Should America Reinstate the Draft?
by Stephanie Fry
The last United States military draft ended in 1973, at the conclusion of the Vietnam War. Since then, the nation’s armed forces have been entirely made up of volunteers. However, as the war in Iraq drags on with the same soldiers repeatedly called out to service, some have begun to question this policy. Those in support of the draft claim that it is the duty of any eligible male citizen to fight in defense of his country, and they lament the rising cost of enticing volunteer recruits. They also point to the unfair burden carried by troops who are forced into multiple deployments and the negative effects these long exploitations can have. On the other side, those who support an all-volunteer force argue that conscription unjustly targets the lower class and minorities. Often of an antiwar mindset, they also disapprove of forcing anyone to serve against his or her will, and they assert that volunteers make more effective soldiers anyway. The numerous viewpoints of the issue are explored in the three following source. The anti-draft position argues directly against the pro-draft side, often using conflicting data and logic, while the neutral article references the opinions of individuals on both sides of the debate, showing a more personal and rounded view.
Walter L. Stewart argues in support of a selective service system in “The United States Should Reinstate the Draft”. His former position as major general in the Army National Guard gives credibility to his remarks. This implied experience of seeing the inner workings of military life and the effects of both conscription and volunteerism creates a strong appeal to ethos. It can be assumed that Stewart writes for an audience of military experience and/ or political influence by the terminology that he uses and by his detailed suggestions for how to structure a more “politically palatable” military body (Stewart). As directly stated by Stewart, the main purpose of his piece is to convince the audience that the current all-volunteer ideology does not work. Stewart begins by referring to statistics that show a general increase in population and the “near doubling of the recruiting pool” by the introduction of women to the force (Stewart). He claims that although these numbers might suggest an increase in recruitments, there is actually a current lack of troops. He points to the raising of signing bonuses, the lowering of standards, and the frequent redeployment of already tired troops as proof that the current force is in desperate need of reinforcement (Stewart). This argument has a sturdy appeal to logos because it is well backed by statistical and logical reasoning. His next argument, however, contains unsupported and irrelevant claims. Stewart states that the end of the draft was spurred by Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh’s comment to President Nixon that selective service was “inequitable” (qtd. in Stewart). He calls this a “false perception” and “badly off the mark” (Stewart). To bolster this opposition, Stewart lists numerous disadvantages of a volunteer service including high costs, an inability for quick expansion, and the recruitment of “mercenaries” and under qualified soldiers (Stewart), but none of these points verify his claim that the idea of an unfair draft is unfounded. His weakest defense is made when he writes that the salary of a volunteer force would attract mostly blacks. This, Stewart says, would cause white males to drop from service, therefore, creating racial tension over the “undue share of the burden” placed on African Americans, while at the same time keeping qualified blacks from the civilian workforce (Stewart). This argument seems exaggerated and depends largely on ‘slippery slope’ fallacy. He does, however, make a strong appeal to logos when he maintains that military service is an honored duty that has been expected of American men throughout the nation’s history. He points to the militias of colonial days and to the great success of World War II to confirm this assertion (Stewart). Finally, an appeal to pathos is created by his emphasis of the possibly horrific results of having and inadequate army. He paints a picture of America’s “enemies more powerful than 10,000 terrorists in Iraq biding their time and salivating” over her military weakness (Stewart). He ends the article with a dramatic plea for the nation to “avoid history’s condemnation” (Stewart). In “A Draft Is More Costly Than Financing the All-Volunteer Army,” John C. Goodman builds his case against the draft. He makes a strong appeal to ethos through his leadership of the National Center for Policy Analysis which is a nonprofit organization and, therefore, represents no obvious bias that might skew his claims. Goodman’s language and drawn out thought processes show that he is writing to a well educated audience but one that may not have much experience in economics. He also targets those who are more concerned with the financial outcome of the draft, although some argument founded on the moral side of the issue is included. As is clearly stated in his title, Goodman primarily seeks to convince the audience that selective service should be opposed on the grounds that it would be more costly than maintaining an all-volunteer army. He argues in response to common claims made by those who support the draft (Goodman). The author begins his case with a very precise and logical line of reasoning that creates a strong appeal to logos. Goodman explains the idea of “opportunity costs,” markedly noting the use of this terminology