US Department of Defense

To Draft or Not to Draft?

When I get into the mode of reading and writing every day, I begin to see everything through those lenses. Events in my periphery seem like fodder, and all the things read are scrutinized. When I fall out of practice, like anything, it can be intimidating to do the work to build those muscles up again, and one of the largest obstacles I face is working through drafts.

Often when I write, it's because there's some story or memory boiling up inside of me and in order to exorcise it from my brain and body, I've got to pour it out onto the page. Once that's done, it feels like the event itself has reached some conclusion which I sometimes let trick me into thinking something is actually finished. I know that nothing I write is going to flow out of me in perfect, publication-ready form, but the going back and tearing apart and breaking down and throwing away is exhausting. It's not even that I am worried I'll have to make tough decisions about the piece and have to sacrifice parts I really like. It's not ego--I don't think that because it came out of me, it doesn't need editing--I know it needs editing, and I know that will call for sacrifice, but going back and working through a personal piece feels like raking leaves. As soon as you push them back, the wind blows them around again, and you could be raking leaves for the rest of your life.

I don't feel this way about essays or academic writing. When I write about anything that reviews or references the work of others, I always do my homework and aim to properly honor the work and intentions of others. I love editing and rewriting these sorts of drafts and I think it has something to do with knowing that in the very near future at least one other editor, and potentially the person whose work I'm referencing, will read the piece and I want them to reach the end feeling pleased.

I've been struggling with this a lot lately, so when I opened up Harper's the other day to check out the most recent issue, I assumed that the article Dodge the Draft! by James Marcus was about writers dealing with writing draft issues. We always see what we want to, don't we? Of course, I realized after the first sentence that in fact, the piece was about the subject of a military draft. 

I'm liberal. I believe in free will and equal opportunity and all that. I've worked and volunteered for Democratic political candidates, and worked on issues with HRC. In general, I don't consider myself conservative in most respects, but this article made me think. It presented such a pragmatic argument for a draft that I found myself wondering if it might be a good idea after all. It wasn't even an argument so much as a presentation that presented some 'pros' I hadn't thought of before. And it wasn't even particularly politically conservative. I use that word because most of my friends equate anything military with Republicanism which, in many folks' minds, means conservative values.

The second and third paragraphs are what really got me thinking:

None of these men is arguing that a draft would improve the quality of the fighting force, and their proposals haven’t been endorsed by the military. The appeal, ultimately, isn’t to battlefield necessity but to a kind of social engineering. Conscription, in their view, would rebuild our spindly national character, whose muscle tone has melted away since the end of the Vietnam War. It would bridge the economic, regional, and racial gaps in a sorely divided nation. It would restore a sense of sacrifice and meanwhile stock the U.S. Congress with the sort of sagacious veterans who would never, ever shut down the entire government in a fit of pique.
The pro-draft pundits have also seized on an appealing paradox: conscription as an antiwar measure. The idea is that veterans in the legislative branch will not only run the country with greater discipline but also be sufficiently sobered by their experience to avoid military adventurism in the first place. Add to that the prospect of their children — and everybody else’s — swelling the ranks for our next ground campaign, and you have the democratic equivalent of a mass hostage situation. Barring a Martian invasion or a crack Chinese expeditionary force wading ashore at La Jolla, we might never go to war again.

As somebody who works in service industry, I think a lot about economic divides. The 'haves' come into the coffee shop and, if they're feeling particularly good about themselves that day, or like performing an act of charity, they MIGHT put a dollar in the tip jar after ordering their three breve vanilla lattes that I guarantee took (if you're going to a pro shop) lots of training, studying, and practice over the years to get right. They see the people behind the bar as two dimensional. We are there only to perform a service and deserve no recognition. 

Rarely in the adult world, once people have settled into their 'stations' do people have a real chance to mingle. There's public high school where everybody except the prep school kids are lumped together, and then the divide grows in a huge way when some kids go to college and some don't. The divides continue when some go to elite colleges and some to community. The branch system representing all of the divides is vast. A little later, people get professional jobs and from there on out, for the most part, they end up sticking with 'like' folks. Their friends and colleagues fall into a similar income bracket, share political beliefs, and probably share spiritual beliefs as well. At this point, high school is so far away (and we know that high school isn't exactly a melting pot anyway) that these people don't remember spending time with people who weren't like them. 

It is unlikely that these people will have situations in their life going forward that present them with intellectual or lifestyle challenges unless they have children who end up pursuing a very different type of life. 

If conscription became a part of our culture, it could make a hugely positive impact on our citizens' morale, sense of community, and patriotism. Imagine if everybody leaving high school had to do two years in the military based on career goals, interests, and physical ability? I'm not suggesting people go fight necessarily (although we always know that's a risk), because I think most of the people volunteering are volunteering to fight and that there would be a way to keep people out of warzones who don't want to be there. Would you want to fight next to somebody who was wishing for a desk?

This sort of scenario would force people from all walks of life to cooperate with, learn from, and support each other. Yes, people from all walks of life are currently volunteering to be in the military, but the majority is folks who believe it is their one ticket either into a career that would provide support for an entire family, or to get school paid for.


On page four, Marcus writes quotes Representative Rangel, who says, "I want to show that everybody has some skin in this game," and talks about how decisions about going to war might be less 'rash' if the children of congresspeople rather than just nameless faces are out there fighting for the country.

Before I decided to transfer from my community college to a 4-year liberal arts, I considered joining the army. I met with recruiters and even took the ASVAB. I wanted to become a linguist and it looked like, with my scores, I could do just about anything. That's the first time I heard that. I had been working full time for much of high school and definitely during the two years I spent at Comm Coll., and it felt like I'd be stuck in that cycle forever with no promise of a secure future, and no $$ to get an undergrad degree without incurring loads of debt. I didn't even really understand how the loan system worked. The whole thing was so intimidating that somehow I convinced myself that the Army seemed somehow less scary. 

I decided to do it, and then I randomly came into contact with a woman in her 40's who was ex military. She implored me not to go. She said, as a woman, things could and would happen to me. She told me I was too independent and they like to crush that there. The way they crush women will crush you, she told me. I had already had unfortunate experiences like the ones she alluded to and ultimately decided that although I was willing to risk my life, I wasn't willing to risk that. Things are able to happen because there just aren't any women around. The majority of people who serve are white males. Check out THIS CHART to see the numbers for yourself.

But imagine if everybody had to serve. We would have to trust people we wouldn't normally be exposed to. Imagine how this might make us a more accepting and understanding people in our adult lives. Just imagine.

I'm not saying yes to a draft, but I'm also not saying no.