October 5th, 2004


A Vietnam anecdote and a question on the draft

I just remembered a discussion from our Friday (01 Oct 2004) lunch at Pizza Hut, that I thought I'd post a question on the draft, especially for Vietnam veterans and draftees.

Dave Schmidt, one of our senior faculty members, related that he was 19 during the Vietnam War when his number was called up (it was around the hundredth of some two hundred eligible young men from Hays, KS).1 His pre-induction physical had been scheduled and was within a week of happening in 1973, when the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending the war.

David's position, shared by many who were conscientious objectors to the war, but were prepared to enlist and do their duty, is that conscription is a proper way to prepare for a conflict such as the present one in Iraq. Not only is it more fair and equitable, he believes, but it serves as a deterrent to congressional leaders and the commander-in-chief - or an incentive to more thoroughly exhaust diplomatic channels - "when the pain is shared equally". Though I had thought of a draft lottery in these terms when I first became eligible for selective service (1991), it had not crossed my mind for years: I have lived my adult years in fortunate times when no draft has been necessary.

This brings me to my question - actually several related questions:
What do you think of a draft as a way to incentivize diplomacy among U.S. foreign policy and military decision-makers? How well does this work in reducing the activation of reservists who have already served? Finally, is a draft worth while, in your opinion, for balancing the load between career members of the armed services (the volunteer military) and conscripted soldiers?

1An aside: during this time, shortly after John Kerry gave his testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as an executive committee member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, came through Hays, KS to speak, and David went to listen to a talk of his.

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