Military Shouldn’t Be Empowered to Draft People’s Daughters – or Their Sons

Published November 29, 2017

A Pentagon report composed earlier in 2017 and obtained by reporters at The Washington Times in October makes a chilling recommendation: The federal government should enhance its power to conscript American citizens in wartime, all in the name of social justice.

The Times’ Rowan Scarborough wrote that the “Report on the Purpose and Utility of Registration System for Military Selective Service” recommends expanding the Selective Service System (SSS), an independent federal government agency tasked with maintaining personal records for individuals subject to possible military conscription, to include women.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4771, requiring all American males aged 18 to 26 (born on or after Jan. 1, 1960) to register with the Selective Service. Authorizing SSS and facilitating a draft, should the government call for one, was necessary, Carter wrote, because of his “[deep concern] about the unwarranted and vicious invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and occupation by them of this innocent and defenseless country, which is completely unwarranted.”

The Pentagon’s report says including women in the SSS system would promote social justice by “showing a commitment to gender equality throughout the armed services, and fostering a sense of public service that comes from requiring draft registration as a ritual of adulthood.”

Instead of including women in the conscription database, the federal government should “[show] a commitment to gender equality” by not forcing people of either gender to register for the draft. Conscription is coercion and an example of how government uses power and threats to force individuals to act against their wishes. By contrast, a completely volunteer military is based on a consensual exchange; individuals trade their time and effort for payment, housing, and future benefits.

Protecting personal liberty by providing for the common defense, not showing a “commitment to gender equality,” is the real reason the U.S. military was created. But a government that eliminates the fundamental right for people to choose to work for the military can’t possibly also serve as a true defender of freedom. A gender-inclusive SSS may treat the rights of men and women the same, but gender-equal coercion is still coercion all the same.

Those who support maintaining or expanding the ability of the government to draft citizens into the military say such a power is necessary to ensure the country is secure. But even if a major war were to erupt, government itself acknowledges that a draft would be unnecessary to provide for the common defense.

In 2002, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service published “The Military Draft and a Possible War with Iraq,” an analysis of U.S. military capabilities and reserve troop levels. In the report, national defense specialist Robert L. Goldich wrote, “A requirement for major increases in active duty strength could be met much more quickly by activating more reserves than by instituting a draft. A draft would not provide the trained officers and noncommissioned officers to man units effectively; it would only turn out freshly-trained junior enlisted recruits.”

Ignoring utilitarian arguments about what the military “needs” and moral arguments about coercion, there’s a fundamental constitutional argument against the draft as well. The 13th Amendment clearly states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The draft is a form of “involuntary servitude” to the state. Additionally, because any power not specifically given to the federal government is reserved for states and the people, it follows that the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to coerce individuals to fight its wars and lacks the authority to facilitate that coercion, too.

By keeping SSS alive, the federal government would retain its ability and infrastructure to create a draft, and thus it would also retain the government’s power to destroy the very freedom the draft is supposedly meant to protect. Instead of supporting such a clearly immoral system, Americans should trust their fellow citizens will answer the call of duty if and when a true crisis occurs, a model that has worked throughout many periods of U.S. history.

[Originally Published at American Thinker]