The Sept. 25 letter to the editor titled “Restore draft” requires repudiation, if not for its insult to our volunteer armed forces, but to correct the misinformation. I served in both the conscript Army of the Vietnam War era (as a captain of infantry), and in the volunteer Army that was returned to our nation in 1973. Drafted forces have a role in times of national peril (WWII), and the draft should be used when the nation is on a war-time footing of rationing and total focus on the war.
A drafted military is not our nation’s norm. The draft in effect from 1941 to 1973 was far and away the longest enactment in our history. I view a draft for military service as a major tax (of service) on the younger population, requiring them to forgo starting education, families, businesses and their adult lives, in general, and possibly to give their lives.
Some argue that a draft would improve the overall character of our youth. This is often a liberal perspective for failed civilian social systems. Assigning such a mission to the military is not only inefficient and artificial, but develops ill will towards the nation’s military forces, as evidenced in the years of 1969-1973. I can assure you that the combat capability of today’s Army bears little similarity to that which I served with in Vietnam as a rifle company commander in 1972.
For background, I recommend an article printed in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Truth About Who Fights for Us”(available on the Internet).
There are many points to make, but first, only 11 percent of today’s military are from the poorest demographic, while 25 percent of our forces enlist from the wealthiest quintile; a very big difference from the Vietnam War Army. Also, Army Recruiting Command data show only 35 percent of males 18-25 years of age qualify to enlist in the Army; the majority don’t qualify due to medical, criminal, drugs, education, mental aptitude, or physical capabilities issues. Yet, from that 35 percent, the Army continues to recruit a significantly higher educated base than its corresponding civilian workforce. These forces have only increased in quality since 9/11, and re-enlistment rates have been higher than those of pre-9/11, even though the re-enlistment comes with known multiple deployments.
The writer referenced immigrants in the military seeking citizenship, but the number of immigrants is small and they are primarily recruited as scarce linguistic resources. Comments regarding military funding always arrive at how those funds might be better spent, and “who benefits from financing our war machines.” One need only be reminded of 9/11, but perhaps these numbers might be of some consolation: Defense spending in the 2014 U.S. budget is 13 percent of total spending (5 percent GDP), while health care is 20 percent, education is 15 percent and welfare is 8 percent. At no time in this war against militant Islam has defense spending exceeded 6 percent of GDP (pre-9/11 was 3-5 percent of GDP).
An additional point of clarification regarding the unnamed “past leader”: George W. Bush volunteered and flew single-seat interceptor aircraft (read dangerous) off our coastline, and twice requested in-writing deployment to Vietnam. The Air Force refused his requests, as he lacked the requisite flying hours at the time. Another “previous past leader,” Bill Clinton, refused to acknowledge his draft notice, and the draft board gave him a pass.
Our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen are very impressive, very dedicated and very committed in all aspects, and in this “long war” against militant Islam, they may well prove to be America’s Greatest Generation.
Wayne J. Morgan