Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Should we abolish the Selective Service System? Could a draft ever happen again? What about citizen preparedness? National service?

When I was working on my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in the mid 1990s, I did communicate with the Selective Service System.  I got a copy of my own records, which did have names and SSN’s of other people on it (I doubt they would share that today, given privacy concerns).  I recall having a dinner in Ohio on a weekend trip and taking out some material that had been sent to me on it.
People can still volunteer to serve on it, and I don’t think would.  But the better question is, if we aren’t going to have a draft again, why do we even keep it?  Should there be a bill to abolish it?

Would both parties support terminating it?  Could it come up in candidate debates? Abolishing the agency could save a little money, certainly appetizing to Republicans.
Registration is still required of males 18-25.  Compliance runs about 90%.  Failure to register can lead to loss of benefits in some situations, as in this Washington Post story by Tina Griego on Oct. 14, 2014, here.   Yesterday, on my LGBT blog, I discussed the issue with respect to transgender people.

The Supreme Court did uphold the constitutionality of the male-only draft registration requirement back in 1981, in a case called Roskter v Goldberg, link.  Given today’s interpretation of gender equality, I suspect that even a conservative court might rule differently if the case were reheard. In Israel, for example, women can be drafted.
Some people say, including those in the SSS agency, that maintaining contingent ability to draft helps provide a deterrent against enemy attack.  I doubt that this makes much sense today with non-state (or quasi-state) actors like Al Qaeda and ISIS.  But a related issue is citizen preparedness, which journalist Ted Koppel covers his recent book “Lights Out”, which I reviewed yesterday on my Book Review blog.

The draft encapsulated a lot of other moral issues during my own coming of age during the Vietnam years, precisely because some people could get out of it (with student deferments), or be sheltered from combat if they had a lot of education (as I was).  Political candidates today have to answer questions about draft avoidance, and are judged by the mores of the times in which they grew up.

 During World War I, people were (unconstitutionally) prosecuted for sedition for criticizing the draft. Right after 9/11, there were calls among some, such as Charles Moskos (who had authored “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” with Sam Nunn) to resume it.  And there was brief talk of resuming it in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

In the video above, Ron Paul talked about mandatory national service, the draft, and volunteerism in 2009.

Here is a typical website calling for abolition of Selective Service.  A good topic for Veterans Day?

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