Student Opinion: Why Should We Keep The Draft?

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Taylor Green, Contributing Writer

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“The land of the free” is a phrase you’re familiar with if you live in America.

That motto has contributed to presidential campaigns, rallies, the enthusiasm of patriotic citizens, and it helps motivate our troops.

Everybody in the United States is free, unless you’re in jail or prison, right?

Based on the dictionary.com definition of free, which is “enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery,” and the regular dictionary definition of freedom, which is “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.),” men aged between 18-25 are not free.

They are not slaves, but they are being forced to do something against their will: register with the Selective Service for a possible draft.

If America is supposed to be the epitome of “the land of the free,” legally forcing young men to register for the draft should be a thing of the past.

A lot of 18-year-old men like myself are not even aware of our legal obligation to register for the draft and according to Tina Greigo’s article in the Washington Post, “the price for failure to register is high and is largely born by the men who can ill afford to pay it: high school dropouts, disconnected inner city residents, ex-offenders and immigrants–legal and unauthorized–who do not know that failure to register can jeopardize citizenship.”

In other words, those who most need the help with education and job training the most are particularly affected negatively by this law. The lack of knowledge when it comes to registering for the draft may simply be because it has been more than 40 years since the United States last draft. So why set up these barriers for young men when a draft is so unlikely in the first place?

Barriers for failing or refusing to register for the draft include not being able to work federal jobs, apply for financial student aid, or even to get a driver’s license. Additionally, according to the Selective Service, if you refuse to go to war after being selected for the draft you may be “prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to five years. If you’re an immigrant to the U.S., you will not be eligible for citizenship.” This type of dynamism of ‘jail or war’ is not only the opposite of free, it is inhumane.

People have been suffering consequences for not registering for the draft for no valid reason for generations, given it has been over 40 years since America has utilized the draft.

The last draft was in 1973, but people like the director of the Selective Service, Lawrence G. Romo argue in defense of forcing young men to legally register for the draft when he says: “We are a deterrent. We want to make sure our adversaries understand that if we have an extreme national emergency, we would have the draft… we need to have some type of penalty in order to help us get that compliance.”

Image via wearethemighty.com

 

Although I agree the United States of America should appear strong to their enemies, I feel it is much better to be strong than appear to be strong. Romo’s argument pales in comparison to the enormous number of young men who have lost opportunities for failing to register for the draft in the last 40+ years since the last draft.

Greigo’s article goes on to add that in California alone, “…the Selective Service System estimates, men who failed to register were denied access to more than $99 million in federal and state financial aid and job training benefits between 2007 and April of this year. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts saw $35 million in combined lost benefits between 2011 and spring 2014.”

These men and many more across the country have suffered these past 40+ years for no valid reason. It is unfair, and it is unjust.

In an opinion piece on Listverse, writer J. Francis Wolfe also argues in defense of the draft. Wolfe makes a great point when they suggest that the draft creates an increase awareness of foreign policies. “With a draft that potentially affects the entire population, the American government would have to be much more discerning in its military strategy. Voters would pay more attention to their elected representatives’ positions on foreign policy and may elect less hawkish politicians to avoid unnecessary military action that might put them or their family members in harm’s way.”

This would be a valid point if the draft was for all American adults. The draft is specifically for every male between the ages 18 and 25. The most ironic thing about Wolfe’s argument in support of the under-21 years old men being mandated to register for the draft is the fact that they would be fighting for a country that has not taken into account their beliefs yet.

Because people under the age of 18 cannot elect representatives or a president yet, and because a president’s term in the United States is a minimum of four years and as many as eight years, when a country goes to war it is the older adults who voted for the president and Congress who declared war; perhaps the older citizens should be forced to deal with the consequences of that war.

Not only does the draft discriminate against the youth, the draft is unfair towards men specifically. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, in “Women Should Have to Register for the Draft” makes a strong and valid argument when she points out that “the legal grounds for their exclusion from Selective Service are no longer valid. With women cleared for combat roles… the military for which women would be registering is now a more equitable institution. Women shoulder similar burdens to men throughout the military bureaucracy. That’s one reason the Navy and the Marine Corps are now reviewing job titles to consider making them gender-neutral.”

Image via Argunners Magazine
The young faces of the Vietnam war.

Like most of us, I have a mom. I also have four older sisters who inspire feminism by advocating for women to be equal socially, politically, economically and legally to men. Just as I empathize with women and would never want my sisters to have to go into the draft, they wouldn’t want their brother to be forcibly taken away from the family. I would never want young mothers and sisters to bear the agony and anxiety of registering for the draft. But with current laws and equal rights it is only fair that young fathers or brothers not have to deal with the fear of being drafted by the military, either.

Many supporters of the draft contend the shared experience would unite classes and cultures. According to Noel Koch, the man who wrote the proposal ending the military draft while serving as speechwriter in the Nixon White House, “The military did more to advance the cause of equality in the United States than any other law, institution, or movement.”

But America is already the Mecca of integration known as the “melting pot,” which in this case is way more accurate than the “land of the free.”

There are plenty of nontraumatic experiences that can further unite cultures in the United States. Activities like sports, going to camp, music concerts, or even school are great examples on how the United States practices uniting cultures. Going into the military is not necessary when it comes to helping unite classes and cultures in America because citizens do exchange cultures daily here in America already. Freedom of lifestyle is how you express culture, but the military would only limit that freedom of expression. And according to The Atlas Society, individualism is what unites America.

While commenting on a quote from Thomas Jefferson about the pursuit of happiness, The Atlas Society says “America is rightly described as the land of the individual-of individual opportunity, of individual initiative, of individual rights.”

When you consider debates communities like the Atlas Society make, forcing young men to register for the draft is stripping away their individualism. When you take away individualism it is impossible to unite cultures.

Although people who support young men’s requirement to register for the draft make great points, their arguments are flawed. Signing up for the draft could possibly create unity for cultures and classes for young Americans, but it is not the most efficient way because it can also come with negative effects and we already continue to build unity through different avenues granted to us in this country.

Image via US Army

The fact that strong and healthy men above the age of 25 are not legally required to register for the draft but men 25 and younger are is age discrimination. Because women are now able to partake in every combat role in the military that men are, yet are not required to register for the draft is sex discrimination. There has not been a draft in over 40 years but requiring men to continue to register creates unnecessary anxiety and stress.

The United States of America should be ashamed for forcing 18-20 year old boys to register for the draft, considering they are still developing and cannot even legally buy an alcohol beverage in a bar.

It is blatantly clear that young men should be treated equally to every other group of adults.

A woman’s life is not more worthwhile or valuable than a man’s life.

An older man’s life is not more worthwhile or valuable than a young man’s life.

To be equal every adult should be legally required to register for the draft. But it would be much more reasonable and convenient to just stop obligating the 18-25-year-old males to sign up.

Then, America can truly be the land of the free.

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