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Vassallo, Scruggs Debate: Should United States Have Conscription?

Steve Vassallo: A mandatory draft is long overdue.

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

It’s time once again in the history of our country to invoke a mandatory draft. The security of our country is now at stake along with the necessity to demonstrate a degree of self-discipline to a significant number of young people who have little if any self control. The numbers of our active military as well as the reserves are well below where these need to be. Here’s why….

The numbers available for military service are estimated currently at 73.2 million males and 71.9 million females. Those reaching military age annually are 2.1 million males and 2.0 million females. Our active personnel (all branches) totals only 1.3 million presently and 811,000 for reserves.

The year I graduated from Ole Miss (1969) there were 3.4 million individuals in the military. This was broken down as follows: Army 1.5 million, Navy 776,000, Marines 310,000 and Air Force 862,000. The current numbers today are well below these in a world that is far more dangerous. True, Vietnam was raging in my era, however, we did not have the degree of terrorism in the Middle East that we are currently experiencing that is bleeding over into Western society.

With the recent despicable violence displayed on university campuses; in major metropolitan areas; and now taking place on the presidential campaign trail, many of these thugs and hoodlums would be better served by a two year mandatory military service. Hopefully, the positive experience would help in their maturity and respect for their fellow citizens.

While I attended Ole Miss, two years of ROTC were also mandatory for male students. This was part of the curriculum that we had no option in declining. In retrospect, it was a very good experience overall and probably needs to be rethought once again.

In conclusion, a mandatory draft will strengthen our country in multiple ways. We could learn a great deal from Israel and other states that take a much more realistic view toward world affairs with less emphasis on a pampered way of life that is contributing to a far more dangerous society.

Dickie Scruggs: Compulsory national service will strengthen us.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

I agree with Steve that we need compulsory national service in some form. I disagree, however, that we need it because we are a nation in peril. America is far and away the most powerful nation in world history.

When Steve and I were young men, military service was expected of us, just like graduating from high school (or college), getting a job, getting married, buying a house and having kids. Military service for young men was an American tradition, especially for us Southerners. My family had served in every conflict since the Revolutionary War and looked askance at those who managed to avoid service.

To be sure, there was a military draft from 1948 thorough 1973. But it became easy—even fashionable—to legally dodge it. As Vietnam War casualties mounted during the late 1960s and the public lost confidence that the war was winnable, more and more young men found artful ways to avoid active service—particularly those from wealthy or connected families. The draft became so loose that the Vietnam War took on the quality of a “rich man’s war…poor man’s fight”.

The Vietnam experience should be a lesson, not a deterrent. There are sound reasons for requiring young Americans to accept the responsibility for maintaining our nation. Shared service and shared sacrifice forge national unity. America emerged from World War II the most powerful nation in history largely because it drew together Americans from all sections of the country. Compulsory service in that struggle was at once unifying, democratizing and homogenizing.

I favor a new kind of draft that includes all (and I do mean all) 18-20 year olds, and that requires some form of national service for two years. There is something everyone can do for the country, even those not physically able to perform military service. The Peace Corps—where volunteers serve two years promoting American values in foreign countries—is an excellent program in lieu of military service. Similarly, AmeriCorps promotes worthwhile domestic programs, although volunteers typically serve for only 10 months.

For these reasons I believe that universal, compulsory national service would strengthen our country and promote American ideals.

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at DickScruggs@gmail.com.

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to HottyToddy.com covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.

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