If war breaks out in the Middle East and the draft is reinstated, resistance to military service could effectively end U.S. involvement, several participants in a forum said last night.
A group of approximately 20 students and other members of the Harvard community attending a forum at Phillips Brooks House last night discussed the draft and the possiblity of war. The forum was sponsored by Students Against War in the Middle East (SAWME).
"The anti-draft movement was a factor in why they ended the draft [in the Vietnam War]," said Jim Henle, a secretary at Fairchild Biochemistry Labs. "There were thousands and thousands of people in the streets...people who were in the war had a tremendous impact on people and the government began to see that things were way out of hand."
The anti-draft movement can have an impact in the Middle East crisis as well, if it is combined with other protest activities such as marches, said Anne M. Sydor, a Harvard graduate student. "That's when draft resistance makes a difference," she said.
Draft resistance "breaks this whole media blitz that there's a concensus around us," one forum participant said. "When you do this kind of thing, it does have a catalytic effect," he added.
Henle said he vividly remembers listening to the announcement of draft numbers on the radio during the Vietnam conflict. "It brought the war home very immediately to you," he said.
The United States currently has "an economic draft," Henle said. People go into the army because "they don't feel they have a way to get ahead," he said.
Some participants discussed their personal feelings about the possibility of a draft. "In this case, I don't feel like the U.S. is under any threat at all," said Benjamin D. Bernard '92. "Morally, we're in the wrong. I would definitely resist it if [a war in the Middle East] were to start tomorrow," he said.
And some participants said they thought the war was imminent.
"I'm expecting the shooting war to start very quickly," said Henle. "It's going to change everything in a tremendous, dramatic way."
"Everyone has a role to play," he said. "If it inspires everyone to organize against the draft, then so much the better."