• Email
  • Single Page
  • Print

The Draft and Its Opposition

The Draft? A Report Prepared for the Peace Education Division of the American Friends Service Committee

Hill and Wang, 112 pp., $1.25

How to End the Draft: The Case for an All-Volunteer Army

Congressmen Horton, Schweiker, Shriver, Stafford and Whalen, edited by Douglas Bailey, edited by Steve Herbits
National Press, 145 pp., $2.95

Bitter Greetings

by Jean Carper
Grossman, 205 pp., $5.00

The New Draft Law: A Manual for Lawyers and Counsellors

edited by Ann Fagan Ginger
National Lawyers Guild, 140 pp., $10.00

1001 Ways to Beat the Draft

by Tuli Kupferberg, by Robert Bashlow
Grove, n.p., $0.75

How to Stay Out of the Army: A Guide to Your Rights Under the Draft Law

by Conrad J. Lynn
Monthly Review and Grove Press, 130 pp., $1.25

Why the Draft: The Case for a Volunteer Army

by James C. Miller III, et al.
Penguin, 197 pp., $1.25

National Lawyers Guild Practitioner, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Summer, 1967): Special issue on Selective Service

National Lawyers Guild, 53 pp., $1.00

Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada

edited by Mark Satin
House of Anansi (Toronto), 128 pp., $1.00

The Draft: A Handbook of Facts and Alternatives

edited by Sol Tax
University of Chicago, 497 pp., $12.95

During the last few years critics have been calling for reforms of the draft or for its end, some suggesting in its place either a volunteer army or a system of national service. The Marshall Commission Report, 1 for example, proposed ending college deferments and calling men by lottery, rather than through the idiosyncratic decisions of some 4,000 local draft boards. In the current political campaign, each candidate has had at least to acknowledge the widespread hostility to the draft by proposing major revisions (as Rockefeller did when he called for a lottery) or its eventual elimination (as Nixon and Kennedy have done—to begin after the war, to be sure). But the draft has continued, substantially unaltered, largely because it permits the President to wage war by administrative decree.

The recent debate in the Foreign Relations Committee about manpower needs in Vietnam illustrates how the draft works to bypass Congressional restraints. Congressmen talked not of the draft’s imperfections, nor of the draft at all, but demanded that they be “consulted” this time before more men were sent to Vietnam. President Johnson’s “task force” study of the Selective Service System was completed last December but is still unpublished. It is no secret, however, that it emphasizes the Administration’s unwillingness to reform the System. When asked to “review and compare with the present structure” the report of the Marshall Commission, former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, former Budget Director Charles Schultze, and the present sss head Lewis B. Hershey all voted their confidence in the present system.

For several years, small but vocal numbers of college students opposed to the war have debated their privileged position within the inequitous system. Theirs was, to begin with, a moral dilemma: how could they allow others—especially the “underprivileged”—to bear the cost of the war? Should they retain their student deferments or declare their opposition to the war by renouncing them? Not surprisingly, most students avoided that dilemma; for them it meant only feelings of guilt, on the one hand, and the possibility of prison on the other. Although 158 members of “We Won’t Go” groups burned their draft cards in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow a year ago, most college students, if they were concerned about the draft at all, were agitated over the problem of “ranking.” For most students—and for many administrators—the question was one of “privacy” and “domain”: could or should college administrations advise draft boards on which men might, without loss to the “national interest,” be shifted from classroom to battlefield?

A YEAR has washed away these academic dilemmas. Congress declared in the 1967 draft law that if a man could stay in college, he could stay out of the army for four years. But it also opened the way for the National Security Council to end graduate school deferments, a step announced on February 16. And as the war has expanded and no reprieve has come—not even the President’s March 31 speech nor the start of negotiations in Paris—it is now clear that students are going to go. Last year no more than 4 percent of draftees were college graduates; this summer and fall the percentage will increase to between 40 and 60 percent.2

The decision to draft large numbers of college graduates cannot have been an easy one for the Administration; indeed, it was postponed almost two months, and might not have been made but for the Têt offensive. After that, it was clear that maintaining the war, let alone pursuing the policy of escalation, required increased draft calls. General Hershey predicted in February that draft calls might double, and that during 1968-69, “if the war doesn’t get over,” calls would exceed by 100,000 the Pentagon’s original estimate of 240,000. Casualties were increasing sharply: over 20,000 Americans had already been killed and more had been wounded than during the Korean war. More important from the point of view of manpower specialists, the reenlistment rate had fallen sharply, which meant that the military would have to induct 800,000 men or more during the coming year to maintain its strength.

