For it is certain that the less a man is acquainted with the sweets of life, the less reason he has to be afraid of death
The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Re Militari)
By Flavius Vegetius Renatus
Over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, there was a discussion about the draft and how it should be re-implemented and how it would fix a lot of things. At first I began by agreeing with the sentiments, then I worked my way down to my current state of being ambivalent leaning slightly toward the idea.
At this point in our country's history, I am not certain that the draft would fulfill the role that the folks here posit. First, the rot in the society is pretty damn deep, and this reflects on the quality of the personnel that are available for a draft. So instead of citizens being called up for duty, you get a mishmash of capabilities and intentions. Some of them are good, some of them are bad.
My Army experience was at the changeover from a draftee army to the VOLAR. Sitting in barracks at Fort Jackson and Fort Polk with the mishmash of folks that period engendered, I started to realize that folks is folks by the time they hit draft age. Spent time with them in such places as Benning and Bragg and Sam Houston made me change my mind, but then I started to realize that the folks in these places were the elite, they came in with the attitude that made for a good soldier/citizen, the Army just put a shine on it. The truth of the matter is that the Army didn't fix anyone, just like it didn't fix me. Sure I came out of it with some Army customs imprinted indelibly on my brain, but it didn't make me a better citizen or a better person. It did make me a pretty fair soldier. I think it was then that I realized only the soul matters.
All of the folks that I knew in the Army seemed to go through the same trajectory of life as the folks who stayed home. Same number of criminals, same number of flim-flam men, same number of just-plain folk. The army didn't appear to change anything long-term from the person they were to the person they became.
As for the hypothesized impact of the draft on the populace, I would propose that the war protests during the Vietnam Era were the result of a free and active press. The current gaggle of neutered fops that hang breathlessly off every Pentagon briefing would give no such coverage. Their corporate masters simply would not allow it. No press coverage, no mass protest, no policy change.
Vietnam and its protest leading to the closure of the war was a one-off.
No, the concept that the draft would change things is tempting, and things might have been different had the draft remained extant, but the box is open. Can't stuff all the problems back in.
“This "sir, yes sir" business, which would probably sound like horseshit to any civilian in his right mind, makes sense to Shaftoe and to the officers in a deep and important way. Like a lot of others, Shaftoe had trouble with military etiquette at first. He soaked up quite a bit of it growing up in a military family, but living the life was a different matter.
Having now experienced all the phases of military existence except for the terminal ones (violent death, court-martial, retirement), he has come to understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing each other or completely losing their minds in the process.
The extreme formality with which he addresses these officers carries an important subtext: your problem, sir, is deciding what you want me to do, and my problem, sir, is doing it. My gung-ho posture says that once you give the order I'm not going to bother you with any of the details--and your half of the bargain is you had better stay on your side of the line, sir, and not bother me with any of the chickenshit politics that you have to deal with for a living. The implied responsibility placed upon the officer's shoulders by the subordinate's unhesitating willingness to follow orders is a withering burden to any officer with half a brain, and Shaftoe has more than once seen seasoned noncoms reduce green lieutenants to quivering blobs simply by standing before them and agreeing, cheerfully, to carry out their orders.”
― Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon