General Hershey
General Hershey; drawing by David Levine

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 President Johnson’s “task force” study of the Selective Service System was completed last December but is still unpublished.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.

At the same time, the moral energy of draft resistance has begun to touch large religious organizations and individual clergymen in them. During the last year and a half, many denominations, including the United Church of Christ, Methodists, Episcopalians, the United Presbyterian Church USA, and the recently organized Catholic National Federation of Priests Councils have adopted resolutions either opposing the draft on principle or asking that men who refuse to fight in a single or “unjust” war be classified as conscientious objectors. Clergymen have also begun to participate in draft counseling. Surprisingly, rather few ministers in the past had either the information or the inclination to advise young men about the draft. If they did more than urge them not to embarrass their parents, they usually sent them to lay counselors provided by some of the “peace” churches, like the Quakers or Brethren, or to the National Service Board for Religious Objectors.

This reluctance to become involved with their young parishoners’ draft problems is tinged with irony, since “counseling” has traditionally meant helping a young man think through his religious beliefs. Such beliefs are required by Selective Service law as the basis of applications submitted by conscientious objectors. During the past year and a half, many young clergymen—often sympathetic to draft resistance—have themselves begun to practice counseling, frequently helping men who were not members of their church or even their denomination. Local and regional denominational conferences, outside the South, have held workshops to acquaint ministers with draft regulations and to train them as counselors. Within the past month, the National Council of Churches—the largest organization of Protestant and Orthodox congregations—has announced a series of counselor-training seminars this summer. The clergy’s growing involvement in counseling is all the more remarkable because its character has shifted sharply. No longer restricted to aiding men in filling out the Special Form for Conscientious Objectors, counselors are Inevitably called upon to help men who simply and honestly wish to avoid the army on whatever grounds.

The Draft? published for the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker organization, suggests that such counseling is appropriate for serious clergymen. The book recognizes that the traditional, religiously based peace movement has failed:

…our own beloved country has grown more hostile, militant, and arrogant. We must confess to an agony of impending defeat. The present political status of the Selective Service System is to us a symbol of the defeat of love in American life, a defeat to which the Christian Church itself has made a substantial contribution through its acceptance of the legitimacy of militarism, through its acceptance of the right of the state to conscript, through its acceptance of the claims of national defense, which the Church is ready to admit takes precedence over all else.

This recognition of failure has led the writers, a committee of religious pacifists, to reassess painfully some of their own standards and the traditional moral attitudes that decry draft evasion:

Thus, even though many declare that draft evasion is immoral, is it really? What is it but man’s refusal—often by the only path open to him—to take part in the inhumanity of war…. A technologically advanced nation which wages massive war against distant peasants for obscure reasons and imprisons its own youth when they refuse to be conscripted is poorly equipped to judge the morality of others, and certainly not the morality of those who lie to evade the draft…. Would most Americans have felt it to be immoral for a German youth to have lied in order to avoid serving in the Nazi army during World War II?

This is strong language, and the position is, no doubt, advanced among Quakers, let alone among the religious community as a whole. All young men resisting the war on whatever grounds, the writers tell us, are truly “religious,” because they are affirming “life over death.” The writers, moreover, question the legitimacy of the traditional conscientious objector, at least as defined by current Selective Service law. “Religious pacifists” who “led the fight in the past for [CO] exemption,” have “become ‘programmed in’ with selective service. Their acceptance of exemption as a special privilege denied others, who may object to war on equally moral and responsible grounds, vitiates the challenge of the CO to the war system.” (Italics added.) It is true, as these Quakers argue, that many men are excluded from CO exemption because of their non-religious back-grounds, or their inarticulateness, their refusal to foreclose the future by swearing that they wouldn’t fight in any war, or the unpopularity of their beliefs—as in the case of Black Muslims like Mohammad Ali. Thus a number of resisters have rejected their CO classification, feeling that it, no less than student deferment, is a means by which Selective Service arranges for men to evade the fundamental choice between the military and non-cooperation.

