Saturday, July 02, 2005

From military draft to all-volunteer force: some history

I recently came across an article on the history of the all-volunteer military. I found it fascinating, and so I thought I'd call your attention to it.

Prior to reading it, if you'd asked me to sketch the history of how the draft ended and the volunteer military began, I would have said something like this, "The antiwar sentiment that grew during the Vietnam War fed a growing anger and discontent in the American public about the draft. With the policy of Vietnamization, the US profile in Vietnam was much reduced, so that by 1973 Nixon and Congress were able to do the popular thing and end the draft."

I would still imagine that this scenario played some role in the draft's end, although the article doesn't go into it. And, as part of the Nixon library website, there's no doubt that the piece is inclined to put Nixon in the best light possible.

One of the most interesting points the article makes is that proposals for an all-volunteer military were floated seriously way back in the Fifties:

...the end of the draft was proposed by Adlai Stevenson during his campaign for President in 1956. President Eisenhower earlier had called for universal military service as a substitute for haphazard conscription. Neither approach drew strong support.

But the calls for the end of the draft were not a Democratic monopoly; both sides got into the act. As a matter of fact, it appears that support for the all-volunteer Army was somewhat more a Republican than a Democratic thing (a fact which is open to different interpretations, depending on what one thinks of the Republican Party). Barry Goldwater made it part of his campaign in 1964, something I certainly don't recall.

Other names that are very familiar come up in connection with this story: ...Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan veered from the field of economics to argue support for the end of the draft.

And look at this: A very vocal volunteer force supporter was a young congressman from Illinois, Don Rumsfeld. Now, there's consistency for you.

Rumsfeld's anti-draft activities occurred at the beginning of Nixon's first term. I was surprised to learn that Nixon had made the all-volunteer Army proposal a part of his 1968 Presidential campaign. It makes me wonder why more of the young men subject to the draft didn't vote for Nixon as a result; perhaps they thought that Dick was just being Tricky. But Nixon continued to pursue the idea quite early in his Presidency, and was consistent in supporting it strongly, sometimes against quite a bit of opposition--including opposition from the Pentagon and many Republicans.

There is evidence that if Watergate had come any earlier, the legislation to end the draft might have fallen by the wayside:

Even with major public debate and a strong White House lobbying and public relations campaign, it took until mid-1973,almost eight months after Nixon’s 1972 reelection, for Congress to end selective service. With Watergate looming more and more on the scene and Nixon’s strength with congress diminishing, the draft might still be in effect had it not been approved at that time.

Read the whole thing, as they say.


At 10:07 AM, July 02, 2005, Blogger goesh said...

Volunteering: I was in college, chasing girls, drinking beer, playing cards, sleeping in, failing. I came across a picture of a Marine, thought that it looked pretty cool and enlisted a couple of hours later. Maybe there was a bit of a sense of adventure. I didn't even think about Viet Nam nor did I feel at all patriotic. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.I suspect a fair number of young people still enlist for reasons along those lines. Once in boot camp, I learned that a number of the guys were given the choice of enlisting or doing some jail time. Now days I imagine there is the lure of being able to play with high tech gadgets, educational funding and pay that is much better than some entry level type jobs that attracts people. At the time of my enlistment, I didn't perceive any threat to America.

I've got ancestors doing military service all the way back to pre-American Revolution days. None of the geneology addresses the motives for enlistment. One item is telling however. My maternal grandfather/ancestor and his sons were militia men and Indian fighters on the Virginia frontier. At ages 14 and 15, two were posted to Ft. Moore under the command of Daniel Boone. There was a considerable amount of raiding and marauding on the part of the Indians. When grandpa John at age 16 enlisted with the Colonials to fight the Redcoats, the geneology says his mother cried. Go figure. Here he had been fighting Indians for a year already. The Redcoats were not perceived as a threat by Grandma apparently, whereas the Indians were and the sacrifice John was making was more understandable and acceptable in that context.

At 1:57 PM, July 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to what Herb Klein wrote, Messrs. Friedman and Greenspan did not veer from the field of economics in their support of an all-volunteer military. The article quotes Friedman:

“So long as compulsion is retained, inequity, waste, and interference with freedom are inevitable.

All of these are part of "economics". A key component of the end-the-draft proposal was increased military pay. This idea is a much a part of economics as is Milton Friedman's school choice ideas (first propounded fifty years ago) through educational vouchers.

At 2:55 PM, July 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point, Fred.

Perhaps Mr. Klein is a bit economics-illiterate himself :-).

At 9:55 PM, July 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestly enough, after the draft was ended, there were no further major demostrations in Washington DC.

A fact not lost on modern day policy makers.

