rise to introduce legislation expressing the sense of Congress that the
United States government should not revive military conscription. Supporters
of conscription have taken advantage of the events of September 11 to
renew efforts to reinstate the military draft. However, reviving the draft
may actually weaken America's military. Furthermore, a military draft
violates the very principles of individual liberty this country was founded
upon. It is no exaggeration to state that military conscription is better
suited for a totalitarian government, such as the recently dethroned Taliban
regime, than a free society.
military conscription ended over 30 years ago, voluntary armed services
have successfully fulfilled the military needs of the United States.
The recent success of the military campaign in Afghanistan once again
demonstrates the ability of the volunteer military to respond to threats
to the lives, liberty, and property of the people of the United States.
weakens the military by introducing tensions and rivalries between those
who volunteer for military service and those who have been conscripted.
This undermines the cohesiveness of military units, which is a vital
element of military effectiveness. Conscripts also are unlikely to choose
the military as a career; thus, a draft will do little to address problems
with retention. With today's high-tech military, retention is the most
important personnel issue and it seems counter-productive to adopt any
policy that will not address this important issue.
helps promote an effective military, then why did General Vladisova
Putilin, Chief of the Russian General Staff, react to plans to end the
military draft in Russia, by saying "This is the great dream of
all servicemen, when our army will become completely professional...?"
of reinstating a military draft, Congress should make military service
attractive by finally living up to its responsibility to provide good
benefits and pay to members of the armed forces and our nation's veterans.
It is an outrage that American military personnel and veterans are given
a lower priority in the federal budget than spending to benefit politically
powerful special interests. Until this is changed, we will never have
a military which reflects our nation's highest ideals.
the most important reason to oppose reinstatement of a military draft
is that conscription violates the very principles upon which this country
was founded. The basic premise underlying conscription is that the individual
belongs to the state, individual rights are granted by the state, and
therefore politicians can abridge individual rights at will. In contrast,
the philosophy which inspired America's founders, expressed in the Declaration
of Independence, is that individuals possess natural, God-given rights
which cannot be abridged by the government. Forcing people into military
service against their will thus directly contradicts the philosophy
of the Founding Fathers. A military draft also appears to contradict
the constitutional prohibition of involuntary servitude.
the War of 1812, Daniel Webster eloquently made the case that a military
draft was unconstitutional:
is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it
contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents
from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war,
in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it? Under
what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first
time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down
and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty? Sir, I almost disdain
to go to quotations and references to prove that such an abominable
doctrine had no foundation in the Constitution of the country. It is
enough to know that the instrument was intended as the basis of a free
government, and that the power contended for is incompatible with any
notion of personal liberty. An attempt to maintain this doctrine upon
the provisions of the Constitution is an exercise of perverse ingenuity
to extract slavery from the substance of a free government. It is an
attempt to show, by proof and argument, that we ourselves are subjects
of despotism, and that we have a right to chains and bondage, firmly
secured to us and our children, by the provisions of our government."
eloquent opponent of the draft was former President Ronald Reagan who
in a 1979 column on conscription said:
rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy
that assumption then it is for the state not for parents, the
community, the religious institutions or teachers to decide who
shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how
in our society. That assumption isn't a new one. The Nazis thought it
was a great idea."
Reagan and Daniel Webster are not the only prominent Americans to oppose
conscription. In fact, throughout American history the draft has been
opposed by Americans from across the political spectrum,
from Henry David Thoreau to Barry Goldwater to Bill Bradley to Jesse
Ventura. Organizations opposed to conscription range from the American
Civil Liberties Union to the United Methodist Church General Board of
Church and Society, and from the National Taxpayers Union to the Conservative
Caucus. Other major figures opposing conscription include current Federal
Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman.
I ask my colleagues to stand up for the long-term military interests
of the United States, individual liberty, and values of the Declaration
of Independence by co-sponsoring my sense of Congress resolution opposing
reinstatement of the military draft.