A military draft requires people of a certain age to serve in the armed forces even if they don’t want to do so. Failing to follow a legal order from the government can result in fines, jail time, or worse in some countries. The obligation to serve if asked was an accepted feature of life in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, but then shifting attitudes toward war changed that approach afterward.
Conscription in the United States ended in 1973 as the Selective Training and Service Act expired, but the Selective Service System remains in place to provide the American government with a contingency plan. All mean between the ages of 18-25 must register so that a draft can readily resume if needed. Federal law also provides for compulsory conscription of men between the ages of 17-45 and certain women.
The advantages and disadvantages of the military draft are essential to consider as the political stage grows colder. Relationships between the U.S. and Russia are at their lowest point in nearly 30 years. The War on Terror and other conflicts continue to wage on. Is it still the best idea to run with an all-volunteer military today?
List of the Advantages of the Military Draft
1. It is an equitable way to require public service.
When a military draft is in place, then it becomes an equitable approach to requiring services in the armed forces. Specific classes of individuals are less likely to evade their fundamental civic responsibilities with this approach. Although there would be exceptions for higher education or medical conditions, it isn’t as easy to purchase your way out of service when a draft is in place. That means it is easier for everyone to see each other as fellow countrymen instead of separating one another because of their unique demographics.
2. A draft communicates the seriousness of a country’s commitments.
Joining NATO might send a message to Russia or other provocateurs that you have allies as a country, but then failing to have a military in place to protect your borders communicates that you take security less seriously. Instituting conscription makes it easier to reaffirm commitments on the international stage to every ally, giving pause to those who might be thinking about a proactive first strike.
3. It creates a body of reservists that can augment the current military.
When a country institutes a military draft, then it is creating a series of personnel replacements that can immediately serve when needed. It provides a large number of highly-trained reservists who can augment the fighting forces with their expertise. This advantage also allows for a quicker reinforcement during mobilization.
Competitive mobilization is a determining factor when evaluating potential conflicts with other nations. It isn’t the speed at which a minimal number of forces can reach a specific destination. It is how fast trained, well-equipped forces can respond to dangerous situations. The Soviets eventually defeated Germany in World War II because they could keep sending in units as fast as others were getting destroyed.
4. A military draft creates more interest in performing actions for public welfare.
Even though the idea of a military draft is scary, there are numerous activities that everyone performs that are in the public interest. Most of those activities require individual sacrifices to provide for the common good. Some examples of these civic duties include paying taxes, jury duty, and volunteering time at local public schools.
A military draft is another one of those sacrifices, even though the government mandates it. By putting personal needs aside for a specific time, usually 2-4 years with the current structure, it is possible to gain life experiences and vocational knowledge. These advantages can help everyone start creating the personal successes they want in life.
5. A public identity forms under the umbrella of a military draft.
When everyone must have their name put into the conscription hat, then there is a feeling of collective identity that the government can create throughout the nation. Each person has a sense of national purpose that helps to define their choices and actions.
One of the advantages of democracy is that there is more freedom, diversity, and debate. These are not available in governments that follow other control structures. The military draft creates common ground for everyone so that even in the fiercest debate, there is always a level of commonality present in the conversation. That’s how we get to a place of compromise.
6. A military draft allows the government to meet specific domestic needs.
A government must meet several domestic responsibilities to serve the general public. Many of these activities occur through its military, such as a building project from the Army Corps of Engineers. You will find people on active duty who help during natural disasters, volunteer to maintain community lands, and offer assistance at local hospitals. The military draft ensures that there are enough people available to meet these local needs so that international governments can’t wage war as a way to take resources.
7. It enhances the defensive capabilities of a country.
When the armed forces of a government have highly-trained soldiers and sailors ready for conflict, then it becomes more challenging for a foreign state to invade. Even if a declaration of war occurs and battles are fought on the homeland, a military draft allows for additional resources to get into the fight.
People come from many different qualifications, contributing numerous skills to the military that might not be accessible in an all-volunteer force. That diversity makes the protective posture more powerful, which makes it simpler to defend one’s way of life.
8. A military draft requires the government to be more accountable for its actions.
When there is a military draft in place, then more families are directly connected to the daily operations of their government. The relatives of a draftee stay vigilant when reviewing current events so that they understand how safe their loved one is during any given circumstance. There is a notable desire to learn more about the threats that their government is attempting to fight, providing an opinion that offers more support.
This level of interaction keeps elected officials accountable for their choices at the same time. That means more soldiers and sailors can eventually come home because of this advantage.
9. Military service gives each person a unique support network.
When you serve in the military honorably in any way, then you are an automatic member of one of the most respected organizations on the planet. This select group of people share stories, provide help, and offer encouragement wherever your orders take you. That means you have a family at almost every destination.
Your status in this brotherhood and sisterhood is something that no one can ever take away. This membership can even come with certain benefits, like a job offer, and financial incentives like the GI Bill that can make your life a lot easier.
10. It reduces the financial pressure of armed services support.
When a military draft is active, then the act of conscription is cheaper than encouraging volunteers to sign up for service. Tens of thousands of dollars get paid to new recruits under the current structure of the U.S. military. That money could go somewhere else if service was mandatory. The government can pay conscripts less than it does officers and some volunteers, which means it is cheaper to maintain an active fighting force with this method.
