July marks the 40th anniversary of the end of compulsory military service for young American men.
The Defense Department ended the draft in 1973, creating an all-volunteer Army along with the rest of the armed forces.
How has that worked? Well, the United States has strengthened its position as the world’s pre-eminent military power.
Let’s hope the draft is gone forever.
Military conscription was seen by many as a form of “sentence” for bad behavior. If you squandered a student deferment, you could expect a “Greetings” letter from Uncle Sam informing you of the date and time you would report for induction into the Army.
Suppose you didn’t want to be there? Some young Americans, notably during the Vietnam War, fled beyond our borders to escape the draft. It was a terrible time in our nation’s history — and the specter of a draft contributed to our national agony.
Since the end of the draft, though, the United States has crafted a lean and efficient fighting force capable of extraordinary battlefield performance.
When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, the United States mobilized its all-volunteer force of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to expel the Iraqi occupiers and protect the world’s supply of oil. These men and women, along with those of many other countries, accomplished that seemingly difficult task in a matter of weeks.
The all-volunteer force — which includes 4,700 active duty personnel stationed at Cannon Air Force Base — also has performed with valor and professionalism in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere it has answered the call.
Our young warriors have proven themselves time and again as they have fought to protect us against enemies. Isn’t it best for them to want to be there rather than forcing them to do so under threat of prosecution if they refuse to comply?
According to the Navy Times, the draft was applied unequally during the Vietnam War, causing disenchantment within the ranks as well as among the civilian population.
“The American people lost confidence in the draft as a means of raising an army when it ceased to require equal sacrifice from everyone that was eligible to serve,” former Selective Service director Bernard Rostker told the Navy Times.
The end of the draft 40 years ago has produced something far superior to compulsory military service: the world’s premier fighting force. A well-equipped and well-trained all-volunteer force will maintain it.