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The Russia-Ukraine War has ignited a fear of a return to the military draft among college students, the age group called upon first during a draft, according to the Selective Service System website.

All men ages 18-25 are required to register for the Selective Service System, which conducts the lottery that determines the order in which men would be called to enlist, according to the Selective Service System website. 

The draft, also referred to as conscription, has not been utilized since it was ended in 1973 by the Nixon administration after being used in the Vietnam War, according to Tim Borstelmann, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Thompson professor of modern world history.

“One of the things I think the U.S. military sort of prides itself on is that it is an all volunteer force,” Tyler White, associate professor of political science and director of the national security program, said. “So, if you look at something like Russia right now, they’re not an all volunteer force, they do rely on conscription and, right now, I think one of their issues is morale.”

Borstelmann said that he can’t imagine the United States reinstating a draft, specifically in regard to Russia's current invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a huge military force that we have, and whatever engagement we would be in [would be] in Europe, in Ukraine. We’re carefully avoiding being involved with American troops,” Borstelmann said. “So the idea that we would suddenly then need a vast number to go in a World War II-type conflict is difficult. It’s very difficult to imagine.”

White agreed that while he can not be positive, he is confident that the U.S. will not be using a draft anytime soon.

“I sort of struggle to find a scenario in which we’re probably dipping into the civilian population to increase our military numbers,” White said. “There’s a couple factors of that. One of them is technology has allowed us to do a lot more with fewer people, and the other thing is that nuclear weapons tend to neutralize big troop build ups.”

Borstelmann said that when the U.S. military recently conducted a full-scale military invasion within Iraq, roughly 195,000 troops were sent, a small portion of the full military. He said he believes the U.S. attempts to use as few troops as possible in military operations. 

“I’m a historian, I’m not a futurologist,” Borstelmann said. “I don’t know the future any better than you do; [a draft] just wouldn’t fit with the patterns of careful avoidance of large scale troop uses.”

Borstelmann said he would be shocked if the U.S. military established a draft and decided to “force Americans to take up arms.”

“We don’t think of military service, for 48 years we haven’t thought of it, as something that is a citizen’s duty in a democracy,” Borstelmann said.

Although the use of nuclear weapons is another fear of people around the world, White and Borstelmann both said they believed it would be more likely than a draft.

“If there was a real escalation between the U.S. and Russia, we’d probably end up going nuclear and maybe killing a lot of people before we would ever get to the point of having a draft,” White said. “I mean, we might destroy nations before we have to kind of conscript from it.” 

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