Freedom is not for free; it comes at the price of those who choose to give up all they know and all they have for the safety and stability of others.
Freedom also comes at the price of those who are forced into battle, coerced through the use of a selective service system that currently sits dormant but has the potential to once again force Americans to participate in war.
The selective service system, better known as the draft, was created by Congress in 1917 for the purpose of gathering more men into the military during World War I. In 1940, the United States began a peacetime draft, that despite no major war, would require men, both citizen and non-citizen, between the ages of 18 and 25 to fight in a major war if one occurs.
The conscription of men into the military has recently been in the media thanks to a federal judge in Texas who late last week deemed the draft unconstitutional, not because it goes against the American ideal of freedom of religion or because it breaks the 13th Amendment, but because it is discriminatory against men.
With the ban against women in combat lifted as of 2015, the U.S. has been wrestling with how the draft should now be enforced. This problem has a simple solution: the U.S., a nation of free people, should do away with compulsory military service.
Having a military draft is an unjust, unconstitutional demand for the U.S. to ask of its citizens.
The draft goes against the 13th Amendment on involuntary servitude. Involuntary servitude is defined as, “an individual laboring against his/her will to benefit another under some form of coercion.” The draft seamlessly fits this definition. Men, and now potentially women, labor to the extent of death for their country under this rule. The draft uses the threat of a fine and years of jail time to coerce citizens into signing up and participating in war efforts in a state of emergency.
The United States Supreme Court in 1918, when questioned with the unconstitutionality and blatant breach of the 13th Amendment inherent in the draft, claimed the questioning of the draft’s constitutionality was “without merit” and was a question the courts would not consider since the draft’s intentions were never against the amendment.
Regardless of intentions, by upholding the draft, the U.S. is supporting a system that requires individuals to serve against their will.
The 13th Amendment is not the only constitutional line this system crosses. The draft also breaches the First Amendment in which citizens are granted religious freedom. A draft forces citizens with religious convictions against violence to fight a war they fundamentally oppose. Citizens who are practicing conscientious objectors, for example, would have to choose between potential jail time or their religious convictions.
Although conscientious objectors would not have to be in combat situations, they would still have to assist in a non-combative position or a “civilian job contributing to the national interest.” Despite not having to be in combat, the conscription of conscientious objectors into the military in any capacity is an act against ideals of nonviolence central in religions such as Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism.
In a nation that so highly values its freedoms stated in the First Amendment, the draft has somehow managed to slip through the cracks, forcing citizens to deny their religion and turn to violence.
Beyond the legal and constitutional boundaries conscription crosses, the draft also implies that American citizens are expendable in a time of crisis. With the draft in place, when declaring war, the U.S. would never need to consider the willingness of its people because it simply doesn’t matter what the general populous thinks. Regardless of potential opposition from citizens, those who have their names on the draft will be pulled from their homes and their families to fight a people their nation deems an enemy. When the men who have been drafted are killed or wounded in battle, their government will replace them with more people from the draft that continued to collect names in a time of peace.
If the U.S. cared about its citizens and their ideals, they would consider an end to the draft and instead rely solely on a volunteer army. Having an army of volunteers will force the nation’s leaders to engage in wars that are supported by the general public and, more importantly, the people who will be putting their lives on the line. Doing so would create an army of people with a willingness to fight rather than forcing men into battle like lambs led to be slaughtered.
The U.S. has not called on the draft in forty-six years, yet fathers, sons, brothers and now potentially women can be forced to arms at anytime, even for a war they oppose.
Those, like the judge in Texas, who wish to see a change made to the draft, should wish for its complete removal from this nation. America needs to get rid of the draft not only because of its unconstitutionality but because of its implications that human life is expendable.
In the land of the free, coercing citizens to fight with the potential to return home in coffins is anything but freedom.