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The chickenhawk phenomenon explained
June 17, 2013 8:50 AM   Subscribe

The lasting effects of the Vietnam draft lottery. Men who were more likely to be drafted in the Vietnam war were more antiwar, more liberal, and more Democratic than those who were protected from the draft. Moreover, these attitudes persist into adulthood.

According to Robert Erikson and Laura Stoker, in their paper, "Caught in the Draft: The Effects of Vietnam Draft Lottery Status on Political Attitudes." Abstract here:

The 1969 Vietnam draft lottery assigned numbers to birth dates in order to determine which young men would be called to fight in Vietnam. We exploit this natural experiment to examine how draft vulnerability influenced political attitudes. Data are from the Political Socialization Panel Study, which surveyed high school seniors from the class of 1965 before and after the national draft lottery was instituted. Males holding low lottery numbers became more antiwar, more liberal, and more Democratic in their voting compared to those whose high numbers protected them from the draft. They were also more likely than those with safe numbers to abandon the party identification that they had held as teenagers. Trace effects are found in reinterviews from the 1990s. Draft number effects exceed those for preadult party identification and are not mediated by military service. The results show how profoundly political attitudes can be transformed when public policies directly affect citizens' lives.

Full paper here (PDF warning).

Commentary from John Sides, and James Joyner.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (120 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had no idea that the draft worked like that. I mean, I guess it is as good of a random system as any other (though Wikipedia mentions some issues with the randomness), but I can't imagine being the mother of the son born late on December 1st, wondering if he might not still be alive if she had just pushed a little less hard.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


My dad was drafted in 1965, before the lottery and sent to Vietnam. He was stationed in a combat zone, but thankfully never got his CIB. His politics have always been middel-of-the-road going slightly to the left or right with the times. FWIW.
posted by jonmc at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2013


It seems to me little surprise that an 18 year old with a low draft number would be forced to soberly consider his situation and that such contemplation would have long term impact on their political views.

On the other hand, men with a high draft number didn't have to worry about it so much and there shouldn't really be any long term impact on their political views.

One thing is certain: getting rid of the draft makes everyone either a chicken hawk, or completely disinterested.
posted by three blind mice at 9:20 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


This'll do a much better job at explaining the lottery to my ladyfriend than my half-assed (and probably incorrect) attempt after last week's Mad Men.
posted by item at 9:22 AM on June 17, 2013


It's interesting, in the light of these results, that throughout the Vietnam war support for the war was highest among the young; precisely those who were, in fact, most vulnerable to be called up for service. I wonder if that's in part because older Americans at the time had been subject to the draft for (and experienced action in) WWII (and the Korean War)?
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: One thing is certain: getting rid of the draft makes everyone either a chicken hawk, or completely disinterested.
posted by three blind mice at 12:20 PM on June 17 [+] [!] [quote]
"Since the summer of 2005, opponents of the war have tended to outnumber supporters. A majority of Americans believe the war was a mistake."

Sadly, that majority did not form until we were already embroiled, but I'd still not agree with your statement. Instead, I'd say it allows more youth to become chickenhawks - especially among those who are not going to join up.

I think joining the military is an awful decision for most kids, but at least I don't hear much "Keep this war going!" from the enlisted and new vets.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:26 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to reading this--I wonder if it will consider the attitudes of men who enlisted as officers to avoid being drafted as enlisted men.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:28 AM on June 17, 2013


This is sort of a "no duh" study, no? Anyway, my husband was the class of 1967. He was drafted in either 1968 or 1969, and got out of going to war because he had a doctor write a note. Many of his friends never came home or came home very changed, to the point where they never led a real life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:29 AM on June 17, 2013


Also, will they factor in the attitudes of those with a relative who was a Congressman, CIA Director, Federal Judge, or otherwise well-connected political donor?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is sort of a "no duh" study, no?

Not at all actually, the results are surprising--especially the part where these attitudes persisted into adulthood.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:35 AM on June 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is sort of a "no duh" study, no?

I don't think so. Many "patriotic" conservatives got deferments of one type or another; Dick Cheney got 5 deferments. Bush the Younger used political clout to avoid hazardous duty. Rush Limbaugh got a medical deferment, and Ted Nugent dodged the draft outright.

So far as I can tell, they all went on to happily recommend that other suckers go die for America. I wasn't so certain that there could be a correlation between the draft itself and political attitudes.

Now actually serving and going to war... Yeah, that will definitely change you.

I accidentally deleted the last two paragraphs when this posted, I hope the edit was used correctly in this case to re add them in.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:36 AM on June 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


The effect of the draft has a lot of little impacts you don't really think about.

Here's a fun piece of anecdata. If you were a member of Generation X, think back on your male high school teachers. Lots of football coaches and auto shop teachers and whatnot.

You probably had some really terrible ones, right? I know I did. I set of male teachers that were pretty much shunned by the other teachers because of their sheer incompetence and general fuck-you attitude. The kind of teachers that were relegated to driver's education duty.

Everyone has them, right?

Not so fast there. Realize that the many male teachers of the 70s and 80s were in the profession only because it provided them with the cheapest, easiest means of avoiding the draft. Getting a teaching credential bought you two extra years of college deferments. And getting a single-subject credential -- physical education for example -- that made you eligible for high school teaching, was the easiest of those.

Now drop and give me twenty.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:38 AM on June 17, 2013 [151 favorites]


One of the more cynical and destructive moves that Kissinger and Nixon made was to abolish the draft. The bitter part was that their little ploy worked, by and large – people don't loudly protest wars they don't have to fight in.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the other side, up in Canada I had a lot of draft dodgers who were teachers and who ran the usual gamut of skill.
posted by jeather at 9:44 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think so. Many "patriotic" conservatives got deferments of one type or another;

Mitt Romney got a student deferment, followed by one for his missionary work in France. Between deferments, he participated in pro-war demonstrations at Stanford.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


Now drop and give me twenty.

Woodhouse, this...person is demanding twenty. I think we're being robbed! Bring the checkbook and cocktail for my nerves!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:46 AM on June 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


One of the more cynical and destructive moves that Kissinger and Nixon made was to abolish the draft.

Don't forget Milton Friedman.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:49 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The effect of the draft has a lot of little impacts you don't really think about.

Yup. For my family the War/Draft was the cause of this.

May there never be a draft again. I don't think the country would stand for it, (unless we were really being attacked by Mars or some crazy shit like that.)
posted by QueerAngel28 at 9:49 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


QueerAngel28: “May there never be a draft again. I don't think the country would stand for it...”

We should be forced to fight the wars we engage ourselves in; if we don't like the wars themselves, then there are things we can and should do about that.

May there be a draft – and may there never be a war again.
posted by koeselitz at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2013 [37 favorites]


throughout the Vietnam war support for the war was highest among the young

When you're talking about the 60's though, you can't really draw broad conclusions like that. It's not the same as saying "young people supported the war." There was such a stark division between pro and anti. College campuses had marches by people protesting the war AND people supporting it. Both sides were passionate, and both genuinely felt like their voices were being drowned out.

It's not clear to me how deferments are reflected in this data.
posted by dry white toast at 9:54 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


All wars should be accompanied by a lottery with NO deferments, for both males and females. Nothing would work better as a deterrent. I remember as a little kid, my parents and grandparents watching the lottery on TV with older cousins birthdays in mind. It was something that everyone paid attention to, hoping that their loved one did not come up with a low number. Nothing gets the public's attention better than when they are actually affected. I think one of my cousins was going to go to the Seminary to be a priest if his number came up.

