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Was ending the draft a mistake?

Few probably recall the name Dwight Elliott Stone. But even if his name has faded from the national memory, the man remains historically significant. That's because on June 30, 1973, the 24-year-old plumber's apprentice became the last American forced into the armed services before the military draft expired.

Though next month's 40-year anniversary of the end of conscription will likely be as forgotten as Stone, it shouldn't be. In operations across the globe, the all-volunteer military has been employed by policymakers to birth what Gen. George Casey recently called the "era of persistent conflict." Four decades later, we therefore have an obligation to ask: How much of the public's complicity in that epochal shift is a result of the end of the draft?

There is, of course, no definitive answer to such a complex question. However, a look back at some lost history shows that today's public acquiescence to militarism was exactly what the government wanted when it ended the draft.

That loaded term -- "militarism" -- was, in fact, a prominent part of the 1970 report by President Nixon's Commission on an All-Volunteer Force. In its findings, the panel worried about "a cycle of anti-militarism" in a nation then questioning America's increasingly martial posture.

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