The Draft


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I was dismayed at the "creative" solution to the problem of the poverty draft as put forth by editors who disagreed with a Crimson editorial which opposed the military draft. Although creativity is a key element for the success of progressive causes in the U.S., it should not step on basic principles for which we progressives fight like peace and equality.

I see several fallacies with the opinion that progressives should favor the draft. First, we can not assume that by spreading the burden of the war buildup throughout society, people will spontaneously fight the militarism. I do believe that people in general move, struggle, and fight based upon how policies or conditions affect their material well-being. The fact that militarism objectively touches the lives of the American people in a negative way establishes the basis for broad acceptance of an anti-imperialist analysis of U.S. foreign policy.

People must see that progressive demands coincide with their best interests. However, it is possible that through jingoism, well orchestrated media campaigns, a Russian invasion of Poland, etc., people might consider the military buildup worth the sacrifices it entails. The United States has only been in one broadly unpopular war; the American people supported WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. The American people are not consolidated pacifists, and I do believe that there are situations where the majority of Americans would favor a military buildup and a war.

The dissenting editorial board members themselves speak of the need as "bolster our national defense," though they cite no specific reasons. There is no guarantee that having a family member drafted will by itself affect the consciousness of the average American family in a progressive fashion. In fact, if the U.S. could push a draft though Congress and execute a swift and clearly victorious military action (with the blessing of the press), much of the effect of the "Vietnam syndrome" would be reversed.


What we must do is fight the war buildup at every step, clearly pointing out the motives and objectives of the U.S. government in preparing the country for war. In this way we can raise the consciousness of people to the extent that they can better determine if the possibility of losing a loved one is worth a U.S. war of aggression for the oil monopolies.

I find fault with the subtle assumption in the editorial which implies that he "middle class" has not felt the effect of the war buildup, and drafting their sons will give them a taste of it. On the contrary, the war budget is dashing to the ground every middle-class dream that ever existed in America--a house, a college education, even a steady job. This is because the issue is not the military buildup but an attempt to revive a hopeless economy through militarism and make the American people pay for it. This means massive cutbacks in the standard of living of all Americans. Those 250,000--plus auto workers who are permanently laid off their jobs were once "middle class" at $11-$12 an hour. Now many have had to sell their homes and start all over, College loans are being cut backs, and the housing crunch has priced the average middle-class family out of the market. The American people are feeling the shock of the depressed economy, it is up to us to make the link between their standard of living and the Reagan Administration's war buildup. It is not up to us to find more ways to adversely affect the lives of Americans.

The shattering of the American dream makes many Americans ripe for ultra-nationalism. Economic crises usually bring extreme political polarization as individuals are desperate to find a way out of the mass in which they find themselves and their country. We can not let a major plank of the war buildup ride through uncontested and hope people conclude that militarism is not right. Again, this is why fighting the draft now, explaining the essence of U.S. foreign policy, and pointing out the causes of poverty are the best ways to achieve true democracy, peace and equality.

Finally, the military draft is not democratic. During the Vietnam era when there was a draft, a disproportionate number of minorities and working class whites died on the front lines in Vietnam. There were deferments at that time, but even without deferments, the rich boys would find some way to keep away from the action. So let's say the laws were real strict and every eligible man was drafted Right now in the army for every soldier on the front line there are approximately six non-combat people who back him up. Most of the backup jobs require a higher level of skill than the infantry man on the front line. Placement in one job or another, say computers or medical technician, is determined by a test. Many ambitious but disadvantaged young men who might otherwise be placed in a computer training program in the Army would undoubtedly be bumped from that position by one of the many college math students drafted. What I am getting at is that in the army you have the same stratification as you do in civilian life. The military draft does not bring democracy or equality to the army it merely transfers wholesale the inequalities of society to the military services.

If we capitulate to the call for a draft with the excuse that we are really fighting the poverty draft, we will do society the double injustice of not struggling against poverty and not fighting the war drive of the Reagan Administration, which may cost the lives of millions. Aaron Estis '80