by economists. For the recruitment of a soldier, he reasons, the opportunity cost would include the salary and benefits of whatever civilian job was left behind (Goodman). He admits that this cost would be the same whether the soldier was enlisted via draft or by the decision to volunteer but adds that in a volunteer system the “burden of the increase in military preparedness falls on the general taxpayer.” According to Goodman, this means the draftee would be forced to pay an “implicit annual tax” to supplement whatever money the general public saved (Goodman). He also argues that a draft would not just transfer costs, but it would even increase them by lessening the efficiency of the troops. He supports this appeal to logos with explanations of how draftee effectiveness might be diminished by such things as the need for training, a drop in morale, and “costly draft-avoidance measures” (Goodman). Goodman further attempts to uphold this claim by referencing the conclusions of “a presidential commission” that tried to approximate the cost of these inefficiencies (Goodman). The validity of this claim is made suspect, however, by the potential bias and ambiguity of the source and the lack of statistical evidence. In his next appeal to logos, he maintains that although both recruitment methods “have been attacked as being unfair to the poor” at least the volunteer system would “transfer income and wealth from the general taxpayer to the poor.” The opposite effect, Goodman rationalizes, can be attributed to the draft (Goodman). His ending assertion is mainly an appeal to pathos. He incites anger from the reader by listing how “certain prodraft groups” have taken advantage of previous conscription, his claim supported by only vague and skimpy evidence (Goodman). Goodman ends the article by playing up the fears of the audience with a hyperbolized warning that if a draft is allowed to pass “conscription might be instituted on a wider scale than ever before” (Goodman). Adam Fifield explores the topic objectively as he writes “Antiwar Activists, Youths, Military Agree: No Draft” for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Much of his credibility comes from his use of sources that either have direct personal contact with the issue or are experts in the field. However, some of these sources, such as Oskar Castro, who Fifield describes as an “antiwar organizer,” seem to provide biased information (Fifield). Because the author is writing for a daily newspaper, it can be assumed that the content is aimed at those who are most likely to read the newspaper on a regular basis. Such people would be expected to be educated, interested in current affairs, and probably of the middle and upper classes of society. The main claim of this article, as Fifield directly states in the final line of his opening paragraph, is that “Antiwar activists, youths, and the military” are opposed to the draft (Fifield). Fifield introduces the issue of the draft by revealing what has prompted its most recent debate: Representative Charles Rengal’s efforts to propose a bill that would put a new military draft into effect (Fifield). Throughout the article, Fifield shows the view of Rengal and his supporters and then contrasts it with the opinions of those who prefer volunteer enlistment. According to Fifield, Rengal’s main objective is not to encourage warfare, but “to force lawmakers to think more about the human cost of going to battle” (Fifield). He shows that much of the support for the draft is based on the concern that the military attracts an unfair number of poor and minority recruits, allowing the wealthy to take advantage. The logical appeal for this argument is based on his citation of a study done by the National Priorities Project (Fifield). He gives equal support to the opposing viewpoint, however, by quoting the Heritage Foundation’s claim that the recruits actually “came primarily from middle-class areas” (qtd. in Fifield). As a result, the credibility of both sources is called into question.
An emotional appeal, in favor of the anti-draft argument, is presented through Fifield’s inclusion of the comments of a number of opinionated teens. One such commenter is Matt Shreffler who insists that he would not wish to “lead a bunch of kids who don’t want to be there” (qtd. in Fifield). These remarks produce a well-built appeal by expressing the views of those who might be directly affected by a draft. Not forgetting to defend the anti-volunteer side, however, Fifield provides a dual appeal to both logos and ethos by noting Rengal’s service in the Korean War. This leads the reader to conclude that this pro-draft contender has experienced the effects of conscription firsthand and is a credible and knowledgeable source on the subject (Fifield).
These three articles present strong arguments for and against the establishment of a draft in America. The ‘for’ and ‘against’ sides of the issue are bitterly opposed and leave little room for common ground between them. The neutral view does not offer any reconciliation in the dispute, but it does allow the two sides to be lined up for an easier comparison. As of yet, my personal opinion is not committed to either extreme, although I feel a slight tendency to support selective service. Even though many of the pro-draft claims were unfounded, the statistics showing the shallowness of the current reserve pool and the stories of soldiers being sent out multiple times has had a strong impact on me. On the other hand, I cannot easily deny the injustice of requiring young men to fight for a cause that they may strongly oppose.