I have a son in that age range now and my anger would be unbelievable if it was not absolutely fair across the board. Right now, the burden is being shouldered by those who are unlucky enough to be from an area of the country without opportunity or without family resources to attend college.
posted by readery at 9:54 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


May there be a draft – and may there never be a war again.


This is a tough bargain to take as a male under 30.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:55 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Want to stop US warmongering? Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.
posted by Talez at 9:56 AM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Huh. My father's birthday was on the 15th of the month, so he was probably right in the middle. His politics were probably more influenced by working with the team designing nuclear subs for the military, and thus having access to a lot of military information about the true damage caused by nuclear war - I think it freaked him out, because my parents are like the only full-out Democrats, and have always been, amongst a whole bunch of Republicans and libertarians and borderline Tea Partiers on both sides of the relatives.

...My father actually used his work designing subs to excuse himself from the draft for a few years. Then in 1969 that wasn't enough to exempt you any more, and he was drafted - but my parents got him out of going by conceiving me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on June 17, 2013


When you're talking about the 60's though, you can't really draw broad conclusions like that.

Except that you can, rather easily. When you break the polling data on support for the Vietnam war out by age brackets, those of draft age were consistently--as a group--more pro-war than those who were older. Those 50 and older were far more opposed to the war than those aged 20-29, and this is true throughout the period of active conflict.

That there were passionately anti-war people in that 20-29 year old age bracket is obviously true, but in no way invalidates the general point.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not talking about distinctions between age groups, I'm talking about divisions within them.
posted by dry white toast at 10:00 AM on June 17, 2013


All wars should be accompanied by a lottery with NO deferments, for both males and females.

I'll go further than that. In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress, the President and his/her cabinet. They go first.

If the war is important enough for them to risk their children's lives, I would accept it's important enough for me to risk mine.
posted by Gelatin at 10:02 AM on June 17, 2013 [54 favorites]


> Want to stop US warmongering? Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.

What? No, that would be a really bad idea. They have jobs in government which probably can't be done from a forward position. So, what, they vote to declare war, resign, get drafted into the military, and then we have a special election?

Plus they would all be far too old and unskilled, and they'd probably be targeted for assassination or kidnapping. All the regular soldiers around them would be put at risk, and in the meantime have to drag around a near-useless, out of shape person.

Seems really problematic, dangerous, complicated and unnecessary to me.
posted by officer_fred at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fellows, maybe there just isn't a really good way to have a war.
posted by Mister_A at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2013 [48 favorites]


Want to stop US warmongering? Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.

That's not going to work, considering that generals rarely do that and with good reason. Somebody has to run the domestic affairs, you know?

I'll go further than that. In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress, the President and his/her cabinet. They go first.

That might be a bit drastic, but it would be interesting to see how that plays out.

There should be no deferments at all. What's that, you got astma or some other condition? No problem, we'll find a place for you, even if it's just peeling potatoes in the mess hall. If we're going to war, then everybody goes. It's goddamn insane that there was a Dick Cheney was Vice President of the United States with five deferments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


officer_fred: "What? No, that would be a really bad idea. They would all be far too old and unskilled, and they'd probably be targeted for assassination or kidnapping."

Aren't all enemy troops targeted for assassination or kidnapping in a war?

Also, I think turning warmaking into a really bad thing is the whole idea with this proposal.
posted by mullingitover at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


>Seems really problematic, dangerous, complicated and unnecessary to me.

Still a whole lot less complicated than the system we have now. Right?
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's also interesting about the question of drafts or mandatory service in general is the easy compare-and-contrast you can do between modern militaries.

For example, when the U.S. went to an all-volunteer force, the Soviets stuck with mandatory service.

OK, so that means in the 80s (and to this day), the U.S. military was dominated by career non-commissioned officers, who become skilled specialists in lots of different areas. Be all that you can be. Not just a job, an adventure. The few, the proud. You get the idea. Professional sergeants and petty officers.

On the other hand, the Soviet military didn't have a robust NCO class at all, because the guys that would become NCOs were drafted as such, and couldn't wait to leave as soon as they could. The backbone of the Soviet military was young officers, the small number of guys that really did volunteer. They were small in number, overworked and distrustful of the lower ranks because a) they were drafted, b) they were uneducated (and why would you educate someone that will stick around only as long as they must?) and c) the lower ranks treated the officers with disdain, looking on them as out-and-out glory-seeking fools for even trying to make this a career.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'll go further than that. In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress, the President and his/her cabinet. They go first.

If there's any truth to the family dynamics in the movie Lincoln, this policy might have given the world a slave-holding Confederate States of America for quite a long time.

I'm pretty anti-war, but I'm not sure I like the idea of decisions over whether war is necessary being held hostage to the personal bravery/cowardice (or the personal callousness/compassion) of the president and members of congress.
posted by straight at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can check to see the lottery number of a specific birth date here

FYI, even though the tables go up to '75, the draft ceased in '73.
posted by banal evil at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can check to see the lottery number of a specific birth date here

Wow, interesting, yeah, so my husband's number (which was called) was 063.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:22 AM on June 17, 2013


> Still a whole lot less complicated than the system we have now. Right?

How does it remove complication?

I'm very, very confused. Do people think this is really a good idea? To send untrained, out-of-shape, old people to a combat area, where their primary effect would be to burden the regular soldiers they're with? And at the same time, remove the top officers in government at the start of a war, when presumably we want skilled, experienced people making the decisions?

Seriously, picture that. I doesn't work!
posted by officer_fred at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2013


There is a precedent for an Old Man's War.
posted by Mister_A at 10:24 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


mullingitover: “I think turning warmaking into a really bad thing is the whole idea with this proposal.”

Maybe, but there are much better ways to turn warmaking into a really bad thing. For example: require everyone to trade in their guns and use stalks of asparagus instead. Require all men on the front line to scream as loud as possible at all times, thus alerting the enemy to their position. Make nudism a mandatory policy.

I mean, if we're just looking for ways to make war ineffectually and inconveniently, I'm sure we could come up with much more entertaining possibilities.
posted by koeselitz at 10:26 AM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


> There is a precedent for an Old Man's War.

A fiction book isn't precedent!

And in the book, they use amazing technology to give all the old people young, healthy bodies, which is not an option for us.

I... I feel like this is very simple. It's worrying that so many people consider this a worthwhile idea.
posted by officer_fred at 10:29 AM on June 17, 2013


koeselitz: "I mean, if we're just looking for ways to make war ineffectually and inconveniently, I'm sure we could come up with much more entertaining possibilities."

I don't think the idea is to make warmaking a losing proposition right off the bat, just to make it have a price tag for the hawks who want to send other people's children off to die.
posted by mullingitover at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2013


I'll go further than that. In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress, the President and his/her cabinet. They go first.

But if war was declared in spite of everything, a lot of members of Congress -- especially those who opposed the war -- would probably immediately resign in order to protect their children. So you've lost a big part of the moderate voice right at the beginning of a war.
posted by ostro at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


officer_fred: " A fiction book isn't precedent!"

Is too!
posted by Mister_A at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


ostro: "But if war was declared in spite of everything, a lot of members of Congress -- especially those who opposed the war -- would probably immediately resign in order to protect their children. So you've lost a big part of the moderate voice right at the beginning of a war."

Good point--you'd need to make it mandatory for those who were members when the decision was made, regardless of whether they resign or not.
posted by mullingitover at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The US doesn't declare war anymore.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:35 AM on June 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


A condition of war is pretty much stipulated, so we don't have to issue no fancy declarations!
posted by Mister_A at 10:36 AM on June 17, 2013


Good point--you'd need to make it mandatory for those who were members when the decision was made, regardless of whether they resign or not.