Each year, 1,800,000 men come of draft age. It is very difficult to tell, therefore, whether the need for manpower by itself required dipping into the population of college graduates. Every year, Selective Service circulates manpower-shortage scares among students, but these have been false alarms, either calculated to stimulate enlistments or caused by the System’s legendary bookkeeping difficulties (at one point, the sss managed to lose track of 100,000 men in the “pipeline”). It is true, however, that 40 percent of all who register for the draft are regularly rejected for physical or mental defects and that between 20 and 30 percent more are deferred as college students, reservists, for hardship or other reasons. The number of draftable nineteen-year-olds, therefore, probably falls below the minimum of 800,000 required by the military. Although some draft boards may have had men of twenty and twenty-one still uncalled, even before the Têt offensive others were already facing the choice of graduate students or eighteen-year-olds.

Graduates were needed for another reason. The junior officer corps, among whom Vietnam casualties have been extreme and for whom replacements are badly needed, is selected from men shaped and tamed by college, just as junior executives are. A threat to draft college graduates was bound at least to produce enlistments in officer training programs. Beyond manpower considerations, however, to continue to discriminate in favor of college men was politically costly, since this group is not only privileged but is largely opposed to the war. Congress, having managed to equivocate by guaranteeing undergraduate but not graduate deferments, handed the political burden over to the President. The war was going poorly, and even such liberal newspapers as the Washington Post approved the draft of graduate students. The Administration apparently decided that it could not avoid sending “bitter greetings” to between 150,000 and 200,000 college graduates this summer and fall.

FOR MOST AMERICAN families with children in college, the costs of the Vietnam war have seemed remote and abstract: the gold crisis interfered with few vacations and the balance of payments deficit with fewer purchases. But now as 1-A classifications arrive, the cost of the draft is registering among the middle class. The draft has not, of course, ever been popular. But until now opposition to it was carried forward, on the Left, by traditional pacifists and new resisters. They expressed their rejection of the Vietnam war by turning in or burning classification cards, occasionally blocking induction centers, or finding means to help men avoid induction. On the Right, a group of political economists and mostly Republican Congressmen, led by Milton Friedman, a conservative professor of the University of Chicago, devised various arguments—which avoided the issue of the war—for replacing the draft with a volunteer army. Now the pending induction of the class of 1968 adds self-interest to the morality of resistance and the economy of “classical liberalism.” Active opposition to the draft, no longer symbolic or theoretical, has become more widespread and more respectable.

To this new audience, books about the draft supply a variety of rationales and strategies for opposing it. Several of the books document the economic and historical liabilities of this unpopular institution. How to End the Draft, a study by a group of Republican Congressmen, shows that the system of providing military manpower by compulsion is not only expensive because of high turnover and inefficiency, but that the burden of military costs falls on the young draftees, whose labor is forced from them at far less than the going rate. Pay men in the military a living wage, the authors argue, give them the benefits accorded American workers, return civilian jobs to civilians, and the need for conscription will dissolve, although the institution of Selective Service might be retained for emergencies. James C. Miller III and the other writers of Why the Draft? concur in the fundamental economic analysis. Moreover, these young conservatives trace in some detail the old and often violent hostility of Americans to conscription. During the Civil War, for example,

Draft resisters were fired upon by a force of 420 infantrymen in Holmes County, Ohio, when they refused to disperse. Enrollers were killed and draft records destroyed in Indiana and Illinois. A force of 500 draft resisters actually laid siege to the village of Olney, Illinois, for three days, threatening to burn the town if draft records were not surrendered. Troops were required to maintain order and quell organized resistance to the draft in nearly every state. A Democratic Congressman from Ohio, Clement L. Vallandigham, was arrested and tried before a military court for making speeches and urging resistance to the draft. His request for a writ of habeas corpus was denied, and he was imprisoned in Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

