03 March 2013

Volunteerism at its Best

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of the American military draft. Good riddance.

It's a favorite topic of mine, so I'll be posting quite a bit in the next few months on the topic. I've created a new category, called (appropriately) "All Volunteer Force." I've gone back and tagged the relevant "Pro-Army" posts too.

I still meet a surprising number of people (mostly old timers) who express regret that we don't force young men into military service.

The last man to enter his "obligated term" of service in the United States Army was Dwight Elliot Stone, who did so in June 1973.Since then, everyone who has joined the Armed Forces has done so of his or her own free will.

That's powerful stuff, in many ways. First, and not least of all, is the fact that it defied conventional wisdom to end the draft in the 1970s. When presidential candidate Richard Nixon publicly proposed abolition of the draft, nobody in the Congress or the Pentagon was, in any meaningful way, behind him.

It is hard for us to imagine a draft today. As with many facts of life, we often take for granted that the course of history was inevitable. But at the time Congress and the Nixon administration were contemplating alternatives to conscription, the U.S. was on a full offensive in Vietnam.

Second, the fact that the military has met its manpower requirements shows that the spirit of sacrifice and duty to country is alive and well among those of fighting age and ability. It disproves one of the main arguments against forced service.

Third, the American AVF is, by almost any measure, more successful than any of its earliest proponents could have imagined. See a column I wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9-11 for a brief synopsis.

Since the 1970s, when the American military was in the depths of poor public relations, strategic losses across the globe, and transitions in manning, equipment, and doctrine, the U.S. Armed Forces have steadily risen to the title, "greatest fighting force ever assembled."

After 40 years there are still a few who cling to the notion that a draft would somehow be better; that the military should be a service program charged with reforming citizens who don't adequately appreciate the idea of national service. But in a republic whose government, culture, and society the AVF has volunteered to defend, I suppose it's appropriate.

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Leonardo Torres

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