In the last few weeks, there has been an incredibly large amount of angst regarding the possible return of the draft. People have visions of young men being fed into the quagmire that Iraq has become, and returning in coffins. Rest assured, all this worry is for naught. The Education Wonks are astonished at all the chatter that is being generated by this dead horse.
There will never again be a draft in America, and EdWonk knows why. It's simple, really, when one understands the history behind an all-volunteer army.
For hundreds of years, Great Britain had an all volunteer army. There were exceptions, of course. In times of war, criminals and vagrants were rounded up and "pressed" into service, especially the Royal Navy. The English never had any sort of conscription until 1915 when the trench warfare of World War I inflicted massive casualties on the volunteer force. As the number of volunteers declined, the British finally resorted to conscription to obtain large numbers of replacements.
It was an all-volunteer force that fought Washington's Continental Army in The War Of American Independence. After several years, this conflict grew to be very unpopular with the British people, not because of the loss of lives, but because of the large expenditures of cash needed to prosecute the war. It was about the money.
All Englishmen (and women) knew that every Redcoat had volunteered for the job. And there we have it.
With the exception of the Napoleonic Wars, the English tended to engage in "nasty little colonial wars" far from home. The War For American Independence is but one example of several. These enemies usually were, in the words of one English Prime Minister, "Far away people of whom we know nothing about." The military became, essentially, an extension of British Foreign Office. The English Government reasoned, correctly, that the public would not protest war loses too loudly. When casualties did mount, the response from the public was, "Well, they signed up, they knew the risks, didn't they?"
What made the Vietnam War so very unpopular was the draft. College students, (and their parents) from mostly middle-class backgrounds had a very real interest in avoiding the hazards of fighting a "nasty undeclared colonial-type war." Well-financed and coordinated anti-war movements sprang up all over the country. Politicians suddenly became very vulnerable at the ballot box, and began to be voted out of office i.e. the war became unpopular with them.
Concerning the Iraq War, there is quite a bit of anti-war feeling out there, but well-financed and coordinated anti-war movements are the key element that is missing at the present time. And both major political parties have declared support for the Conflict. Should those anti-war efforts grow in size and sophistication, political support for the Iraq War will vanish, as it did for the Vietnam War.
Conscription systems are designed to raise large armies, very quickly. It is what a country does that is committed to the concept of total war. And we did not do that in the Post 9/11 era. Seemingly by design, the Bush Administration chose not to involve the population in the war effort. As a people, we have not been asked to reduce oil consumption, buy war bonds, or donate to the U.S.O.
Most tellingly, the Administration is not requesting young people to "do their bit" by enlisting in the armed forces, starting with the Kerry Kids and The Bush Daughters, all of whom are of military age. Clearly, the children of the politically powerful have "opted out" of this war.
It seems as though America is not willing to fight those types of wars anymore. The kind of conflict that we do get embroiled in are those "nasty little colonial wars," which for the reasons given above are much more suitable for an all volunteer force.
Considering the attacks of 9/11, if the United States Congress did not declare war on terror and commit the American people to a national effort to eradicate terror, when will it? Therefore, its reasonable to assume that the Selective Service System is obsolete, since there are no viable circumstances in which it would be used.
Perhaps the smartest thing that the Bush Administration could do would be the elimination of the costly Selective Service System that requires young men to register when they turn 18 years of age. Those funds could be redirected to much better uses....
Sadly, as the casualties from the "limited" war in Iraq continue to mount, large numbers of Americans have reasoned, "Well, they signed up, they knew the risks, didn't they?"