That'd be even worse, actually -- you'd get members with appropriately aged children resigning as soon as it starts to look like war is inevitable, in order to beat the deadline. Thereby ensuring that the war is inevitable.
posted by ostro at 10:37 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The US doesn't declare war anymore.

Which is only possible because we have a large, standing, volunteer military.
posted by straight at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "This is sort of a "no duh" study, no?"

Yeah, maybe. But it's always better to do the research instead of just relying on assumptions.
posted by brundlefly at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


From the end of the excerpt:

Finally, those with lower draft numbers had less favorable opinions of the Vietnam War even when interviewed in 1982 and 1997

Love those italics -- the implied astonishment that decades of the Republican noise machine coupled with Reagan/Bush making Republicans (think they're) cool again hasn't managed to change their minds,


Thanks for the link, banal evil -- I knew I was lucky (given my year would've been 1974) but I didn't realize my number was so low: 023.
posted by Rash at 10:40 AM on June 17, 2013


Still a whole lot less complicated than the system we have now. Right?

How does it remove complication?

I'm very, very confused. Do people think this is really a good idea? To send untrained, out-of-shape, old people to a combat area,
FYI: We haven't actually gone to WAR in quite some time. All of this Patriot Acti, Prism, something something anti-terrorism such and such is the current modus operandi.

As an alternative: You voted for war? Here's your gun, lace up your boots and head that direction.

You tell me which is more/less complicated.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI: We haven't actually gone to WAR in quite some time.

We are at war right now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, are you talking about sending *only* the president and high government figures to a war? But they would be killed immediately, and the war would be over.

Is this just a whimsical way of saying "we shouldn't go to war unless we really need to?" I would rather just say that. It is less confusing and weird.
posted by officer_fred at 10:45 AM on June 17, 2013


All wars should be accompanied by a lottery with NO deferments, for both males and females.

There should be no deferments at all.


There are civillian industries that need to go on in the case of war you know? There are some people that are just essential not to keep home. The children of Congress maybe not, but aircraft engineers, sure.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2013


There are civillian industries that need to go on in the case of war you know?

It's cool, they can telecommute.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


officer_fred, reminds me of this story:
A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: "Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!"
Pig replies: "Hm, maybe, what would we call it?"
The Chicken responds: "How about 'ham-n-eggs'?"
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: "No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved!"
posted by gorbichov at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think we should send old people we don't like to war.
posted by Mister_A at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2013


As an alternative: You voted for war? Here's your gun, lace up your boots and head that direction.

Actually isn't a better, less complicated strategy to just insist that every war has to be paid for by a special tax that you can't deduct your way out of. That would do the trick without playing games with people's lives.
posted by dry white toast at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


More seriously, dry white toast, the whole thing is that war DOES play games with people's lives. I don't like it.
posted by Mister_A at 10:49 AM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress, the President and his/her cabinet. They go first.

I sorta think this is bad for the same reason that insisting that a member of the murder victim's family act as prosecuting attorney (and/or executioner) is a bad idea.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that war should be off the table completely as an option. But if war is a legitimate, necessary option in some circumstances, I don't think it makes sense to base the decision on the personal family dynamics of our leaders. Some politicians might care too little for their children, some might care too much.

It's hard enough to ask for a leader wise enough to know when war is necessary. I can't imagine that personalizing the decision in this way would increase the likelihood of either electing wiser decision makers or getting wiser decisions out of the leaders we have.
posted by straight at 10:52 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


No disagreement here, Mister A.
posted by dry white toast at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now actually serving and going to war... Yeah, that will definitely change you.

I graduated High School in 1966, and can assure you from that living under the threat of the draft will definitely change you too, even if you never actually get called up.
posted by TwoToneRow at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2013


The immediate consequence of requiring that elected officials and/or their families be involved in front-line fighting? More remotely-piloted drones.
posted by logopetria at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


But piloted by the children of Congress, right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:57 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.

Why not? Think of it as King Arthur leading the knights of the Round Table.

You seriously think there would be any way the rich and powerful and the children of such would ever be willing to risk their lives? That's for the rest of us.

I think we should send old people we don't like to war.

I was all for sending Cheney, but the bastard wouldn't go.

I sometimes wish Mr. BlueHorse had not changed his mind about Canada....
The effects of Agent Orange are still with us.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are at war right now.

May look like it to you, roomthreeseventeen, but Congress hasn't declared war since 1941, and the Constitution says that's their job.
posted by Rash at 11:04 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was drafted in 1966, served stateside, E-5, Honorable. As a draftee I had no choice about my assignment and I assumed it would be combat. However, I test off the charts in standardized testing, and got a job requiring a lot of instruction and responsibility, hospital lab tech MOS 92B20. As soon as I was a civilian I took up war protesting.

My politics have always been liberal, thanks to my mom, who told me in 1952 that she wasn't voting for Eisenhower because Nixon was a crook.
posted by Repack Rider at 11:11 AM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually isn't a better, less complicated strategy to just insist that every war has to be paid for by a special tax that you can't deduct your way out of. That would do the trick without playing games with people's lives.
I really do think you're misunderstanding the concept of war. There can be no "without playing games with people's lives".

The concept is to say: "If you want war, it'll be your life on the line too, not just your checkbooks.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:11 AM on June 17, 2013


May look like it to you, roomthreeseventeen, but Congress hasn't declared war since 1941, and the Constitution says that's their job.

Wording aside, I assure you we are at war right now and young men and women are dying in Afghanistan for their country.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:21 AM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Always knew my father was close, but never realized just how close he was to going. Ye Gods, what a horrible thing to have hanging over one's head. That he was at all supportive of my own enlistment is probably due to the consensus at the time that the US would never voluntarily send troops overseas while he and his generation held the plurality at the polls. Boy was he ever wrong on that one. Then again, my time in during conflict was an absolute cake walk compared to what came before and after. The first conflict in the Gulf did more to harm the pacifist cause in this country than pretty much anything else I can think of.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:23 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should have the old guys who are fighting the war decide the outcome via backgammon! I think this could work. This is backgammon, right?
posted by Mister_A at 11:26 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the event of a war for which a draft is needed to call up troops, the draft should be mandatory and immediate for any and all children over 18 years old of all members of Congress

They would just put them in PSYOPs and let them try to demoralize the enemy with racist internet rants.
posted by homunculus at 11:37 AM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I assure you we are at war right now and young men and women are dying in Afghanistan for their country.

Without a concrete military goal that says victory has been achieved and we can go home, I beg to differ. They are dying because of their country, like some of the guys I served with in the sixties. Their presence there serves interests that are neither theirs nor mine.

Irony: a number of my HS class of 1963 served in Vietnam. One of my three fellow National Merit Scholars was a Marine lieutenant leading combat patrols. None of my class died there. One classmate served, came home, and died a short time later while fishing, when a wave washed him off a rock.

The former Marine lieutenant is about as hippie and liberal as you can get, a lawyer and a surfer. Another NM Scholar from my class, who graduated HS in three years, fled to the draft Canada where he remains to this day, and now works in a boat yard as a painter.
posted by Repack Rider at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


When I was in college, it was after many years of the USA (chant if you feel the need) not being in wars. I knew lots of people that joined the military in order to pay for college. Which for some wasn't an insignificant cost at the time since they went to Stanford, and to medical school there. For those that ended up at my alma mater, U.C. Davis, the financial burden wasn't so great at the time, and it was more of a convenience. When the invasion of Kuwait happened, the first Iraq war, it was amazing to hear how many of those that volunteered for military duty came out as conscientious objectors when faced with actual combat when they had in fact volunteered, though to pay for their education as an excuse. We hadn't been at war in forever, and there was a supposed "peace dividend" that was to salvage our national budget. Fortunately I was saved from the potential of being a hypocrite since the University of California was cheap at the time, and my parents could easily afford it. I was tempted by private school, but the thought of debt or military duty just weren't worth the benefit compared to the cost. Besides, I was way too lazy to try and figure out a deal.

Years later I ended up working with a lot of Vietnam veterans. Some drafted, some volunteered since they were going to get drafted, and so wanted a choice of service and avoid infantry type situations. Some were drafted into infantry. I have some generalizations from my experiences. One, the higher percentage of guys I new that were drafted in to infantry were minorities. Two, most guys were apolitical, though lots are anti-government. The most political statement I heard was from someone who considered himself conservative, though he said "I always thought I was conservative until I get closer to retirement, and then I realize I've been a liberal all along". But even he was a fuck the government that sends our kids to die guy. That was the most common attitude among the Vietnam veterans that I know. Most of them feel like there's not a lot worth sending kids out to die for, especially having been put in that situation involuntarily. They didn't even want the ones that volunteered for duty to be sent out to die.

My experience is totally anecdotal, and also with non officer types, but with the working class folks I worked with, it's a pretty universal attitude. They pretty much think there's nothing worth the geopolitical bullshit that causes wars between nations. These are people who influence my thought, along with my parents who survived occupation in WWII Europe.
posted by Eekacat at 12:05 PM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Repack Rider: “Irony: a number of my HS class of 1963 served in Vietnam. One of my three fellow National Merit Scholars was a Marine lieutenant leading combat patrols... The former Marine lieutenant is about as hippie and liberal as you can get, a lawyer and a surfer. Another NM Scholar from my class, who graduated HS in three years, fled to the draft Canada where he remains to this day, and now works in a boat yard as a painter.”

This right here is, as far as I can tell, the best argument in favor of having a draft. War really sucks, but if people are going to fight in our wars, the fighting force ought to be just as diverse and interesting as the American population. Having a cross-section of the public coming home and giving perspective on what the war means – that's why Vietnam is roundly seen as a failure: because people were there to see it and know it, people from all walks of life. At this point, it's just so much easier for certain segments of society to close their eyes and pretend it isn't happening. But people need to know.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.

. . .except that we have two well-known historical examples of what happens to a democratic society when this is the case: the Roman Republic and the Athenian Empire.

Roman Consuls served as generals of the legions, while Roman senators served under them as officers. Any decision to go to war would mean putting their own asses on the line. This was not an abstraction: in the Battle of Cannae alone both consuls and a third of the senate were killed.

The Athenian Empire didn't have as centralized a leadership structure, but any hoplite who fought on the field was by definition a member of the assembly, which voted not only on whether or not to go to war, but even elected the generals they'd serve under. Seriously.*

What ultimately ends up happening is that when military leadership and civilian leadership become conflated, society itself becomes militarized. The consequences of this are much, much worse than any amount of chickenhawks: the Athenian system didn't in any way check arrogance, warmongering, or demagoguery, it exacerbated these things and led to aggressive and costly foreign policy decisions that ultimately brought about the city's downfall. As for the Roman system, when the institutions of the Republic began to fail, charismatic consuls/generals commanding private armies ended up ripping the nation apart over the course of multiple civil wars.

*There's a funny moment in the Peloponnesian War when a hawkish demagogic Joseph McCarthy-type, Cleon, gives a big rabble-rousing speech attacking the experienced, loyal admiral Nicias for cowardice, to which Nicias basically says "fuck you all, I quit then." Much to his chagrin, Cleon finds himself elected to lead the next military campaign by the roused citizenry despite a lack of qualifications or even desire to serve. Think Rush Limbaugh getting elected to lead the invasion of Iraq.
posted by Ndwright at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2013 [44 favorites]


Sadly, war is about all we do here in the USA, and of late we're not even good at that. It's a shame today's youth have no economic/career choices it they're poor, other than joining the military. Ironically many then become the right wing mouthpieces, echoing the mantra of small government, while THEY benefit from the government programs.
posted by GreyFoxVT at 12:39 PM on June 17, 2013


War is how we make the pie bigger. The American pie. Unfortunately we've still got ~28 trillion USD in offshore accounts but we're basically in the business of maximizing the worst possible bastardizations of Keynesian economics and socialism: government spending to stimulate the economy through an expanding military-industrial perpetual-war total-information-awareness complex, with the added benefit of "energy security" and profiteering for those who buy our elected officials. And then we socialize the losses of Wall Street demon fucks and use the collective numbers of the middle class to pay for it on the backs of people who actually work to produce something or serve the needs of people for a living.
posted by lordaych at 12:43 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


This paper is confusing.

I don't see how any useful information can be garnished from such carefully chosen factoids. Just to point up one problem, the operational division among Americans in those days--regarding Vietnam--was Hawk v Dove, not Democrat v Republican. Also, the arc of public opinion shifted from general support over time, that's true, but the Anti-war aspect was tied to more general issues regarding several flavors of civil rights. By the time the draft became part of the seasoning in this soup, the framework of protest was already organized, and draftees were only a part of larger movement, wherein the members could identify with any or several factions: women, Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans, and so on. This paper seems to leave out all these, and other significant issues of the day that provided context for the actions of those young men.

I can't argue with the idea that young men with a low number would be concerned about the draft. So, back to my unreliable memory: I knew some draftees who supported the war. I knew more RAs (volunteers) that were against it than I knew draftees who were against it. My experience was skewed, of course. I even have more or less amusing anecdote that explains why this is so. The 173'd was all paratroopers. Airborne school is 100% voluntary, but in those days is was possible for a draftee to go Airborne. I served in Vietnam with the 173'd. However, I didn't see any draftees until the end of my second tour--there may have been some, but I wasn't aware of them. Oddly, none of them were anti-war. (I'm not making any generalizations about this. The only anti-war sentiment I remember hearing while I was in Vietnam came for an RA.) I left Vietnam in September of 1966.

I trained for another job, then went to northern Japan. Everybody in this outfit was a volunteer. In fact you had to enlist for four years to get into the unit (Army Security Agency), and even then, you still had to score in the top ten percent on all the battery tests the Army gave you, and then you had to qualify for a TS/crypto clearance, before you'd be entered into any of the classes. After that you had to complete the training, which, considering its difficulty, was not necessarily a given. Here's the part that screws all these stats up: most of the people I knew in the ASA joined it because the recruiters told them that no ASA troops were ever sent to Vietnam.

In fact this wasn't true--there were thousands of ASA troops in Vietnam. But these guys were willing to serve four years instead of the two required by the draft, if they were guaranteed to not go to Vietnam. The irony gets more intense. The nature our job was awe-inspiring. I can truthfully say that I never met a more dedicated or conscientious crew than those I served with in the ASA. Doing the job right was a priority, and I knew many who volunteered their days off to go down to the site and help sift data. Naturally they didn't have any anti-war rallies, because activity of that sort would have been grounds to pull their security clearances. In four years, the only guy I knew who voluntarily had his clearance revoked did so because he wanted to marry a Japanese woman. His clearance was temporarily suspended while she was investigated, and before that process was completed his term of service expired. He went home to process out of the Army, then came back to Chitose and opened a bar, which he named The Top Secret Bar. ( I am not making this shit up. )

I don't support the draft because it focuses only on military service, and like most of the shit our government does, special interests are able to provide exemption from service to those who can afford it, or who know someone who can get them off the hook. Moreover, the draft's reason to exist is related to an ongoing war. As we know, wars have become foreign policy tools, not measures to defend us against an attacker. Sort of like the death penalty in that respect: you might be able to defend the notion, but there's no equitable way to make it work.

It's worth pointing out that even during WWII a draft was required to fill the ranks, and evading it was a popular topic.

Universal government service, to include other areas of service to the country, is another topic, but I don't see Americans wanting to do anything as practical as that. I would have everybody be conscripted at a given age, let's say, eighteen, male and female, without respect to physical ability. You would sweep streets, haul garbage, do roadwork, and a hundred other tasks related to the infrastructure of the nation. You would be trained according to preference and aptitude, and be given a general course of instruction in civics. This would be a four-year term of service, and then you would spend at least two years doing work that supports our way of life (sweeping streets, working as medical tech at a hospital, whatever). You could qualify to extend your service to include advanced administrative or scientific instruction in various fields. After six years you would be released from service, to go about your business, and you then would be eligible to enlist in the armed forces, and, incidentally, to vote and run for ANY public office. And so on.

Immigrants of course would need to go through this civic training in order to live here. They get to be citizens, like everyone else, when they do the four-year tour of service.
posted by mule98J at 12:48 PM on June 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


koesteliz: We should be forced to fight the wars we engage ourselves in; if we don't like the wars themselves, then there are things we can and should do about that.

May there be a draft – and may there never be a war again.


Fuck this line of thinking and the entitled mindset it comes from. Risking the lives and freedom of young men (and young women in any future draft, most likely) in order to make your politcal statement is the same attitude of the warmongers. The draft is a awful on its own merits and your rhetoric treats these people's lives as cannon fodder in service of your pet belief just the same as the generals itching to fight communists. And it case you hadn't noticed, your idea doesn't work, since it did do anything for the 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam. Anyone foolish enough to argue the draft would be some sort of permanent insurance against military adventurism should be first to go when the call comes up. We can call it the "Famous Last Words" brigade.
posted by spaltavian at 12:50 PM on June 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think joining the military is an awful decision for most kids

I would disagree. There are many reasons why a person would want to join the military, wether they be social, political, economic ones or simply out of interest and desire. Military service appeals to many people and offers a myriad of possibilities to those interested in making a sacrificial exchange in return for the possibility of experiencing what most people can only read about of visualize in some other form of media.

In my case, it not only worked out for me while I was in, but also provided a sense of stability and guidance once I got out. To a kid with few options, it was a very easy decision to make.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:53 PM on June 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Fuck aggressive belittling comments and the entitled mindset they come from.

Better just to let people "volunteer," you know, the poor people who live in towns with no other options other than Wal-Mart, and the crazies who just want to kill Ay-Rabs, and yeah, the people who genuinely believe in what they're doing and want to serve a higher purpose. But we wouldn't want to conscript our citizens equally across the board into fighting wars that "we the people" support.

If we'd conscripted people into fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan I suspect the wars would've been wrapped up a hell of a lot faster, but then again Rumsfeld intentionally kept the troop numbers in Iraq ridiculously low to minimize the impact levied against Americans as a whole. Vietnam and Iraq / Afghanistan have parallels in that a spectre was behind it all (COMMUNISM! TERROR!) and shaking that demon and realizing that staring into the abyss isn't helping takes a lot of time...for all you know it would've been 150,000 dead without the draft and subsequent protests.
posted by lordaych at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rash: We are at war right now.

May look like it to you, roomthreeseventeen, but Congress hasn't declared war since 1941, and the Constitution says that's their job.


Since you're so up on the Constitution, surely you know where it says that an Authorization for Use of Military Force isn't a declaration of war. (I'll save you some time; it doesn't.) The Constitution says Congress has the power "to declare War"; it does not create or specify a need for a specific document called a "Declaration of War". The problem with Congress is that they didn't properly debate or oversee the war they did delcare.
posted by spaltavian at 12:57 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've probably seen more amputees in the past year while I've been living in the U.S. than I had in my entire life before moving here. War is failure at every level of society.
posted by srboisvert at 1:04 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think joining the military is an awful decision for most kids

I enlisted, even with a college degree. The Navy wasn't looking for a "white male with a non-technical degree" at the time (seriously... that's a quote), but I knew I wanted to be in the Navy.

Hands down the best decision I ever made in my life. Straightened my shit out, taught me some self-pride, gave me goals and a purpose in life, and taught me invaluable lessons in character, honor, and courage. Oh and I've seen the world. And received advanced degrees. The Navy has expanded my worldview and empathy for others far far beyond anything I ever likely would've experienced otherwise. I'd say it was a fair trade.

The military gave me things that - in my opinion only - I think most people DON'T get these days. I think it's one of the best decisions a kid could make.

I'm still in the Navy, and still proud to serve.
posted by matty at 1:05 PM on June 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


lordaych If we'd conscripted people into fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan I suspect the wars would've been wrapped up a hell of a lot faster,

Like I said, "famous last words". Go risk your own life to make your point. As someone who was of draft age during the first part the recent wars, no thanks to your crusade.

One of the characters in Catch-22 said "The enemy is anyone who is going to get you killed, no matter what side their own".

Better just to let people "volunteer," you know, the poor people who live in towns with no other options other than Wal-Mart,

And this is your preferred policy for fixing inequality? Not more progressive taxation? Not a better education system. Not revisiting corporate personhood? No, you've chose more suburban kids getting killed?

Nah, you don't give a damn about equality. You just want splashier martyrs.
posted by spaltavian at 1:12 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


srboisvert...

I've probably seen more amputees in the past year while I've been living in the U.S. than I had in my entire life before moving here.

I've been over to Bethesda National Medical Center several times in the past couple of months for various things, and it is truly 'Wounded Warrior' central. The amputees are everywhere - and it breaks your heart.

I wish more people could see them, as it would certainly make this war more 'real'.
posted by matty at 1:12 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The military gave me things that - in my opinion only - I think most people DON'T get these days. I think it's one of the best decisions a kid could make.

I'm still in the Navy, and still proud to serve.


Surprise suprise, an institution treats its white, colleged educated males well.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2013


I'm still in the Navy, and still proud to serve.

Surprise suprise, an institution treats its white, colleged educated males well.


As former Navy (both enlisted and officer), this isn't very true, and certainly isn't true enough to try to throw in someone's face to show you're right. Though it takes all kinds, and many people find themselves in the service most because of the economic pressures they start from, so many I've known that are female, minority, and/or with nothing but a HS diploma have either done their six years and moved on in a better direction or are still in and probably shall be until they hit 20 (or sometimes 30).
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:20 PM on June 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


To a kid with few options, it was a very easy decision to make.
I think it's one of the best decisions a kid could make.

I've got a few friends and family members who I'm nearly 100% certain would have ended up either dead or in jail if they hadn't joined the military. So I can very much understand where you all are coming from with these statements.

But at the same time I wish with all my heart that The State provided other ways for our young people to get the kind of "straightening out" and horizon broadening experiences you and my friends and family members got that didn't involve joining the military.

Because while I do understand the benefits service can confer, and I am aware of the great good and humanitarian efforts our armed forces bring to bear all over the world, I also fear that not very much has changed since Gen. Smedley Butler advised us that "war is a racket," and that, with some obvious and notable exceptions, we tend to send our young women and men into harm's way to serve the financial interests of the elite in our society, interests that only benefit the rest of us by chance if at all. (Yeah, I know that on some level "Twas ever thus," but still.)
posted by lord_wolf at 1:25 PM on June 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Surprise suprise, an institution treats its white, colleged educated males well.

Please. Despite what you might think, the U.S. military is the most racially integrated formal institution on the planet.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:50 PM on June 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


Surprise suprise, an institution treats its white, colleged educated males well.

That really doesn't hold much water, as my comment clearly stated that the Navy initially turned me away because I was a white male. The recruiter actually said, in addition to what I already quoted, "Come back when you're a black female with an engineering degree". This was in 1995 during a draw-down after the 1st Gulf War, so the Navy could afford to be picky. It didn't bother or deter me.

I always tell people who join the military that no one is responsible for their military career but themselves, and that the experience will be what you make of it. It has nothing to do with being white, or male, or college educated, as the military treats well those that treat it, and themselves, well regardless of sex, race, etc.

My parter of 12 years is an O-6 (Navy CAPT). He joined the Navy at age 18 - with no college degree. He was enlisted for 13 years before becoming an officer. He got his degrees while in the Navy. In other words, he made the best of what wasn't always a sunshiney situation, and he's no longer that awkward kid from a farm-town in Iowa. Literally.

Also, I shouldn't have to mention this, but we're a gay couple. We have a very personal grasp on what it's like to not be treated equally, so I'd ask you have a better understanding of institutions such as the United States Navy before you go slamming it with racial and sexist accusations. You might be surprised.
posted by matty at 2:09 PM on June 17, 2013 [30 favorites]


spaltavian: Rash: We are at war right now.

May look like it to you, roomthreeseventeen, but Congress hasn't declared war since 1941, and the Constitution says that's their job.


Since you're so up on the Constitution, surely you know where it says that an Authorization for Use of Military Force isn't a declaration of war. (I'll save you some time; it doesn't.) The Constitution says Congress has the power "to declare War"; it does not create or specify a need for a specific document called a "Declaration of War". The problem with Congress is that they didn't properly debate or oversee the war they did delcare.
So... your statement was incorrectly worded, but instead of saying as much, you pretend that what you said was "We are using military force right now somewhere in the world," with added snark. Got it.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:20 PM on June 17, 2013


Pogo_Fuzzybutt by and large has it. When there's a draft, elites commonly find ways to avoid it. It is (was) gross hypocrisy.

koeselitz: One of the more cynical and destructive moves that Kissinger and Nixon made was to abolish the draft.

Well really, after Vietnam it was going to be incredibly difficult to build up national will for another draft, which is as it should be for all cases where the United States isn't facing a direct existential threat. You could call such a decision "cynical" because it allowed the U.S. to continue to participate in military adventurism, but it's still a positive step because at least the people fighting in those are in it, in general terms, voluntarily. ("In general terms" because there's young men who see joining up as their only way out of a terrible life situation.)

Also, I think turning warmaking into a really bad thing is the whole idea with this proposal.

This is the most depressing sentence of all. War IS a really bad thing. That decision-makers would be less likely to engage in it if it were their own children who were first in line shows conclusively that the problem is one of basic fucking empathy -- it's okay to risk other people's lives, because they don't seem real to you. There, in a nutshell, is either the source or a major contributing factor to most of our problems, and it's been with us for thousands of years.

I'm pretty anti-war, but I'm not sure I like the idea of decisions over whether war is necessary being held hostage to the personal bravery/cowardice (or the personal callousness/compassion) of the president and members of congress.

The example that was given was an extreme one, more to make a point than anything else. More practicable, simply, is to eliminate most of the deferments that elites used to keep out of the draft.

Actually isn't a better, less complicated strategy to just insist that every war has to be paid for by a special tax that you can't deduct your way out of.

You can bet that the lower classes will end up paying most of that.

matty (on joining the Navy): Hands down the best decision I ever made in my life. Straightened my shit out, taught me some self-pride, gave me goals and a purpose in life, and taught me invaluable lessons in character, honor, and courage.

Not to belittle your experience, but it should be considered in light of the negative thesis: what if you hadn't joined? You have no way of knowing if you would have gained any of those things, or even more, if you hadn't joined up. Or less for that matter. It is true, what you have is concrete and what would have happened is but fog, but it's worth keeping in mind. In any event, I note that those things you were given, you actually gave to yourself in response to events.

The intent here isn't to say you shouldn't have joined, but rather, that the world is strange and complex, best decisions are impossible to make with certainty, and ultimately all personal growth is personal, arising from within. That's why I don't think it's necessarily a good decision for kids, although it can be.
posted by JHarris at 2:23 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iambroom So... your statement was incorrectly worded, but instead of saying as much, you pretend that what you said was "We are using military force right now somewhere in the world," with added snark. Got it.

I'm not sure what you're talking about, you seem to think I was the original commenter. I was pointing out that the implied station between "declaration of war" and authorization for the use of military force is not just pedantic but wrong. Much is been made of the idea that because Congress did not pass a document entitled "declaration of war " that we are somehow not in an war, Or that the executive cannot exercise certain wartime powers. Since the Constitution, despite rash's insinuation, does not specify the need for a formal "declaration of war", the distinction isn't meaningful.

For what it's worth, the original statement, made by someone else, was not incorrectly worded.
posted by spaltavian at 2:47 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


spaltavian: “Fuck this line of thinking and the entitled mindset it comes from. Risking the lives and freedom of young men (and young women in any future draft, most likely) in order to make your politcal statement is the same attitude of the warmongers. The draft is a awful on its own merits and your rhetoric treats these people's lives as cannon fodder in service of your pet belief just the same as the generals itching to fight communists. And it case you hadn't noticed, your idea doesn't work, since it did do anything for the 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam. Anyone foolish enough to argue the draft would be some sort of permanent insurance against military adventurism should be first to go when the call comes up. We can call it the 'Famous Last Words' brigade.”

So you agree with Nixon and Kissinger on this? Pay off the peasant underclass, as meagerly as possible, to fight our wars for us, so that the selfish intelligencia doesn't complain?

Because that's what I'm arguing against. "Fuck this line of thinking," indeed. If anything screams entitled, it's sending the poor off to die in wars while you and I (I am a young man, well draftable, for whatever it's worth) sit here happily without having to lift a finger.
posted by koeselitz at 2:48 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm very lucky to be where I am in the socioeconomic ladder because I actually wasn't born into the middle class. So when you throw around words like "peasant", just know that you don't actually sound like a believable friend of the little man.

What you are arguing for is the right to force more young people to risk their lives and to increase the militarization of our society to further your personal political objectives. That's exactly what a chicken hawk is. Talk about agreeing with Kissinger and Nixon.
posted by spaltavian at 3:00 PM on June 17, 2013


The lottery was supposed to be the cure for the unfair availability of deferments--if you were in college or your family could afford to have you do other things, you could avoid the draft.

Or you could get married--if you're old enough, you'll remember the lines of people in places like Reno, trying to get hitched in time to avoid the elimination of that deferment. Or if you knew someone, you might be able to get into a National Guard outfit and not get called up for regular duty.

But the randomness of the lottery--what a scary thing it was for all young men in that age range.
posted by etaoin at 3:03 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


sending the poor off to die in wars while you and I sit here happily without having to lift a finger

There's a very real sense in which some poor people "don't have a choice" about whether they end up in the military fighting and dying for us.

