded for food.

It is a very simple formula of supply and demand economics. In any economy external forces/events drive up or lower demand and supply. When demand increases and you don’t have the resources to increase supply, you make adjustments, re-deploy assets, lean out the supply chain. If demand keeps increasing sooner or later the only way to deal with it is to increase your supply by renewing production. Supply chain management is critical in the military on all levels in including the resource no war can be fought without. Poor supply chain management at Sears costs jobs. Poor supply chain enlistment management in the military costs lives.

How many events can our military respond to before the demand for soldiers outstrips our ability to bring in volunteers?

Our military leaders say we are meeting and exceeding retention and recruiting quota in our all volunteer force. That is really a meaningless statement unless we know the formula they use to determine quota. For example, we know that a percentage of the retention quota is being met through the military’s controversial “stop loss” policy. Many of called this policy a “back door draft”. When this is taken into consideration, the numbers do not appear to tell the whole story. It’s like Enron telling their employees they are kicking ass. Unless you know how they came to their conclusions, it is a false and very dangerous sense of security.

The military is a business. It is a poorly managed business. Sooner or later, you will reach a point where it makes more economic sense to force people to go than entice them with all kinds of incentives and bonuses. I have no idea where that point is. When it happens, there is not going to be a vote, a referendum, a debate etc. We will be told its coming and that’s that.

Will there one day be the new “Pearl Harbor” that will cause a massive “patriotic shift” in favor of a draft? I have no idea. Is it naive and “isolationist” to bask in comfort that it will never occur?

What do you think?

©2008 Brian Cuban

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