AS PARTS of the religious community have given moral sanction to draft resistance, some lawyers have begun to aid both the committed resisters and those who wish simply to avoid military service. Draft law, until recently, was regarded as a minor—and aberrant—part of criminal defense. While tax consultants and lawyers have for years guided clients in “avoiding overpayment,” counselors who have advised draft registrants of their rights have been accused of aiding draft-dodgers. At the same time, Congress has tried to shield conscription from normal judicial review. Registrants are not allowed to have legal counsel at hearings before their draft boards, although such hearings are of the greatest importance: they often establish the record which decides a man’s classification, and provides the basis not only of his appeal but also, if he rejects such a classification and refuses induction, of his trial. The law also says that a man can challenge his classification in court only in defense against a criminal prosecution brought against him for refusing induction. Even then, a lawyer normally finds himself restricted to the question of whether the board had “some basis in fact” for making the particular classification. It is as if you had to risk five years in jail and a $10,000 fine in order to dispute an adverse tax ruling by an Internal Revenue Service clerk.

The justifications for a system so burdensome to individuals range from General Hershey’s remark that registrants are guaranteed their rights—to serve their country—to the mistaken assertion that draft boards are the draft boards are the fair and impartial neighbors of any registrant and that therefore informal knowledge about his case in an adequate substitute for due process. The Spock-Coffin case only dramatizes the high proportion of Selective Service prosecutions aimed not at men who evade the draft, but at those who “violate” its law for moral or political reasons. The fact is that the criminal penalties of the Selective Service Act do not mainly punish “draft dodging.” They are also being used to discourage opposition to the war itself. In this sense, the trial of Spock, Coffin, Raskin, Ferber, and Goodman is a political trial.

Just as the government has developed a legal and political strategy for combating the anti-war movement, so those opposed to the war and the draft evolved their own strategy for carrying the attack into the courts. This has involved major defensive actions as in the Spock case or in the prosecution of David Miller for burning his card. 4 But it has more recently meant taking legal action against local boards and the SSS as a whole. The National Student Association, Students for a Democratic Society, and many of the men reclassified for turning in their cards have sued to void General Hershey’s October 26 memorandum to local boards suggesting that they cancel deferments of men engaged in anti-war protests.

Other suits have attacked the process by which boards act as juries declaring men in violation of the law and subject to reclassification and call-up; racial and economic imbalance on local boards; and a variety of administrative malpractices by local boards, including failure to inform a registrant of his rights and denying him counsel at hearings.

THE EFFORTS to fight the draft in court have four objectives. A few major cases, such as the NSA/SDS suit and the Spock defense, are attempts to establish precedents which will hold for all men. Two or three lesser-known cases now in the courts may determine whether failure to carry a draft card—like a South African passbook—is, in fact, a violation of the law punishable by five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Second, many of the smaller cases attack questionable board procedures, as, for example, the fact—unearthed by recent research—that some boards race through so many cases in a single meeting that the time spent on any one averages less than ten seconds, hardly sufficient for true consideration of a registrant’s file. To some extent, all of the affirmative suits are designed to make the work of Selective Service more difficult and the jobs of draft board members more unpleasant by adding countless legal complications to the task of inducting each man. These three tactics have been employed, with some success, by the civil rights movement to restrict and bring within the compass of law the power of Southern sheriffs, for example.

In addition, however, many of the draft cases will simply be attempts to delay the final decision of jail or induction until the war is over. A man who does not wish to go can, if he is able to afford it, bring actions against his local board to try to void 1-A classification or an induction order. If he is finally ordered to report, he can refuse, stand trial, and appeal any adverse decision. And if he finally loses all appeals—after a year or more—he can generally choose to accept induction rather than jail. Meanwhile, of course, the war may have ended. Few of these suits, if any, will be won, but they may help several thousand men delay induction or jail, and they may make the operation of the sss even more cumbersome and politically costly. At best, the cases will stake out guarantees of due process, equal protection, and perhaps in the Spock case, freedom of speech, heretofore often infringed by the draft.

That draft cases can now be mounted by competent lawyers in almost every federal judicial district suggests a major change. A year or so ago, it was almost impossible to get lawyers to challenge the regular practices of draft boards, let alone the fundamental justifications of Selective Service. The information and the will were not there—and the climate was thoroughly hostile to those who would use the law to “beat the draft.” Now, however, Ann Fagan Ginger’s useful book, The New Draft Law, outlines several grounds on which lawyers can attack local board decisions and mount habeas corpus proceedings to release inductees, as well as defend clients against prosecution. The Guild Practitioner pamphlet also suggests, on the basis of extensive new study of draft law and practice (some of it done by laymen in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and other cities, but much, ironically, by the Marshall Commission staff) various ways in which informed counselors can legitimately help men increase their chances of avoiding the draft. For example, appeals boards in New York reverse local board classification only 7 percent of the time, whereas California appeals boards reverse 44 percent; it is obviously to a man’s advantage to appeal in California, which he can do if his board is there or if he happens to be living there.5 Research is also beginning to reveal patterns in the procedures of local boards that will provide lawyers with materials for challenging them on grounds of fairness and due process. For example, though Selective Service remains relatively free of ordinary bureaucratic scandals, boards often construe the “national interest”—the basis for deferments in class 2-A—in ways remarkably close to the needs of major economic interests in their areas.

BESIDES the new books and research, several traditional legal institutions are now available to support lawyers helping young men avoid or oppose the draft. A Selective Service Law Reporter has just been begun in Washington. In the Bay Area, a panel of more than a hundred lawyers, willing to work on draft cases, will be paid as public defenders. The American Civil Liberties Union has reversed its initial decision and agreed to defend draft resisters. Similarly, a year ago the only imaginable “manual” for avoiding the draft was the scatalogical (and occasionally practical) 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft by Tuli Kupferberg and Robert Bashlow. Now Conrad Lynn has published a handbook “so that those who wish to resist may be aided in having all their rights that might help them to refuse induction into the armed forces.” Lynn is an enterprising, energetic, and courageous lawyer, but his book is, unfortunately, a primitive parallel to the various tax guides available at news-stands. He omits important information concerning particular classifications, and he provides no guidance in making out the difficult, confusing, and often perverse Selective Service forms. His information is, at times, sketchy and misleading, as in the “Canadian Haven” chapter. Too much of the book consists of irrelevant political tracts. Some of his courtroom strategies are useful, and the fact that he has gotten this material onto the newsstands and off the shelves of lawyers and counselors is all to the good. But a young man determined to stay out of the army would be ill-advised to depend only on How to Stay Out of the Army. The book by Ann Ginger is useful, though is legalistic language is a barrier, as Lynn’s is not. The National Lawyers Guild is preparing a large book explaining in detail how to contend with every part of the draft law and its regulations at every stage. Until this becomes available the Guild, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Resist, local draft resistance unions, and the American Friends Service Committee all provide a variety of memoranda likely to be more detailed and practical than Lynn’s book.

THE BOOKS by Conrad Lynn and Ann Ginger were written as practical guides for draftees. The Draft: A Handbook of Facts and Alternatives contains the papers and discussions of a conference held last year at the University of Chicago, which grew out of student agitation about ranking. Yet it is distinguished, for the most part, by its irrelevance to those students and even to the question of ranking. In this respect it is merely characteristic of last year’s response of the academic community to the draft. A few faculty members were willing to help counsel students; more wished to help military manpower specialists solve their problems with statistics and expertise. The universities themselves seemed anxious to avoid being dragged into controversy. A few supported the students’ hostility to ranking, but most were uncritical of Selective Service itself. The President of an influential university council in a letter to a professor at Temple University expressed the extent to which the “leadership” of American higher education had identified itself with the sss:

I cannot refrain from making a slightly bitter comment on the role that the universities themselves played in getting us into this mess. We had a good, workable system of student deferments based upon rank in class, grades, and an examination. But students complained and many universities flatly refused to give rank in class or to publish grades. This made it very easy for the Congress to sweep the whole thing down the drain and to leave us with no criteria for deferments. A few articulate witnesses in favor of these criteria might have made a world of difference in the Congressional hearings.

When it began to seem likely that graduate students would be drafted, college deans seemed primarily concerned about the loss of cheap labor and tuitions. Several college presidents and members of the House Education Committee suggested that some younger men should be drafted first. In addition, it was feared that the “new centers of excellence,” into which federal funds, often from the Defense Department, had supposedly transformed some of the seedier graduate schools, might fold for lack of students.

Some universities, however, began laying plans to help their students avoid the draft. New York University Law School, for example, recommended that students appeal 1-A classifications, which would give them sufficient time to take a cram course designed to make them eligible to teach in the city’s schools. In the fall they could, as teachers, apply for an occupational deferment, and continue their legal studies in the evening. MIT, acting more directly, has asked for 2-A deferments for its 800 graduate teaching assistants. The University of Chicago, although unwilling to follow MIT’s example, has, nevertheless, announced that it “is getting out of the business of communicating with draft boards.”

MEANWHILE, the attention of many American intellectuals and academics has shifted from how to restore student deferments to how to end the war itself. The most apparent sign of anti-war sentiment on campus has been the McCarthy campaign, with its student volunteers, and the organizational competence of its academic political amateurs. During the past half year, some of the country’s most prominent intellectuals and academics have signed the “Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” printed in these pages as an advertisement last October. Probably three-fifths of the 4,000 people who have signed that Call are attached to universities. “Resist,” the organization which grew from the Call, has been supporting the formation of draft resistance unions and counseling centers, and has helped to organize support groups on over 200 campuses.

These groups have been formed from the nucleus of old teach-in committees and from radical younger faculty recently recruited from among the ranks of activist graduate students. The groups have performed relatively innocent activities: circulating the Call to Resist and support petitions for Dr. Spock; setting up campus draft counselling centers; running ads in campus papers; raising money for resisters; organizing teach-ins during the “Academic Days of Conscience” last month. Columbia University provided a model by devoting a whole day in March, during which classes were effectively boycotted, to discussion of the war and resistance, and 239 faculty members signed a statement to “support those Columbia students who decide to refuse cooperation with Selective Service because they consider our war in Vietnam unjust and immoral.”

Similar public statements by faculty on such campuses as Johns Hopkins and the University of Washington have drawn students and faculty into new alliances. At Berkeley, for example, the “Vietnam Commencement”—a ceremony designed to honor draft resisters—was organized by a committee composed of both students and faculty. At the same time, campus groups hostile to the draft have also begun to enlist university resources for indirect support of resisters. Deans at Princeton, Chicago, Yale, MIT, and elsewhere have pledged that university places will be held for resisters who go to jail, just as they are for drafted men.

It is not simply that university facilities are being used for unconventional teach-ins and for draft counseling, or even that some administrators have given their tacit blessings to events like the “Days of Conscience.” Nor even that though the Berkeley Vietnam Commencement had been banned by the Reagan-led California Regents, it received a good deal of quiet support from campus administrators. The war increasingly threatens the life of the university. The war and the shadow of the draft have exacerbated tensions between students and young faculty members, many of whom directly face the choice of army, jail or exile, and older faculty and administrators, many of whom have personal ties or ties of money and prestige to those conducting the war. Those Columbia students, for example, challenging the traditional authority of the university to make decisions for them, have, in one sense, nothing to lose. A year of probation is no great deterrent for someone about to be drafted. The hostility of young, radical students to the university is perhaps a consequence of the imminence of the draft as much as any other single cause.

Because of the draft, moreover, the Scientific Manpower Commission has predicted that graduate school enrollment may be cut by as much as 70 percent, with the remaining 30 percent restricted mainly, as one sub-dean put it, to the blind, the halt, and women. Such a policy has entailed the serious political risk of antagonizing not only the university establishment but the large and powerful middle-class community with ties to America’s colleges. The Administration’s willingness to take that risk seemed an ominous sign to many academics forced now to choose between supporting their students against the war and supporting the war against their students. Many, if not most, have chosen to support their students.

WHAT WILL most men, faced with an ambiguous but seemingly hopeful future, decide to do about the draft? Those who have until now provided the bulk of the army’s manpower—Negroes, working-class boys, poor whites, Puerto Ricans—will, no doubt, continue to go. Draft refusal for almost all of them has little support in their communities. But fewer and fewer of these men have been reenlisting. During the opening days of the Poor People’s Campaign, several spokesmen of the poor denounced the draft, which perhaps suggests that for some poor people—as distinct from working-class or lower-middle-class people—the war and the draft may be as unpopular as the welfare system, even though the army has been one of the few routes out of poverty.

