Conscription Is Collectivism
Two Democratic Congressman introduced legislation last week to revive the military draft, taking a race-baiting shot at the President and his war plans. Their idea is not new, however, as similar proposals were introduced by Republicans in the months following September 11th. Although the administration is not calling for a draft at this time, last week's controversy shows while conscription has been buried for 30 years, the idea is not necessarily dead.
Neither the Pentagon nor our military leaders want a draft. In fact, a Department of Defense report stated that draft registration could be eliminated "with no effect on military mobilization and no measurable effect on military recruitment." Today's military is more high tech and specialized than ever before, and an educated volunteer force is required to operate our modern Army, Navy, and Air Force. Most military experts believe a draft would actually impair military readiness, despite the increase in raw manpower, because of training and morale problems.
So why is the idea of a draft even considered? One answer is that our military forces are spread far too thin, engaged in conflicts around the globe that are none of our business. With hundreds of thousands of troops already stationed in literally hundreds of foreign nations, we simply don't have enough soldiers to invade and occupy every country we label a threat to the new American empire. Military leaders conservatively estimate that 250,000 troops will be needed to invade Iraq, while tens of thousands already occupy Afghanistan. Add another conflict to the mix — in North Korea, the Balkans, or any number of hot spots — and our military capabilities would quickly be exhausted. Some in Washington would rather draft more young bodies than rethink our role as world policeman and bring some of our troops home.
Military needs aside, however, some politicians simply love the thought of mandatory service to the state. To them, the American government is America. Patriotism means working for the benefit of the state. On a crude level, the draft appeals to patriotic fervor. This is why the idea of compulsory national service, whether in the form of military conscription or make-work programs like AmeriCorps, still sells on Capitol Hill. Conscription is wrongly associated with patriotism, when it really represents collectivism and involuntary servitude.
I believe wholeheartedly that an all-volunteer military is not only sufficient for national defense, but preferable. It is time to abolish the Selective Service System and consign military conscription to the dustbin of American history. 500 million dollars have been wasted on the Selective Service System since 1979, money that could have been returned to taxpayers or spent to improve the lives of our nation's veterans.
Ronald Reagan said it best: "The most fundamental objection to draft registration is moral." He understood that conscription assumes our nation's young people belong to the state. Yet America was founded on the opposite principle, that the state exists to serve the individual. The notion of involuntary servitude, in whatever form, is simply incompatible with a free society.
January 14, 2003
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.