By Jonathan Wen
In our previous piece, which touches on the possibility of military conscription in the U.S., I discussed the implementation of this policy as well as the philosophical flaws with it. However, the previous installation only scratched the surface of the issues with this policy. This article will address the effect of conscription on U.S. foreign policy and the issues related to the qualifications of those enlisted involuntarily.
Popularity of War
One of the rarely thought about aspects of conscription is its tendency to increase domestic resistance to war. Former U.S. Representative Charles Rangel tried to capitalize on this by pushing forward the Universal National Service Act (the name for several bills proposed in congress) in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2013.
His reasoning for this legislation was that he could stop U.S. involvement in Iraq or other countries through a draft. He believed that people would be disincentivized from supporting wars in foreign countries when they knew that it would put their family members at risk of being drafted.
Horowitz and Levendusky of the Journal of Politics in 2011 corroborate this, stating that the results of their survey experiment are due to the self-interest of those who could be drafted. One may argue that this would be beneficial and could potentially lead to more pacifistic foreign policies in the future, however this is not true.
In recent years, it has become startlingly clear that the majority of America’s youth is not willing to serve in the military. Connolly of Task and Purpose explains in 2016 that, “since the end of the draft in 1973, subsequent generations have been less and less likely to serve in the military.” Data from the Harvard Institute of Politics shows that while 60% of millennials support the use of troops against the Islamic State, a meager 15% indicated any interest in participating in the fight themselves.
The issue with this is that because so many millennials are unwilling to join the military, they will be more inclined to disapprove of any war that will put more conscripted soldiers in danger, or increase the amount of conscripted soldiers.This deterrence could lead to a large amount of inaction when national security is legitimately threatened. This means implementing conscription in the United States could easily prevent necessary actions, which are in the interest of national security, from being taken.
One of the largest issues with current recruitment faced by the military is that the large majority of people don’t meet the standards set by the military. In fact, the Pentagon found that approximately 71% of those in the correct age range for recruitment are ineligible due to their physical appearance, health, or educational background. This has two possible implications with conscription.
The first is that those who are ineligible for conscription are just not drafted or are made to do other jobs for the military. This has many issues because it would open an array of loopholes for those who want to draft dodge. For example, someone can just get a tattoo or become overweight in order to not serve overseas for months or years. According to the Military Manpower Administration of South Korea, many people purposely gain weight, get full-body tattoos, or even pretend to be insane to get out of the mandatory service in their country.
The second possible implication of this lack of qualification is that the U.S. military becomes saturated with those unfit to serve. This would present countless issues, and it would greatly disrupt the efficacy of our military. For example, it would be very difficult to successfully conduct missions with those physically or mentally unfit to serve.
Besides the philosophical issues presented in the previous article in this series, two other key issues make conscription unfit for the United States. The first is that conscription would force the U.S. to adopt an “over-paficifistic” foreign policy, decreasing the ability for the U.S. to get involved when national security is threatened. The second is that countless issues appear when investigating the qualifications of those who would be drafted. An innumerable number of those drafted would be unfit to serve, forcing the military to draft unqualified soldiers or creating loopholes to allow people to avoid being forced into joining the armed forces. Due to these aforementioned reasons, it is clear that mandatory military service should never be implemented in the United States.
Jonathan Wen is a Policy Research Fellow at the American Freedom Institute
Featured Image Credit: By Universal News – https://archive.org/details/CEP531, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14577428