But many students have discovered that, in the words of Selective Service’s infamous memo on “channeling,” they are “standing in a room which has been made uncomfortably warm. Several doors are open, but they all lead to various forms of recognized, patriotic service to the Nation.”6 For many men all these “open” doors have assumed the form of prison gates, and the exit to Canada a trap door. A number of campus polls, taken before the negotiations in Paris, indicated that in some institutions more than half the graduating seniors were prepared to refuse induction or choose exile.

More recently, on May 16, Louis Harris published the results of a nation-wide poll of 1005 college seniors on their attitudes to war resistance. “It is apparent,” he wrote, “that between 20 and 30 percent of the college group called up for service in the next few months will be seriously contemplating whether or not to refuse to serve.” As one would expect, Harris’s poll showed that opposition to the draft is highest among those who have been politically active on campuses 72 percent of whom see

real merit in refusal to serve in the military…these activists do not represent anything approaching a majority of students in college today. But in the aggregate they come to well over 100,000, or a potential over 70,000 draft resisters. It is likely that many of them when faced with an actual call-up to service will not be pleased but will serve. But if even as many as 25,000 choose to go to prison or one of the other courses of refusing to serve, the size of the crisis will exceed any this nation has ever faced before in terms of resistance to the draft.

If 25,000 men refuse to go, the numbers of draft resisters will have increased ten-fold. But between three and five years in jail and a felony conviction are not to be regarded lightly, certainly not by young men of twenty-two. They have therefore been seizing (and will probably continue to seize) upon any means that hold out hope for delay or political change. As opinion toward the war has shifted, what had often been a furtive effort by a few prospective draftees and counselors is becoming a far more open enterprise conducted on a national scale.

It is obviously presumptuous to predict individual decisions that are still largely uncertain, but certain possibilities are apparent. Some students have already signed themselves into officer candidate programs, unaware that by so doing they have simply stepped from the “warm room” through one of the most dangerous doors Selective Service has opened for them. As college graduates fill the badly depleted junior officer corps, avoiding the “waste of their talents” as draftees, they will find themselves among those for whom the danger is greatest in Vietnam. On the other hand, there have been rumors that appeals may get students through the summer and that some draft boards may permit them to finish the academic year if they are able to register for school in the fall. Though we have not been able to verify such a possibility some students are acting on it. And given the unpredictability of draft boards, who can advise them not to try?

THE METHODS of avoiding the draft within the framework of current sss law are few in number. Apart from deferments for physical and psychological disabilities, or because of dependents, it seems to us that most college men anxious to avoid induction will face three choices. First, some students, with their usual ingenuity, have already lined up teaching jobs to keep them free of the draft while they continue graduate school study in the evening. Experienced draft counselors are, indeed, recommending that men apply quickly for occupational deferments, especially as teachers. When graduate student deferments were ended, the Administration also suspended indefinitely the list of critical occupations and essential activities on the basis of which draft boards had given at least half of their occupational deferments. The effect was not to abolish these, but to leave the matter almost wholly up to local boards. They must now determine whether a potential draftee is, in their view, performing service in the national interest. One result may be that the first to request such deferments will get them, especially if boards are flooded with applications this spring and summer. Second, the number of men filing co applications is also increasing. Even those who do not have any real hope of gaining the status are filing, nevertheless, in order to gain time. Third, legal stratagems, as we have indicated earlier, are also possible to achieve further delay before a man must finally choose among prison, the army, or exile.

Exile to Canada, nevertheless, already has been chosen by about 15,000 men, according to Canadian sources, and this number will probably increase. (The Manual for Draft Age Immigrants and other similar guides contain useful information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.) Canadian graduate schools report that they have been deluged by American applicants. Recent decisions by the Swedish government to grant asylum to Americans opposing the war, and by the French government to provide work and residence permits to deserters and resisters have also simplified some of the problems of exile. But the problems of staying, permanently, are enormous. Thus far, only a few have returned to face jail or the military stockades. Some deserters and resisters abroad have organized themselves into groups. But the torment of exile—for many of the young men and for their families at home—is hardly less painful than that of prison. And yet, what is a man to do who cannot kill Vietnamese? Or even if he simply doesn’t want to be killed? What can he do if all other attempts to avoid the draft fail?

