Like many believers in peace, I opposed the draft in principle, but I don't think I grasped the human face of it until recently. My brother had just turned 18, and I realized that he would have to sign up for the selective service. I had to sit down and tell him he was required by law to give his information to the state, in order to make it easier for them to take him by force to kill other human beings far away. I myself had to sign up for the selective service years ago and had thought nothing of it, yet somehow the thought of my soft-spoken, easy-going brother being taken into the military infuriated me.
I'm using the term “taken” rather than the usual propagandist terms for drafting like “called to service.” Such terms are meant to hide the coercive nature of the draft. Typically when a private group or person takes peaceful people by force we call it kidnapping, and if they were to force the victims to work for them, we call it slavery. Yet our moral intuitions are somehow compromised when the state does these very things in the name of war.
I had to tell my brother to sign up to be enslaved. Oppression is bad enough. War is bad enough. It's worse when you have to take part in it.
It could be argued that I'm overreacting: after all, we haven't had a draft since Vietnam. It seems like the specter of massive protests and sit-ins would be enough to deter the government from ever implementing it. However, these concerns have not deterred Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) from introducing a bill mandating “universal service” for all military-aged citizens. If anything, it's encouraged him. Rangel thinks a draft would give citizens more of a stake in war, thus making the United States more careful about military conduct. Daniel Gallington—a former policy official of the Office of the Secretary of Defense--notes that history proves otherwise, writing in U.S. News and World Report, “we should remember that of the over 58,000 killed during the Vietnam War, almost 40,000 were 20-years-old and younger and over 33,000 were just 18—and mostly draftees! The historical lesson here seems contrary to Rangel's basic premise and assumption.”
Even if the draft did increase anti-war protests, reinstating it for that purpose would make about as much sense as reinstating segregation to increase protests against racism. It's counterproductive. Furthermore, the push by Rangel and certain feminists to make the draft more egalitarian makes it worse, not better. Equal application of a bad action only increases the victims of that action. A good literary depiction of this would be the raffle in the Hunger Games, in which one boy and one girl from each district are mandated to kill other boys and girls from other districts. Equality is good when it's the equal application of a good principle. It is horrific to the entire population when it is the equal application of a bad principle. The selective service does discriminate based on sex, but the way to get rid of that inequality is to abolish selective service, not extend military slavery to young women as well.
I'm not a father yet. With that in mind, I have given a goal to myself: to never have to tell my son or daughter that he or she must sign up to be kidnapped. Now, more than ever, I feel compelled to abolish this threat of human bondage that the state holds over the populace. The draft may not be as brutal as African slavery, but the abolition of one should certainly be viewed as having the same virtue as the abolition of the other.