This history may be reassuring to opponents of the draft distressed by the politics or the passion of the resisters with whose cause they are uncomfortably allied. It indicates that when, for example, the Reverend Philip Berrigan and eight Catholic friends recently burned 600 draft records in Baltimore several months ago, they were following an old American tradition, obscured and denied these last twenty years of acquiescence to conscription.3 The books, like Berrigan himself, have found in history a tradition of legitimacy for opposing the draft.

Besides, by comparison, today’s draft resistance movement is tame. Burning draft cards is hardly comparable to burning down towns. Nor has resistance to the draft, except in rare instances, such as the demonstrations at induction centers in Oakland or Whitehall Street in New York, taken the form of direct action against Selective Service authorities. The resistance movement has, thus far, been largely nonviolent: its heroes, as in the early days of the civil rights movement, have gone peaceably to jail, trying to persuade by the symbolic “eloquence of the act” (as one resister has phrased it). Active Resistance is not a mass movement: about 3,000 men have turned in their draft cards in direct acts of noncooperation. Approximately seventy-five groups around the country, with memberships of between two and fifty, actively work to oppose or impede Selective Service or to recruit men to return their draft cards. Prosecutions for draft violations, however, have climbed beyond 200 per month, while most of the resistance cases have not yet reached the courts. While this amounts only to 2 men per 1,000 inductees, the rate is much higher than in World War II (1.4 per 1,000). Furthermore, the effects have far exceeded the numbers involved.

IN THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY, for example, draft resistance has been a strong force. Two years ago, the Reverend William Sloane Coffin was asking clergy and laymen to express their “concern” over the war; with Dr. Spock, he has now become the most notable symbol of resistance to the draft, and a hero to thousands of young clergymen and seminarians. Several hundred seminarians, including Catholics and Protestants in all parts of the country, have returned their draft cards and rejected the 4-D classification that exempted them from both the military or alternative service and thus cut them off from the young people to whom they were supposed to minister. Some clergymen have formed strong alliances with groups of local resisters. These clergymen are not only college or university chaplains, or faculty members of seminaries, but, in many cases, ministers at urban parishes. Some have offered their churches as “havens” in time of emergency; most supply resisters with moral, spiritual, and financial support. A few have continued to receive draft cards at resistance ceremonies, such as that at the Arlington Street Church on October 16 which figures in the Spock and Coffin indictments. But the public acts of heroism, like draft resistance itself, have had, so far at least, more visibility than numbers.

  1. 1

    In Pursuit of Equity: Who Serves When Not All Serve? Report of the President’s Commission on Selective Service, Burke Marshall, Chairman. The Commission also proposed substituting uniform national standards for local board decisions and reversing the present order of calling older men first. All of its main proposals were rejected by Congress.

  2. 2

    The unique mechanism by which Selective Service determines how many men should be delivered by each board will assure at least some mixture of nineteen-year-olds with college graduates. Calls are distributed not according to population or the number of men registered with a local board, but according to the number of available men classified as 1-A. Boards whose jurisdiction covers relatively few men with 2-S or 2-A deferments—as, for example, boards in Negro ghettos—usually report large numbers of men available and so have large quotas. Boards from suburban areas, in which most of the men go to college, and then into deferable jobs or graduate school, often have had very small quotas. Their quotas will go up as more men become available, but the nineteen-year-olds will continue to be drafted by the other boards, though at a somewhat slower rate.

  3. 3

    Berrigan, David Eberhardt, Tom Lewis, and the Rev. James Mengel have been sentenced to six years each for spilling blood, last October, into Baltimore draft files. Though they were found guilty of “the disruption of the Selective Service System,” the “mutilation of records,” and the “destruction of government property,” the sss has been reluctant to admit to the extent of disruption that took place.

  • Email
  • Single Page
  • Print