11. Family benefits are possible under some military draft structures.
Most nations provide instant eligibility for full healthcare benefits and insurance for the person serving in the military because of a draft. Their immediate family members receive inclusion in this coverage. This advantage typically stays in place during the entire time spent serving in the military.
If a conscript were to decide to stay on active duty until their retirement, then it is often possible to take these benefits with you as you return to civilian life. There might also be additional temporary benefits available in special circumstances, such as being stationed in an active conflict zone.
12. It is an opportunity to see the world.
A military draft might not be the best way to start a career for some people, but it can be a fantastic way to see the world. The U.S. armed forces have places at Disney World, Hawaii, and other coastal locations where you can get some rest and relaxation on approved downtime. When you receive your orders, there are several international bases where you might be stationed after completing your basic training. It is even possible at times to get on a hop for free if you’re going in the same direction.
If you have always wanted to travel, the idea of a military draft is one that can offer a lot of advantages.
13. There are opportunities to rise in the ranks.
Conscription doesn’t mean you get stuck at the lowest levels of rank for the rest of your life. You can earn promotions during your service that bring better pay and additional responsibilities. These traits can also translate into opportunities in the civilian world after you finish your contract.
Some people can even have their undergraduate degree completed after their time in the service because of the expertise they show to their superiors. If given a choice between hiring someone straight from college or an individual with 2-3 years of practical experience, most hiring managers choose the latter option.
List of the Disadvantages of the Military Draft
1. People can still refuse to serve in the military even when a draft occurs.
There are individuals in every nation who will not support a conscription order, no matter what the government proposes to do to that person.
Up to 500,000 people broke the law that required registration for military service in the United States when conscription was active. Out of that number, about 25,000 of them were indicted on charges for their choices. Courts awarded about 9,000 convictions, and approximately one-third of them served jail time because of it. Harris was given a 3-year sentence.
2. A military draft eliminates the concept of personal freedom.
About 12,000 people used a conscientious objector option during the 1940s in the United States when conscription was mandatory. Most countries do not offer this choice and those that do usually require a specific payment to avoid being accountable for military service.
The idea of having freedom is rooted in the belief that making your own decisions is better than having someone dictate your choices. A military draft means that a person’s liberty is placed on hold so that the independence of other people receive protection because of their military service.
3. The government demands that people risk their lives for a governmental cause.
There is a risk that your life could be in danger because of a military draft. That is why some individuals refuse to serve, even if that means they go to prison for several years. Although the total number of Americans killed in battle is less than 1.5 million throughout U.S. history, three conflicts are responsible for almost all of the casualties: the Civil War, World War II, and World War I.
Vietnam and Korea were responsible for over 50,000 casualties each. If you were ordered to serve in these battles, then there was a possibility that you weren’t returning home. This disadvantage is a significant risk that people consider in any country that has an active military draft.
4. A military draft brings people who are not physically fit to basic training.
There are mental, physical, and spiritual reasons why some individuals are not fit for military service. South Korea recognizes this disadvantage of a military draft by incorporating a seven-point grading system to each person. This system dictates what ratings are available when someone is old enough or fit enough to serve. The first three grades of this structure require automatic enlistment.
The other grades provide specific information. Grade 4 is an indication that the physical or psychological status of the individual is not healthy enough for active training so that that person would receive direction toward supplemental services. Grade 5 is for those who are incapable of entering active service. Then Grade 6 indicates the presence of disease or physical incompetence.
5. It can compromise the current status of the military.
Compulsory military service takes people who typically don’t want to be soldiers and makes them begin to serve anyway. There were only 174,000 soldiers in the U.S. Army in 1939 before the start of World War II. Before the end of 1945, there were 8 million men and women serving. Most of them were draftees who had never traveled outside of the borders of their home state.
Platoons sleep, eat, and learn together. Their hours of physical fitness happen as a group. Small mistakes create challenging physical penalties for everyone. Many people drafted during this era remember this time as a transformative event, but not everyone came away with needed skills. If there are too many insufficiently trained soldiers hitting the battlefield, then this disadvantage compromises the readiness status of the armed forces.
6. A military draft creates another layer of governmental bureaucracy.
There must be a governmental bureaucracy that supports the administrative end of the armed forces whenever an active military draft occurs. These services are almost always less efficient than what one finds in the private sector. Since the government doesn’t have the same need to create a profit, it takes more effort and resources to provide support. That is why a volunteer fighting force tends to be more effective when looking at the final return on the investment.
7. It can prevent some people from obtaining a post-graduate education.
The American Selective Service System has gone through numerous changes since the 1970s. The military draft was improved in 1971 so that a student deferment was possible if you were enrolled in full-time classes and making “satisfactory progress.”
You could continue to go to school and be deferred from the military draft until you were too old to qualify. Now college students can have their orders postponed only until the end of their current semester. Only those in the final year of their program have the option to get a postponement until the end of their academic year.
Most people have the choice to serve or face criminal charges when they consider the advantages and disadvantages of a military draft. Americans can claim status as a conscientious objector, but they must also provide evidence that they have felt that way about war for a significant time.
Some people see military service as a moral obligation. Others view the issue as the government forcing them to put their lives on the line for a cause they might not respect.
It is rare for a country to survive for a long time without an active military. Americans might not have a military draft to face today, but Selective Service is still mandatory. When a government is ready for anything, then it is easier to defend our homes and families from those who want to take those things away.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.