Universal Military Training

After discussion, compromise, and counter-compromise that has stretched out over a period of years, a bill proposing a form of Universal Military Training has finally reached the House Rules Committee. The bill, H.R. 4278, is now pigconholed there by a six to six deadlock of the group. However, there are indications that the proponents of the measure will be able to sway to their side the one vote necessary to put the issue on the floor of the House.

The Committee must first weigh the value of the training that the bill proposes. The part that UMT will take in the shaping of the individual trainee's personality is a comparatively minor matter. Certainly six months of boredom, frustration, and close order drill will mold the conscriptee into neither a "fine upstanding youth" nor a "neo-fascist" unless he had strong tendencies in one of those directions at the outset.

There is no doubt that through UMT the country can gain an increased military reserve. But it will be a reserve only in that it has learned to live in a barracks, to overcome homesickness, to fire an M1 rifle. The talents that could be acquired in six months would be useful but hardly indispensible. In the overall picture of advanced technology and production potential the value of such meagre training is negligible.

But the Rules Committee must not stop there. It must further examine the value of UMT in terms of the United States' traditionally non-militaristic role in world affairs. Even if UMT would from a well-trained, efficient, aggressive nucleus for a future army to fight a future war, it could not heop but provide simultaneously an additional impetus to the complicated forces that are inexorably herding the world toward hostility, aggression, and unless halted, towards eventual conflict. The United States has traditionally avoided peacetime conscription. Consequently, the adoption of UMT would be tantamount to an admission that we consider peace more precarious now than it has ever been in our past. Its passage could do little in the field of foreign relations beyond irritating already unfriendly nations, and disillusioning many others.

Erasure of the portrait of America as a non-militaristic nation is too high a price to pay for a poorly prepared reserve. It is an especially prohibitive price at this time, when the nation still has a skilled force of 10,000,000 men trained in the last war.