The Draft is the informal American name for conscription and refers to the induction of young men (and in some countries, women) into military service. States employ conscription when they cannot induce sufficient numbers of recruits to join miltiary services through either or both patriotism and the offer of salaries and employment benefits.
In the United States the process of being drafted has not changed. Men between the ages of 18-26 receive a letter with the salutation "Greetings from the President". They will be given a place and time to report for induction, by which time they are expected to have their affairs in order, because they will go directly from the induction center to Army basic training or Marine boot camp (the Air Force and Navy do not usually accept draftees).
They will then be tested, examined for various illnesses and classified. Among the reasons for being classified unfit for service are mental illness, chronic physical illness, rashes and skin disease and homosexuality. This is not a mere question and answer session. Doctors will check to see if you have recently had anal or oral sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
If someone feels they are being wrongly inducted into the service, they can appeal to their draft board.
Draft boards are made up of local citizens over the age of 21 and who are NOT members of the reserve or National Guard. Some draft boards have liberal exemption standards, others do not. But they decide who is drafted and who isn't. The military only decides if they're fit for service.
Once drafted, the usual term of service is two years. The reason people avoided the draft, and more men enlisted than were drafted in Vietnam, was to maintain the choice of military occupational speciality. There was a fear that draftees would be assigned to combat units regardless of their abilities.
There is still compulsory military service in most Continental European countries and in Israel (Israel has a draft for men AND women). The draft was phased out in France at the end of the 90s. Britain ended compulsary 'National Service' in 1960, the first European nation to do so. France was the first country to introduce the draft, as opposed to forced enlistment (pressgangs), in 1789. Germany is in the process of phasing out its draft. Prior to the draft, soldiers were sometimes kidnapped off the streets by recruiters and forced into the military for long terms of service. The draft drew from a much wider segment of society and got much better soldiers than the crooks and drunks then forced into service. The American Continental Army was then first all-volunteer force of the modern era.
Military conscription has been around as long as states have existed. The first recorded articulation of the idea that conscription might be illegal under the law of war is found in Hugo Grotius's The Law of War and Peace (Book 3). He wrote that a soldier forced into battle may not be rightly killed. This idea was part of a larger theme in the work of the great international legal theorist that harm to innocents was unacceptable in war.
In the United States conscription appeared during the Civil War to boost both Union and Confederate military strength. This was wildly unpopular, causing riots in the north, notably in New York among recent Irish immigrants. Poor southern whites tended to respond to the obvious inequities of Confederate conscription (why should they willingly fight and die for the right of rich whites to own slaves?) by desertion, in some cases desertion to join the Union Army.
Charles Moskos, the preeminent historian of the US draft notes that it has never brought about class equality in service. The working class and poor have born a disproportionate share of the risk since the formation of the Continental Army.
Draft resistance and avoidance has waxed and waned with the popularity of the war. During the Civil War, three days of riots broke out in New York City, when Irish immigrants attacked African-Americans and hung them from street lamps. It took New York and Pennslyvania units off the battlefield of Gettysburg to quell what later became known as the draft riot
Protesters objected to the $300 exemption, which only the rich could afford. Eventually, New York City offered to pay the fee for those who didn't want to serve.
The draft became les controversial when African-Americans enlisted en masse in the Union Army. Over 180,000 African-Americans enlisted in the Union Army and the intergrated Union Navy, lessening the need to draft white immigrants. The vast majority, over 90 percent of the Union Army, enlisted freely and most stayed past their three year enlistments to finish the war. The draft, overall, was a minor issue, and barely affected the bulk of the Union Army.
The Confederacy also employed conscription and suffered from widespread draft resistance. Many mountain areas in the South were bases for pro-Union guerrillas and deserters from the Confederacy. Many poor white souhterners were smart enough to know that their political interests did not lie with the rich white slave-owning Confederate elite. Despite a large pool of black slave labor, only two companies of black troops were formed (a company is 200 men) at the very end of the war, in exchange for their freedom.
Most Southern blacks who fought in the civil war escaped north and served with the Union Army. Desertion and draft avoidance would plague the South until the end of the war.
Conscription was used in all four major wars: First World War, Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. There was widespread opposition to conscription during the First World War because of the unpopularity of the war. The peace movement during the Vietnam War led to the ending of miltiary conscription in the United States.