It is partly in this light that the outpouring of student support for Senator McCarthy must be viewed. Work in his campaign is to them a legitimate commitment against the war: it goes beyond the self-interest of 2-S, 4-D, or occupational deferment, or even of exile; nor is it an extreme refusal to cooperate, like turning in one’s draft card. At the same time, the McCarthy campaign may very well be laying the groundwork for a resistance movement more widespread than any before. As a Northwestern student told a New York Times reporter, “For many of us this is the last chance. It is quite literally a case of life or death. I have ten weeks to go on my student deferment, and if we don’t pull this off we’ll have to cop-out.” No doubt if the dancing through the streets and dormitories that followed President Johnson’s March 31 withdrawal proves premature, most of those called will be inducted. But there will be more resisters too.

THE NUMBERS of resisters will depend, in part, on the future of peace negotiations. Because the resistance movement has, until now, relied heavily for its effect upon public gestures rather than political organizing, it had seemed susceptible to more powerful public gestures—like the President’s March 31 speech. At the same time, it is also true that draft resistance has its own momentum. The moves toward negotiations, which may have slowed the peace movement generally, did little to discourage resisters. On April 3,630 more young men turned in their cards. Moreover, resistance has grown in the face of efforts to suppress it. After the Spock indictment, for example, 23,000 people signed a strong support statement, which many of the signers believed might be used to indict them, too. It can be argued that emphasizing the act of non-cooperation—turning in one’s draft card—has limited resistance to small numbers of strongly motivated men. Nevertheless, the courage and public drama of such acts have compensated to some extent for small numbers and loose organization. Gathered in scattered local groups, the resisters have managed to function for more than a year now, coordinated only by sporadic newsletters, a few travelers, and by efforts to organize “days,” such as the recent April 3 resistance. Certainly the resisters have had an effect on other young people that seems out of all proportion to their numbers or their ability to proselytize. Harris’s poll showed that “29 percent of the college seniors feel they respect young men who refuse induction…more than they respect those who agree to serve.” But even this figure is deceptively low for, as Harris points out:

Respect for the principle of resistance to military service runs highest among college seniors in the West, where 51 percent expressed respect for those who refuse to serve, among students in private nondenominational colleges where the number rises to 42 percent and among those studying in the humanities and social sciences, where 41 percent sympathize with resisters to the draft.

In the past six months, resisters have begun to do more than promote sensational public events. In Palo Alto, for example, several dozen local resisters live together, sharing their earnings in communal arrangements, drawing new men into discussions, and trying, as some have said, “to take control of their own lives.” Many student resisters plan to go to white middle-class suburbs and resorts this summer to urge the “moral imperative” of non-cooperation. Most resistance groups also organize demonstrations at induction stations on mornings (6 AM or earlier) when a man plans to refuse induction. Those working off campus, like the Boston Draft Resistance (BDRG), ride the buses taking prospective draftees to examination or induction centers and talk with the men about war and the draft. Others locate registrants recently classified 1-A—draft boards must reveal the names of those declared 1-A at each board meeting—offer them counseling services and an opportunity to talk with other 1-A’s about their feelings toward the war and being drafted, and about how they might even oppose the war, in the army. Efforts to approach men already in the military are under way: resisters have set up coffeehouses outside several army training bases.

AS RESISTERS take tentative steps beyond non-cooperation, as they talk about the war with men joining the army, or with army men, they are not simply opposing the draft; they are questioning the foreign policy it serves. Though Americans have always been deeply suspicious of conscription, they have not, since the United States became a world power, been suspicious of the purposes for which that power has been exercised. That seems now to be changing. The New Hampshire primary suggested that the power of anti-Communist rhetoric to influence votes has already been eroded. The connection between the enormous costs of Vietnam and the failure to eliminate slums and poverty at home has raised further questions about American priorities. At the same time, despite the promises of presidential candidates to change the draft, it is hard to imagine conscription being eliminated so long as the United States continues to fight against “wars of national liberation” everywhere on the globe. In the changing climate of opinion, the continuation of the draft in the face of increased evasion and resistance may intensify doubts about the cause for which armies are being conscripted. Thus the long-term question about the draft is not what system of conscription will be followed but what it will be used for. And the prospect is that today’s opposition to the draft will become part of a continuing struggle to alter America’s relationships to the rest of the world, and to change American society at home.

This Issue

June 20, 1968