Draft Everybody, Man and Woman, into Army or Civilian Jobs, One Expert Proposes
updated 07/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 07/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Should the draft come back?
I don't think so. The draft is dead for two fundamental reasons. One is that in a nuclear age we don't need a large, conscripted Army, especially when weapons are so much more effective. Secondly, the population as a whole doesn't see the relevance of a draft.
What about the attitude of youth?
It would be very difficult politically to reimpose the draft. The idea of military service as an opportunity to acquire and demonstrate manly traits has declined. Young people mostly view conscription as unequal and unfair, because it takes only a small portion of each age group.
How do you view the recent request by the Army Chief of Staff for a limited draft and registration of 18-year-olds?
I think the Army is building protection for itself. That is, if anything goes wrong, they can always say, "I told you so." Still, there are very real problems to consider. The all-volunteer military force is not meeting its quotas, and the quality of recruits is poor.
Is the all-volunteer force a failure?
No, all in all it's doing fairly well, especially for the Air Force, Navy and the administrative and logistical branches of all the services. But it is smaller than anticipated, and we are short in reserves. Despite the statements of the civilian leaders in the Defense Department, we're getting people with more limited vocational background and with less competence than the men drafted before Vietnam.
What about the future?
It will be much more difficult. Today we have 2,200,000 males coming of age each year. Of that group we need roughly 400,000, or one in five. But in the next decade the number of 18-year-olds is going to diminish each year. And there is a moral and political issue: The armed forces, especially the combat units, are drawing disproportionately from low-income and minority groups.
Is the Army disillusioned with the all-volunteer force?
Until recently the Army was committed to making the situation work with great enthusiasm and energy, especially among the younger officers. But as soon as civilian critics and commentators began to talk about its failings, some of the older officers, who remember how things were under conscription, began to talk that way too.
How can the all-volunteer force be improved?
Shorten the time of service for some recruits. You could get the cream of the crop with two-year enlistments. The minimum now is three. In fact, the Army is starting to experiment with shorter enlistments. There are lots of jobs that people can be trained for quickly. After a year or 18 months they get tired and bored. They should serve and then go home or back to college.
Are there other alternatives?
First, I think we've got to make the all-volunteer military force work during the next five years. Then over the next 10 to 15 years I'd like to see that force augmented by a citizen-soldier concept of obligatory national service. Young people could choose to serve either in the military or in some other type of service. That means citizens serving their country on a universal basis—everyone goes.
Would that produce the needed personnel for the Army?
I think so, if we moved slowly. We would need a mixture of strategies. I estimate that national service personnel could make up approximately 40 percent of the military force; the rest would be volunteers and career personnel.
Do you think young Americans are ready for such a national service system?
Yes—if a young person were given the choice of going into some domestic Peace Corps-like activity or into the military. The equality and fairness of the system will make it work. Here on this campus I see more and more young people who are prepared to give one or two years to their country. But they have to be educated that going into the military does not mean making war but preventing the outbreak of a thermonuclear war.
Doesn't the Army claim we need more combat troops because of increasing global commitments?
The armed services always want more. That's normal and professional. But I think that between 600,000 and 700,000 effectively trained reserves are sufficient; others disagree. Clearly, we have to be ready for contingencies we don't anticipate.
How would you make the Army more attractive to citizen soldiers?
Pay them more and treat them differently. The armed forces harass people too much. They have them go around picking up cigarette butts. There are many ways to use soldiers in peacetime—fighting floods, as an emergency force like the National Guard, for air and sea rescue and so forth. The armed forces have to be more team-spirited, more athletic, more realistic.
How do we attract young people to national service?
One approach is to use educational benefits. Those who serve in the military will get more educational and vocational benefits; those who serve in the civilian sector will get less.
Wouldn't such a system be too expensive?
It would be costly in the short run, no question. But ultimately it's feasible, because you could get young people to do work that society needs done. For example, our hospitals are virtually unmanned: We could use 150,000 hospital workers in this country right now. The same is true of teaching. If you sent national service people into ghetto schools to work with kids on an individual basis, you'd begin to see real differences.
Would there be penalties for those who refuse to serve?
No. Just benefits for those who do serve, and nothing for those who don't. Those objecting to military service on religious, political or moral considerations could opt for civilian service. This works in West Germany. As for the hard-core opposition, let them read poetry and strum their guitars. I believe we can be a rich and powerful society while letting a few people do their thing.
What about women?
That's going to have to be settled ultimately, not by the Supreme Court, but by time. It's not a constitutional question. National service, as I see it, would be for both men and women.
At what age would young people enter national service and how long would enlistments be?
Both young men and women would be eligible at age 18, but they could delay it until approximately 24. The time should be 12 to 18 months for civilian service, and 18 to 24 months for military service.
Wouldn't most young Americans choose to serve on the civilian side?
Not necessarily. There are enough public opinion polls, plus my research and discussions on campus, to convince me there would be sufficient numbers for the armed services.
Would your system require changes in military leadership?
Yes. There are many honorable senior military men, but I believe the professional military is a young man's game. We have to rethink the entire military career length of service. It's too rigid—20 years to get retirement benefits or nothing. To lead young people you need young leadership; we should have more professional soldiers who will serve from eight to 15 years, then shift over to the civil side of government. I like the Israeli system that appoints young generals and retires them at an early age.?