The draft in World War II was started in 1940 amd was extended by one vote in 1941. The draft was for all services, Army (including the Army Air Forces) Navy, and Marines. Over 12 million men and women served in the US Armed Forces in World War II, over 400,000 died, 257,000 in combat.
World War II was the only war during which serious negative social stigma attached to avoiding the draft. Refusing to serve or seeking Concientious Objector (C.O.) status was frowned upon during and in the decades following the war. Instead, there were suicides when men where rejected for service. Men begged their draft boards to get inducted, because the stigma of being classified 4F was too great to bear for many.
The Vietnam Draft had two major anomalies which forced changes in the system. College deferments, fatherhood deferments and disqualifying injuries exempted many middle class men from service in Vietnam. The National Guard, which was only deployed to Vietnam in limited numbers, also served as a safe haven for those seeking to avoid combat duty.
The lesser known exception was Project 100,000. The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) places servicemen in five catagories, the lowest, IV and V are usually exempted from service for being too stupid to serve. But in 1966, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided to draft these men, in order to give them useful skills and improve their literacy. Instead, most were shoved into combat units, leading to decreased effectiveness. In 1970, the draft was changed to a lottery, with far fewer exemptions, and is still presently the system we have today.
It wasn't until the Vietnam War that people began to object to the draft in a serious way. While some people had tried to avoid service in Korea, the use of National Guard units and a widespread use of reserves provided no safe harbor, despite the war's unpopularity.
Another anamoly involved the introduction of the draft lottery by the Nixon administration on December 1, 1969. Like so much else that that Republican administration touched it went very very wrong. People intuit when a procedure is not fair because not actually random. The draft lottery designed by the geniuses running Selective Service involved picking capsules from a rolling drum, each of which had a date. If you were a young man born on that date you were likely to be “called up” to fight in Vietnam. What many Americans quickly noticed was that dates late in the year showed up much more frequently than dates earlier in the year. Problem: the month by month sequence with which the capsules were added to the drum meant that later dates remained on top and were more likely to be pulled from the drum.
S89 has been introduced in the Senate to reintroduce the draft. It is pretty much Dead On Arrival, as is a similar bill in the House, HR163. Some alarmist have claimed that the Bush administration is secretly plotting to reinstate the draft but there is little evidence of this aside from increased recruitment of civilians for draft boards by the pentagon.
It should be noted that the current military leadership dislikes the draft and is much happier with the all volunteer force (AVF). This gives them the ability to pick who will enlist, remove those unsuited for military service without stigma or penalty, and reject those with criminal records. Upto 1973, judges often offered enlistment in the military as an option instead of a prison sentence. This is now prohibited by law.
Military recruitment requires immense effort by a sdmall army of recruiters to meet the manpower requirments of the U.S. military. For example, the Navy needs an estimated 55,000 recruits per year. With the resources allocated (recruiters and advertising budget) the number of potential recruits that the Navy can identify that are both eligible to enlist and want to enlist is significantly less than the annual recuitment targets. The problems with recruitment are most severe in the two services whose members are most likely to suffer combat casualties, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. When targetting economically vulnerable or emotionally vulnerable eligible recruits fails to meet quotas, some miltiary recruiters have attempted to meet their goals with fraud. In several extreme cases, the autistic have been recuited. Military decision-makers have attempted to make up shortfalls by lowering eligibility requirements. In August 2006 the age ceiling was raised to 41 and the physical requirments lowered. As is true of many other miltiary establishments with military manpower shortages, foreigners are also being recuited with the promise of citizenship.
- Background on Selective Service
- Selective Service Home Page -- includes a link for persons who wish to volunteer for their local draft board.
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Military conscription or the draft is the coercive induction of individuals into military service. The state uses its coercive power to compel enlistment into the armed forces. The target population for conscription is usually healthy young men of normal intelligence but states engaged in long wars often look to other populations for their cannon fodder: women, older men and adolescent boys, prison convicts or those pardoned from prison through enlistment, the mentally deficient, foreign residents and prisoners of war.
States typically adopt polcies of miltiary conscription when voluntary enlistments evaporate during long wars.