When the levee breaks: Dissenting from the draft

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Conscription in the modern West began as a result of necessity and not by high principle. In 1793, the new French Republic faced an extraordinary peril. Its armies had lost in succession of key battles resulting to a declaration of a so-called mass levy. However, this did not amount to a permanent system of cons, that came five years later in another military crisis. While France and several other European nations instituted universal military service well before 1914, it was only after the outbreak of WWI that they again attempted anything like the mass levy. Today, the US military faces a manpower crisis, but it does not do so because the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan demand unprecedented number of troops. The army has lowered its standards to attract new recruits while rotating active duty personnel back to Iraq far more quickly than it would like to. However, even if there is a reasonable amount of troops, it is still far less than the troops in Southeast Asia and during the height of the Vietnam War. The reason for this crisis is that, few young people think that the option of social mobility through military service is worth the risk of death or maiming especially during a hugely unpopular war. As a conclusion, if there is a need to make military service more equitable and also address the very real manpower crisis, the solution is not to view a system of national service. Instead, better pay, benefits and housing should be offered to the men and women who enlist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Affairs
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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