Hate War? Then Support the Draft!

It seems counterintuitive but the fact is, if you live in a democratic society, and don’t like war, then one of the best ways to avoid it is to have a compulsory peace-time national draft. The reason why a peace-time draft reduces the risk of a nation’s going to war stems from the democratization of risk.

Perhaps the best way to explain the war dampening effect of a draft is to explain the effect of its opposite, a volunteer army. Volunteer armies make war easier to initiate because the political risk to the leaders who use them are limited. Public outrage at sending troops to battle is reduced because people can, and do, say, “Well they volunteered, they knew what they were joining.” The second reason why volunteer armies encourage wars flows from their greater military effectiveness. A volunteer army has better morale and make better soldiers for the same reasons why students who choose a course of study make better students. It is far easier to teach college students, who are there by choice, then high school students, who are there because mommy told them to go to school.

Consider a draft army. Think about how hard it would be to declare war when your army essentially represents every family in the country. Everyone will be directly affected by the decision. If the population had any doubt about the validity of the war, you can rest assured their politicians would hear about it. It must be noted that a peace-time draft army does not eliminate the possibility of going to war. It just means that the decision to go to war must meet a very high standard of popular support.

However, in light of the recent wars fought by democratic countries, it would seem that a drafted army would have removed the likelihood of a number of them from ever having been waged. Time will tell if the peace activists will seize upon this fact and begin supporting the draft. Undergraduates here and there acquire awesome book report at online essays writers site for students.

© 2007 Stephen Vantassel

  1. Hello Stephen, There is some sense in your article; but you leave out a lot too.

    Nations that have peace time drafts nearly always have standing, professional forces as well. Those forces are used, not only to fight, but to train the conscripts. It is probably necessary to have active, professional forces to train conscripts – without them conscripts would be poorly prepared and no-one wants to send inadequately trained troops into battle.

    Yes, risk is spread more widely when many families have members who can be called up. I doubt though whether this has much deterrent effect on governments set on going to war. Not only are government propaganda machines very powerful, governments often have the ability to suppress publication of information in times of declared danger. They can sometimes also manipulate the course of events in such a way as to manipulate public opinion.

    Peace activists are aware, I’m sure, that the training of troops involves conditioning them to believe that killing in wartime is normal, and that every patriotic citizen has a duty to do so when called upon by his/her government. Conscripts are frequently required to swear allegiance to a flag or constitution or fatherland or monarch or whatever – an action which takes away the right to resist or dispute call up, or disobey any “lawful command”.

    Wars that start with only the professionals fighting, frequently employ conscripts before they are completed.

    Hate war? Deal honestly and fairly with foreign nations. Deal honestly with citizens at home. Dismantle the military industrial complex.

    Sincerely, Peter

  2. I must have missed your point. First, I am referring to Western Societies. We have a free press and have had it for decades. Second, I don’t deny that a professional army will always be necessary. The issue is a draft during peace time has an incredible effect to diminish the likelihood of going to war. Think of the Iraq war for example. Do we really think that outcry would have taken so long if we had a peace time draft? I think people would have been screaming after 3 months. Just look at Israel and that was a nation that had plenty of justification to go after Hezbollah.

    So sure, war can still be declared. But the fact is with a conscript army you have a tremendous weight against use of force. Think of all the rich kids who will be in the military against their will. You don’t think daddy will lobby politicians to keep his kid out of battle?

    As for dealing honestly with foreign nations. I am not sure what you mean about this. The last few wars the west has fought that I am familiar with have been very open and honest. Fair is obviously a matter of opinion.
    What better way to diminish the Industrial military complex than to have an army of uninterested soldiers who just want to do their time and get out?

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