A new generation at war rethinks the draft

April 25, 2002, midnight | By Neela Pal | 18 years, 8 months ago

Some Blazers worry a draft, if instated, would force them into a war they don't support

How far would you go to stand up for your beliefs? Would you endanger your personal safety? Sacrifice other precious freedoms? Senior Sam Horne is willing to go to jail, if he has to. Rather than being drafted into the army, a possibility only if the government declares a crisis situation, Horne is prepared to withstand imprisonment. "I know I'll never go to the army," says Horne. "I'd sooner go to jail."

Horne's anti-war mindset is not a new one for him. Long before the Sept 11 attacks, long before the threats of war, Horne had formed a decisive stance against war and violence. The unforgettable events of Sept 11 and the chaotic days that followed have only strengthened his feelings against the draft and against war. Today, Horne and others like him look warily towards an uncertain future with an increased possibility of a draft resurfacing.

Yesterday's nightmares, tomorrow's realities

On Sept 18 of last year, the U.S. Selective Service issued an official statement of its plans to leave policy unchanged despite the recent attacks. "The Selective Service System remains in a standby, caretaker status. At this time, there has been no indication from the Congress or the Administration that a return to the draft will be necessary," the system's official website reads.

The leftovers of an active draft system, the Selective Service requires nearly all 18-year-old males in the U.S. to register to be drafted if the volunteer army has deficient troops in a crisis.

Although that initial statement still holds true today, science teacher Robert Donaldson doubts whether the Selective Service's neutrality will persist. "It's pretty clear to me that after the fight in Afghanistan there can still be war, and there may be a draft. I am afraid that may happen," he says.

Despite technology advances in warfare that could eliminate the need of infantry, Donaldson believes a draft will be instated if invasion becomes necessary.

According to the U.S. Military Website, warfare has long since progressed past the time of rifle-firing and hand grenades. "In today's military, even the basic infantry is ‘high tech.' It takes a minimum of two years to turn out a trained soldier," the site reads.

But nowhere in the site are there directions as to how to deal with the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Some, like senior Matthew Harding, might argue the U.S. needs to rethink its policies. Disheartened by the repetition of what he calls "pointless" wars in history, Harding feels he is beyond even predicting what might play out in the near future. "Anything can happen. I never thought it'd go this far," he says.

Raised in a devout Quaker home, Horne is used to denouncing anything gained through violence on religious grounds.

Horne plans to register as a Conscientious Objector under the Selective Service. Those like Horne who are fundamentally against war can register under Conscientious Objection, a title which allows them to legally forgo fighting in a war.

Certain in a time of uncertainties

Horne decided to become a Conscientious Objector long before Sept 11; however, the tragedies propelled many of his vague worries about the draft to take a much sharper and scarier focus. "[We are] spending up reserves like crazy on this war on terrorism, and when reserves run out, they'll draft," he predicts.

Underlying both Horne and Harding's dislike of war is their distrust of the Selective Service system. Horne has heard enough horror stories of people being imprisoned for resisting the draft to be suspicious of the system. And Harding doesn't appreciate the subtle powers the system exercises over its participants: males who refuse to sign up for Selective Service, which is illegal, face harsh consequences, including being denied federal funding for college. "Any time [government agencies] force you to do something against your will, that's not cool," Harding explains. "And a lot of times, people sign [up for Selective Service] not knowing what they're signing away. There's a lot of fine print involved."

Peace studies teacher Joann Malone echoes Harding's distrust of the system, which she sees as a tool for the military. "The Selective Service is a way of gathering people and forcing them into the military," Malone asserts. Despite her dislike of the current system, Malone concedes it is an improvement from the time of active draft, which she worked to abolish only a few decades back. "If kids are afraid [of being drafted]," she says, "right now, legally, they have no reason to be afraid."

Donaldson is ready to express support for the system's intents, especially with the growing potential for war. "If the government fights this war properly, then I'm all for it," he says. "I see the complaints the other side has, but that doesn't justify what [the terrorists] did. Nothing can justify what they threaten to do."

Despite Donaldson's strong feelings, which reflect the mindset of many Americans seeking to defend their country, Harding refuses to label the military as popular. "I don't think a lot of people are for the draft," he says honestly. "If [the draft] was voluntary, then no one would volunteer."

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Neela Pal. Neela Pal spent a year in journalism her sophomore year, under the assumption that she would be saying goodbye to her dream of being on the newspaper at Blair. Despite these worries, she was pleasantly surprised at being accepted as a page editor. An avid … More »

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