Down With the Draft

So, I was reading an article about the success of female Ranger School candidates when I came to a quote from the Secretary of the Army. If the US military is to achieve “true and pure equality,” he said, women will eventually have to register for the draft. Okay, I thought, that sounds reasonable – until about five seconds later when I had a complete “Wait, what?” moment.

Objectively, I’ve always sort of known that the Selective Service System is still on the books, but it’s such a complete anachronism that it just keeps slipping out of my brain. That’s probably partly because it’s just not a concept I’m used to. Both the USA and UK used conscription during the World Wars, but Britain’s system was completely dismantled in 1960. In the USA, the Selective Service System isn’t actively drafting right now but it’s still keeping track of all eligible men in case they’re ever needed.

The question is: what would they ever be needed for? In the World Wars, conscription was needed to fill the ranks of huge standing armies. Modern armies are a lot smaller and can be filled just fine with volunteers. Even in Vietnam, the popular image of units stuffed with reluctant draftees is largely a myth; the majority of US servicemen who deployed there were volunteers.

Uncle SamAnyone who reads a British newspaper will occasionally find a letter, usually written by a retired Lieutenant-Colonel, demanding that National Service be brought back to give young people a bit of backbone. I imagine it’s the same in the USA. Ask anyone in the Regular Army, though, and a bunch of sullen conscripts is exactly what they don’t want. Most units would rather go to war understrength than have the gaps filled with the victims of some modern-day pressgang. The blunt fact is that soldiers in a modern army need far too much training for conscripts to achieve anything worthwhile.

That’s exactly what happened to the Bundeswehr. For decades, most young German men spent two years in the military – long enough that the country could get some use out of them before discharging them into a large pool of reservists with a wartime mobilization commitment. Even so, most specialist jobs were held by regulars. When political pressure forced the conscription period down to 18 months – then a year and finally nine months – the military started rapidly cutting the number of conscripts; there wasn’t even time to train them properly before their discharge date came around. Conscription ended in 2011 because there was no longer any point to it.

It’s exactly the same for the USA. The regular and reserve forces are the most powerful in the world by a long way; no other nation has a fraction of the power it would need to defeat America’s volunteer forces. If some hypothetical adversary did manage to pose an existential threat, it would be resolved by dumping a bucketful of sunshine on them long before there was any need for a huge army stuffed with hastily trained draftees who didn’t want to be there.

The Selective Service System is a useless anachronism. Rather than amending the law to bring women into its obsolete embrace, the USA should take this opportunity to get rid of the Selective Service altogether.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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