Milbank’s Push to Restore the Draft is Misinformed

November 30, 2013

In The Washington Post, Dana Milbank argues for the restoration of compulsory military service in the United States in order to reverse a “gradual collapse of our ability to govern ourselves.”

In 33 years on the Hill, I never noticed any appreciable relationship between military service and understanding of national defense matters among Members of Congress. Dirty little secret: for most draftees, their military service went in one ear and out the other. They didn’t like it (historically most men have never liked military service), although they usually felt it was a necessary duty and were proud of it, and because they didn’t like it they had no particular desire to relive it or think about it much. For instance, only one-quarter of World War II veterans ever joined a veterans organization like the American Legion, VFW, Jewish War Veterans, and so on, and most of them didn’t stay active in the organization for a long time. Furthermore, when they do look back to their service, it has usually been between 20 and 50 years or more earlier, which can be highly misleading when dealing with current defense policies and issues. When Milbank states that having more Members with military service would change much of anything about politics and governance, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Robert L. Goldich retired from a 33-year career in the Congressional Research Service in 2005. He was the senior CRS military manpower analyst when he left. Bob is currently writing a book on conscription in history, from the first human civilizations to the present.


Image: U.S. Army

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