At 11:54 PM, July 02, 2005, Blogger Kalroy said...

You might enjoy this.

It was interesting reading concerning the military in our culture.


At 11:55 PM, July 02, 2005, Blogger Kalroy said...

Hmmmm, let's try this.


At 7:38 AM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read Mona Charen's tome "Useful Idiots"? If not please do .

At 10:19 AM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul--Yes, I read "Useful Idiots" about two years ago, somewhere along the post-9/11 way. It was an excellent book.

At 10:24 AM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul--Yes, I read "Useful Idiots" about two years ago, somewhere along the post-9/11 way. It was an excellent book.

At 9:43 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Iraq was worth invading, if it's worth staying for the long haul, then it's worth drafting young men and women to the service.

There's no other way to look at it.

We can't compromise our security, that way, can we?

It's time for all Americans to participate in our defense - not just the few who volunteered (and many before Iraq who were caught by stop loss). After all, we are all benefiting from the great boost to national security that the Iraq invasion has brought to us.

At 10:17 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. NeoPatton -- please! We're also all benefitting from having trained police officers and firefighters, but don't feel ALL of us have to do a turn at those jobs.

It would be impractical and wasteful of resources. So would a draft.

What all this has to do with the war in Iraq being or not being justified is beyond me, btw.

Whether you drag that in or not -- a draft is wasteful and "nets" people who don't want to be there and are not suited to it. Volunteer armies are more effective. Whether people enlist with full knowledge of what they're doing or not, at least they KNOW they've enlisted. It gives a measure of control.


At 11:02 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you are right Post-dude. The way they characterize a draft - as if it is some insane notion that only troublemaking democrats could embrace - is really bizarre.

They run from the idea because they understand perfectly the consequences. A majority of Americans think the war a mistake. So long as it is only volunteers, who have willingly placed themselves at the disposal of the president, then the war can proceed, irrespective of the popular will. But if service is compulsory, then the people will be heard, loud and clear.

The American people are willing to accept a draft when they believe that the nation faces imminent threats. WWII, and the cold war, for example. But when the nation's leaders make the mistake of launching an unpopular war, then the draft becomes an oppresive compulsion, rather than a collective response to danger.

To the extent that they doubt the danger, they will resist the notion of a draft, lest that lack of justification become manifest, and limit the power of the president to do what he thinks right, as opposed to what the nation thinks right.

They believe in republican values after all, not democratic values. To wit - belief in the wisdom of the great leader, rather than the wisdom of the people.

At 12:37 AM, July 04, 2005, Blogger Kalroy said...

"If Iraq was worth invading, if it's worth staying for the long haul, then it's worth drafting young men and women to the service.

There's no other way to look at it."

Of course there is another way to look at it, despite your assertion to the contrary (which is just plain wrong by the way).

The problem is with your logic. Because the first part of your statement is true, it does not automatically follow that the second part is. Because A=B, it does not follow that A=C, especially in this case since just about all military caste agree that B does not equal C. In fact the opposite of your assertion is true. If, and I agree with you on this, it is true that "...Iraq was worth invading,..." and "'s worth staying for the long haul,..." then you would want the most competent force possible for both the invasion and the "staying." This means you want a modern, American type, all-volunteer force which has proven superior in training and motivation than a conscripted force. At no time since the all-volunteer concept was adopted in the US have officers been forced to keep masses of their men from deserting. This, however, was a necessity at Monte Casino, and that was during "the last good war" aka World War 2.


At 1:40 PM, July 04, 2005, Blogger chaoticsynapticactivity said...

This is a great blog...

For this discussion on draft vs volunteer, I came across this book back in 1988.

America's First Battles

A great analysis of the circumstances of each side of all our first battles...some sociology, some economics, but pretty straight forward military history.

It is almost a certainty we win the first shot out of the box with a voilunteer force. With conscripts, we get a bloody nose, dust outselves off and come back and do better.

At 7:51 AM, July 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys sound like wimps....glad none of you were around during ww2.

It will be the scared pro-war types who lose this war.


At 8:27 PM, July 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father was an Infantry platoon leader in Europe during WW II. His guys were draftees, as far as he knew.
He won't hear a single word said against his people. They never quit and he never had any trouble leading them into combat.
This is not to address the volunteer issue, but to moderate some of the views against draftees.

At 10:51 PM, February 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone keeps referring to the "interference of freedom" that results from a draft yet no one seems to understand that this "interference" is simply THE COST OF FREEDOM. Anonymous wrote that we all appreciate the need for police and firefighters but do not need to become one yet it is this attitude that has resulted in police and fire depts having recruiting problems. As someone else wrote, thank god this generation wsn't our only hope in WWII

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