Do You Feel a (Military) Draft?
Religion & Liberty Online

Do You Feel a (Military) Draft?

military-draftAs Congress decides whether to commit the U.S. to another war in the Middle East, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York is proposing — yet again — that Congress reinstate the military draft. Rep. Rangel, a decorated veteran of the Korean War and the third-longest-serving member of Congress, has proposed reinstating the draft about a half dozen times over the past decade.

After he proposed the legislation in 2004, Congressional Republicans called his bluff and Rangel voted against his own bill. Rangel has never been accused of being a man of principle, but at least he has his priorities straight. “This is hypocrisy of the worst kind,” Rangel said. “I would not encourage any Democrat running for re-election to vote for this bill.”

Despite his theatrics, Rangel doesn’t really want to return a return to military conscription. And he’s not alone. While there are numerous reasons we aren’t likely to see a return to non-volunteer service, the main one is that almost no one wants to reinstate the useless relic.

In fact, there is only one group that likes the idea of conscription less than future draft dodgers: the current all-volunteer military. A draft would have such a detrimental affect on military readiness that the Pentagon would only consider the idea as an absolute last resort. The problems and headaches that came over the past decade with the mobilization of the reserve units would only be compounded exponentially by using untrained and unmotivated conscripts.

More importantly, though, a draft should only even be considered an option of last resort — and perhaps not even then.

Opposition to the draft is one area where conservatives like me should completely agree with our libertarian friends. Many of the libertarian arguments against the draft (such as Milton Friedman’s claim that it is a “tax on young men”) are persuasive and worthy of consideration. But the primary argument is that conscription is incompatible with liberty and unnecessary in a land of freedom-loving people.

Conscription can take not just liberty but a life. Military service carries with it the possibility, however remote, that a person will be required to either die a violent death or to cause the violent death of another. That is the type of moral decision that should not be compelled. Even if making such a choice would not necessarily violate an individual’s conscience, it decision that requires the person be able to freely choose to take such action.

The only time when a military draft should even possibly be considered is when there is an imminent, existential threat to the nation. But in such times, those who love liberty will rise up to protect their home. And if we ever get to the point when we are no longer unwilling to protect our land, then it may mean there is no longer anything about America worthy of saving.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).