But it's not at all the same as the sense in which drafted kids "don't have a choice" about whether they end up in the military fighting and dying for us. I see a pretty drastic difference between the two.
posted by straight at 3:05 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


spaltavian: “I'm very lucky to be where I am in the socioeconomic ladder because I actually wasn't born into the middle class. So when you throw around words like ‘peasant’, just know that you don't actually sound like a believable friend of the little man.”

No, that was supposed to sound like Richard Nixon. Which is what I specifically said.

“What you are arguing for is the right to force more young people to risk their lives and to increase the militarization of our society to further your personal political objectives. That's exactly what a chicken hawk is. Talk about green with Kissinger Nixon.”

"Personal political objectives" – yes, ending war is a "personal political objective" of mine. Your "personal political objective" seems to be: get other people to fight the wars for you, so you don't have to.
posted by koeselitz at 3:07 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Personal political objectives" – yes, ending war is a "personal political objective" of mine.

No, your goal is to get more middle class kids killed so that maybe the war ends, and to me more "fair" to the poorer kids that are killed.

A sane wishlist to address your problems would be better Congressional oversight of war powers, better educational and economic opportunities for less privileged young people, etc. But what you want is better martyrs.

The premise that reinstating the draft would be permanent insurance against military adventurism is absurd. If the period between 9/11 and Bush's reelection demonstrates anything, it's the power of militarists to bend society to irrational and self-harming policies under the right circumstances. Furthermore, your idea didn't work for either Korea or Vietnam; the draft didn't stop either of those conflicts. I don't see why we should risk the lives of a whole lot of kids based on your hunch that we would never make that mistake again.
posted by spaltavian at 3:17 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.” - Clausewitz
posted by Smedleyman at 3:18 PM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


To maybe put it in a different way, because I think this needs to not get too personal...

spaltavian: “And it case you hadn't noticed, your idea doesn't work, since it did do anything for the 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam.”

It's not a small comfort, and nothing takes the tragic character of the Vietnam war away for all those tens of thousands who lost their lives there, but: the war in Vietnam is proof that the draft does work as a deterrent to war. The number of people against that war grew exponentially as it went on, to the point where Nixon tacitly admitted the draft was destroying his ability to engage in new wars by ending the draft to free his hand up to send more men to die. As JHarris says, it would have been incredibly difficult for him or any president after him to send out the call up and re-engage the draft without an immense amount of anger in the streets. As it should be; the prospect of war ought to piss people off.

But Nixon ended the draft, allowing him to send more and more men off to war. And since that time many more have died, ten thousand more in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the past twelve years. Where's the anger now? We aren't protesting in the streets; we aren't complaining about this in music and on television and on the radio and in every available media outlet. We're going on with our lives, as we've learned to. That bothers me.

Maybe my solution isn't the best one. But the current status quo isn't sustainable, and it isn't responsible.
posted by koeselitz at 3:18 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


spaltavian: “Furthermore, your idea didn't work for either Korea or Vietnam; the draft didn't stop either of those conflicts.”

Again, this is a simplistic way to view what happened. Just ask yourself: why did Nixon end the draft? The answer: because the draft was an obstacle to his ability to wage wars around the globe.

I don't pretend a draft is the only solution or anything like that. I only know that what we have now – a military driven by the economic coercion that drives everything in our society today, and ensures a class-segregated fighting force – is not tenable.
posted by koeselitz at 3:21 PM on June 17, 2013


But Nixon ended the draft, allowing him to send more and more men off to war.

The draft ended in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were in early '73.

ten thousand more in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the past twelve years.

You get to 10,000 if you include noncombat deaths and vehicular accidents stateside, sure.
The creation of a military class in the United States is a very big problem, but I don't think bringing back the draft will solve it - it is too easy for the well-connected to avoid it, find an out. "Go to war or go to jail" means the Armed Forces are a punishment, to be feared, avoided and subverted, not seen as part of a citizen's duty.

It is too easy to say "Thank you for your service" to a vet, and ignore them at the ballot box.

Serving or Servicing the Civil-Military Divide?

I don't have any answers.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:05 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: “The draft ended in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were in early '73.”

This is true, but the draft was one of the issues Nixon ran on in 1968 – and his private reasoning (to his confidantes) was that it would destroy the anti-war movement.
posted by koeselitz at 4:20 PM on June 17, 2013


Again, this is a simplistic way to view what happened. Just ask yourself: why did Nixon end the draft? The answer: because the draft was an obstacle to his ability to wage wars around the globe.

I don't see how you can hand-wave away the fact that American battle deaths in the draft years were massively higher than they were post-draft. It's definitely not empirically true that American war deaths have risen since the draft was abolished, which strikes me as a fundamental problem with this point of view.

Nor is the theory clear to me. It seems to me that, barring truly dire national emergencies (probably limited to the Civil War and World War II), there is some wage at which you would be able to raise a larger military. By resorting to the draft rather than increasing compensation for volunteer soldiers (and note that compensation could be monetary but could also be more frequent rotations out of battle, better safety, etc.), the cost of the larger military doesn't go away--it merely shifts from the taxpayers as a whole to young adults--in other words, to a more politically powerless class. I don't think this is nearly the brake on militarism that people seem to think, and I'm certain that the empirical evidence is iffy, to say the least.
posted by dsfan at 4:22 PM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


My father's number was so low he just enlisted pretty much the day he graduated from college. He got an amazing score on the ASVAB and was able to pick his own assignment, which ended up being on the Honor Guard at Arlington instead. He ultimately decided to go to OCS after his enlistment was up and stayed in for 20 something years. He's pretty moderate on all things, politics included.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:12 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Want to stop US warmongering? Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it.

You'd have more luck with an amendment simply banning war entirely unless we are being attacked physically, which the Japanese constitution includes (Well, it's not an Amendment)
posted by delmoi at 5:55 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just ask yourself: why did Nixon end the draft? The answer: because the draft was an obstacle to his ability to wage wars around the globe.

Or, you know, he was nakedly asking for support from recently enfranchised 18-year-olds that had no other reason to like him.

CPB's Law: Never ascribe to great evil that which can be explained by lesser evil.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:20 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Talez: "Want to stop US warmongering? Constitutional amendment saying the executive needs to be fighting at the front along with members of congress that voted authorized it."
The two begin to argue. At the same time they lay a bottle of beer on the result of an air-fight that's going on above us. Katczinsky won't budge from the opinion which as an old Front-hog, he rhymes: Give 'em all the same grub and all the same pay / And the war would be over and done in a day.

Kropp on the other hand is a thinker. He proposes that a declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the arena the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing-drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out among themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be much simpler and more just than this arrangement, where the wrong people do the fighting.
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, chapter 3.
posted by barnacles at 7:23 PM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we pass a Lysistrata law for any public official that votes for or prosecutes a war.
Let's see how bad you really want this engagement Senator Blueballs.

One of the things that makes war possible is the distancing of it. It's a real thing. Too many people have no idea. They don't see the results. And indeed, this is often by design.

I've never trusted anyone who says they're in favor for a given fight if they themselves weren't up for going. Even theoretically. A guy in a wheel chair could push paper for the pentagon, he'd just have to give up his day job, move his family, etc.

But most people are absolutely not willing to do even as little as that.

And we always fight the wrong wars. I'd have been happy to stop the genocide in Rwanda. I can't think of any better cause than preventing ethnic atrocity.
And yet, the U.S., the world really, didn't step up.

