By Courtney Skelly
Rumors circulated via e-mail in 2004 that Congress planned to reinstate the military draft by 2005, without the possibility of using college as an exemption.
If a military draft were implemented today, would our generation have a different response than past generations?
“No freaking way would a Baylor student willingly serve,” said a Baylor student headed for military service after graduation who wished to remain anonymous. “They’d run to daddy and beg for him to make the government let them out of the draft.”
Junior Army ROTC cadet Brian Crookshank agreed.
“Our generation is the wimpiest generation yet; we’ve had everything handed to us,” Crookshank said. “The draft is good because it forces people to be part of something bigger than themselves. If they’re selfish, they don’t make it.”
In addition to maturing the generation, cadets said service in the armed forces would give young adults a different take on life.
“Military training and those kinds of experiences have a way of changing your perspective,” junior Air Force cadet Caleb Lyons said. “They would be more appreciative for the freedoms that they do have and see how blessed they are compared to others, who joined the military out of necessity. The military is a great equalizer.”
Other students, however, said military plans imposing a mandatory draft without a college exemption could be detrimental to the welfare of the troops.
“The reason our military is as good as it is is because it’s all voluntary,” junior Air Force cadet Luke Dempsey said. “People won’t want to be there, so they will start causing problems to get discharged or court marshaled.”
The Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War all have one factor in common — a mandatory military draft.
Some Baylor students believe a draft would be impossible to effectively implement in 21st century America.
“World War II is known as the ‘good war,’” Dr. Michael Parrish, Baylor history professor, said. “And that was because the country was … so united and our enemy was so obvious. All big wars, save World War II, were controversial.”
U.S. military conflicts since 1945 have lacked both a defined enemy and a clear and present danger, arousing widespread public dissent, Parrish said.
Statistically, more soldiers were drafted in World War II than in the Vietnam War. In World War II, roughly 66 percent of soldiers were serving due to the draft, with the remaining soldiers volunteering.
In the Vietnam War, these statistics were completely reversed, with 66 percent of soldiers volunteering their services. Public dissent against the war and the draft, however,was epidemic.
“Since World War II, beginning in the ’50s and picking up steam rapidly in the ’60s, there’s more emphasis on individualism,” Parrish said. “We’ve become very skeptical of authority, not that we haven’t always been, and we’re more skeptical than in the past. We are more and more a consumer culture.”
Today, the United States utilizes guerrilla warfare against a clandestine enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, similar to the Vietnam War.
Dempsey thinks there has been a noticeable change in the mindset of draft-age individuals.
“America has really grown to be an entitled society. It’s no longer about backing the country; it’s about self-interest for a lot of people. No one is personally gaining from the war in Iraq, so there’s no reason to be there, is the mentality,” Dempsey said.
Parrish agrees the war lacks a personal gravity in the minds of the American public.
“Unless you have family, friends or some kind of other loved person at stake, people who are actually there, then I pretty much get the idea that it’s not as urgent,” Parrish said. “This war doesn’t have the same urgency [as past wars].”
How would Generation Y react to a draft actually being implemented?
“The purpose of the draft is to fulfill a need for numbers, to meet a quantitative need versus a qualitative need,” Lyons said. “So, in that regard, a draft would do what it’s meant to do.”
Hong Kong Graduate student and Baylor Army ROTC Battalion executive officer Henry Chan believes the draft could have a more detrimental effect on top of losing quality troops.
“When a soldier’s heart isn’t into the fight, it gets other soldiers killed. Call me pessimistic, but I just don’t think our nation is capable of handling that type of duty anymore,” Chan said.