A few decades ago, the draft was a requirement for any major military undertaking. No one would have dreamed of fighting the Germans and Japanese, or the North Koreans and Chinese, without calling up young men for mandatory service. Not until the waning years of the Vietnam War did the nation elect to rely entirely on volunteers.
It was a controversial step, and one whose durability was very much in doubt. But in the intervening decades, the draft has gone from being indispensable to being unthinkable. Even the extraordinary demands of two difficult wars have not induced a reconsideration.
Even the military’s leadership recognizes now that armies perform better when they’re filled with people who actually want to be there, and as Chapman points out, it’s a more efficient use of training dollars to spend them on Army careerists than on guys who’d rather be smoking pot and watching football.
If this is the extent of Chapman’s argument then I agree, but I’m not any more comforted by the fact that the military’s bombing and killing of poor people overseas are performed by people who actually want to do that sort of thing. And he ignores the fact that young men must still notify the government of their whereabouts via Selective Service in case the draft is reinstated. If the military really does not want conscripted men (and possibly women) among its ranks, why does the infrastructure for conscription still exist?
More dubious is Chapman’s concluding paragraph:
It was once a novel experiment: fielding a force to protect freedom without grossly violating freedom by dragooning young men to serve. But it’s worked so well we’ve almost forgotten there’s an alternative.
“Protect freedom” is a canard I expect from National Review, not a supposedly libertarian publication such as Reason. Few if any all-volunteer forces have ever been used to protect Americans’ freedoms, even during the Revolutionary War (see volume 4 of Murray Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty); and there isn’t a single military campaign undertaken in the past century that could be called a legitimate defense of freedom. If one wishes to sing the praises of America’s efficient, all-volunteer killers, at least one shouldn’t pretend they exist for any reason other than to satisfy the imperialist aims of the Washington elite.