Most people, when they talk about stuff like this, are similar to people who have been in an actual fight, and people who like to pretend they're tough guys.
The tough guys always back down when it comes to it.
The guys who have actually fought tend to avoid it if they can. But if they have to, if it's something you have to fight your way out of, they'll do it.

And that there's politics. Because 99% of politics is talk.
When it's your neck, then you find out where you really stand. And there's not a damn thing wrong with not wanting to go to war, being a liberal, changing your mind about it when you get a reality check.
It's just that reality checks are so rare we tend to argue in the abstract and think we can say anything we like - true or not, whether it affects lives or not , callous or not, whatever.

It's like the ubiquitous of the words "n*gger" or "j*wf*g" etc. etc. horrible insults on the web some places (online games in particular) that you'd never say to someone in person.
Even given you wouldn't take an ass kicking, you say something like that to someone in a public place with any decent people in it your status as a human being plummets.

So, war (like many things), just doesn't seem real to some people unless it's their asses getting served up.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:50 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Y'know, I heard Nigeria stopped their civil war to watch Pele play football.

Surreal.

We know there are better things. We know there are better ways.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:53 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


No one gets out of the draft, and the draft is mandatory. No deferments, no "Oh hey, I'm in college right now." and no more rich mans war, poor mans fight. Men and women go, and the women are on that same battle line that the men are on. Toss the dice, see if your number comes up, if it does come up, hey, you're now "serving your country" ("serving your countries business interests.)

The first phone call from Biff, who was forced to drop out of Harvard to do his compulsory military service, that first call from Biff where he's screaming "Oh god, my legs are gone, my balls are gone, oh god oh god no." the parent of that child begins to get very interested in making this stop. The first time Muffy calls her parents home out there in Westlake Hills saying "Daddy, daddy, they blew my tit into a tree, and I can't see, I can't see anything, they don't know if I'll ever see again, nothing makes sense, I've lost my hearing in one eqr ..." and on and on, that Westlake Hills parent is going to be very interested in making this war stop.

As long as it's poor kids from families without clout, as long as it's mostly minorities, as long as it is men only in combat zones, no one is going to give a damn, no one in power anyways. If *every* US kid had to serve -- no way out -- these wars stop tomorrow.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:47 PM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Those draft tables are terrifying.

When I reflect on the virtues of aging, one of the first that I often think of is that it makes it less likely I'd drafted.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:05 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


me: “Just ask yourself: why did Nixon end the draft? The answer: because the draft was an obstacle to his ability to wage wars around the globe.”

Cool Papa Bell: “Or, you know, he was nakedly asking for support from recently enfranchised 18-year-olds that had no other reason to like him. CPB's Law: Never ascribe to great evil that which can be explained by lesser evil.”

It's a nice little law, but it betrays a misunderstanding of Nixon's methods and motivations. Richard M Nixon didn't "nakedly ask for support" on anything without having a reason. He said over and over again to advisers and to friends that the whole point of campaigning to end the draft was because he wanted to kill the anti-war movement, which he grew to despise and to see as an expression of anti-American hooliganism. In fact, he seems to have seen the anti-war protests as the chief – perhaps the only – bad outcome from the war, given his plans to "Vietnamize" it by substituting Vietnamese soldiers for American soldiers in order to keep it going without having to face the protests any longer.
posted by koeselitz at 7:40 AM on June 18, 2013


As long as it's poor kids from families without clout, as long as it's mostly minorities, as long as it is men only in combat zones, no one is going to give a damn, no one in power anyways. If *every* US kid had to serve -- no way out -- these wars stop tomorrow.

Or they don't, and we slide right into an even more extreme bizzaro-land Starship Troopers militarist fascism as soon as the next 9-11 hits.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:59 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this thread has really changed my opinion there, I think. I begin to feel that a draft likely wouldn't help much - and anyway it would harm a lot of people. I do think it was an extraordinarily cynical thing for Nixon to do, and it bothers me that we aren't asked as Americans to take responsibility for what's done in our name. But - the draft is not the solution now, and the inequities in it when it was in operation are an object lesson in how wrong it could go.

Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful discussion, all.
posted by koeselitz at 10:11 PM on June 19, 2013


My dad was a gym teacher from that era. He was the first of his family to go to college and the only one to get drafted, so, as a strategy, it didn't work very well. Of course, he was one of those beloved elementary school gym teachers whom kids and dogs worship like a god.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2013


I have...such mixed feelings about all of this, and it's such a personal thing that I have trouble sorting it all out. You wanna talk about the lasting effects of the Vietnam draft, well...

My father's birthday is September 14. Obviously I grew up knowing he'd been drafted, but the first time I read that Selective Service System page about the Vietnam draft, which was fairly recently, I think I cried. I never knew how inevitable it had been that he would be drafted. And like it did for so many others, it entirely changed the life of that smart, handsome, artistic young man.

My father ended up in the Marines, stationed at an arms depot in the desert in Nevada where they're still blowing people up to this day. I say "still" because that's what happened to him—one way or another, there was an explosion, and he was horrifically injured, requiring skin grafts, a cornea transplant, and reconstructive surgery on his face and one hand (which was left with only three fingers). He spent a year in a VA hospital in Oakland, Calif., was eventually honorably discharged, with a Purple Heart, then moved back home.

His resulting disabilities have meant that his life (and thus my life) took a dramatically different course than the lives of just about everyone else I knew growing up. Thankfully, his veterans' benefits and a frugal lifestyle (plus veterans' education benefits) allowed him to pay off his mortgage early and send both my brother and I to college. He even went back to school for a while himself, for graphic arts, and helped my mother (also an artist) run a successful pottery-supply business. But he also stopped being able to drive a car when we were kids (he's now legally blind), has had to rely on others for assistance for several decades, and while he was a talented artist when he was younger, he became unable to create art as his vision faltered. Somewhat like QueerAngel28, I grew up in a household racked by domestic violence, as my father went on and off of various medications, went through periods of better and worse vision, experienced debilitating migraines...

Not that many years ago, after yet another incident, my mother finally decided she'd had enough and divorced him, after about 30 years of marriage. No one blamed her. But since then, living alone and legally blind in a paid-for house on two-thirds of an acre, having alienated or actively pushed away much of the family over the years, my father has slowly been declining.

I write this now after about a week of dealing with his affairs, after he was hospitalized following a collapse and severe dehydration, on the heels of about nine months of decline after a (possibly second) stroke last September. As I write, he's in a rehab facility, and it's unclear at this point whether he will ever return to his house (or whether, even if he wanted to and were able to, that would be a good idea). He and I have had our ups and downs over the years, but at this point, I'm the only one here who's fully able and willing to help him set things back in order.

The government has taken care of my father monetarily, and provided for his healthcare. But in drafting him and putting him in harm's way, it took away all the potential he had to do something else with his life, and twisted his psyche (and those of everyone in our immediate family) in irreversible ways. I'm grateful that we were, and have continued to be, provided for in this manner. But God...it also sucks to be the twentysomething who's having to visit assisted-living facilities on behalf of her sixtysomething disabled father, you know? We have paid a high price for this bounty.

Re: the original topic, political leanings, my father has actually voted Republican much of the time. So...it's definitely not as simple as low draft number equals high liberalism. He had the lowest draft number of all, but his circumstances are far from the only things that have factored into his decisions. What I would like to see is a study of the political leanings of the children of Vietnam-era veterans. I have a feeling it would be revealing.
posted by limeonaire at 3:10 PM on June 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


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