The hugely unpopular draft was discontinued in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, and today the Army recruits soldiers for its all-volunteer force—10,000 in July, with a goal of 80,000 new soldiers this year—with offers ranging from a chance to win an iPod to a $20,000 bonus to sign-ups who can start basic training before October. But incentives might not be enough to supply soldiers for the increasingly unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute—President Bush’s “war czar”—told NPR that the draft has “always been an option on the table” and that it “makes sense to certainly consider it.”
Re-implementing the draft would be the job of Selective Service System, which already aggressively enforces registration by all young men between 18 and 25. With no current risk of being called up and the relative ease of adding one’s name to the roles, compliance is high, but newly eligible teenagers, lax in follow-through skills, are gently reminded that “[r]efusal to register is a federal crime” punishable by a fine of $250,000 and “up to 5 years imprisonment.” The form letter (below) from SSS director William Chatfield persuasively tells one 18-year old, “our objective is to register you, not to have you prosecuted.”
It may be of some comfort to the recipients of such correspondence and their parents, many of whom themselves were wary of the draft during the 1960s and early 1970s, that if the draft is reinstated, it will be “more fair and equitable” than it was during most of the Vietnam War. “There would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service.”
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