This essay shall demonstrate a direct correspondence between the volunteer nature of a country’s military and its effectiveness on the battlefield, as well as a direct relationship between the presence of military conscription and extremely high wartime casualties.
The United States can flaunt the most technologically and strategically developed military in the world, which historically has suffered the smallest amount of casualties on the battlefield than any other major army in history. It is also, however, the most compact.
In an era where precision-guided missiles, tanks, mobile artillery, and aerial bombardments have replaced launching wave after wave of doughboys against entrenched enemy machine guns, it is essential not to produce your rank-and-file privates, but rather to train every serviceperson, be they the operator of a mechanized infantry vehicle or the pilot of a B-2 Stealth Bomber, in the intricacies of the ever-modernizing equipment that they must employ daily throughout their careers.
Training constitutes not days, but years, and even what takes minutes to learn frequently requires a lifetime to master. Focusing a maximum degree of attention on the individual soldier, especially on the willing individual soldier, whose motivation to “be all that he can be” needs no artificial boost, is a surefire means to ensuring American global sovereignty for generations to come.
What of nations who, historically, had employed the draft? One such example is Russia throughout its centuries-long involvement in the military affairs of the Western world. Russian princes, czars, commissars, and bureaucrats, had successively uprooted entire peasant villages to impose twenty years of campaigning duty without rest upon all of their male occupants.
Yet the Russian bear, despite its intimidating mass, usually possessed but claws for its defense. Decades behind its European neighbors in weapons technology and tactical finesse, Russia’s dismal performance was exposed on innumerable occasions, the most blatantly ruinous of those being the Seven Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, World War II (which had resulted in the greatest death toll ever experienced by a military force), the Afghan War, and the futile centuries-long struggle against Caucasian rebels that continues to this day.
Consider the history of America’s wars to note that the smallest number of casualties was experienced during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the masterpiece of modern technical and intellectual warfare, the First Persian Gulf War.
What do all the aforementioned conflicts have in common? No draft had been in force during their undertaking. Not one of these wars saw the destruction of more than ten thousand American lives. The Persian Gulf War’s toll was under two hundred. The more recent Afghan Liberation had witnessed the unfortunate peril of under one thousand individuals.
Quite to the contrary, during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, during all of which the draft had been stringently implemented (to the point that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had deemed Charles T. Schenck’s proliferation of pamphlets in opposition to such a practice “a clear and present danger” in 1919), American casualties had reached at least fifty thousand, with the exception of the Korean War, during which the U. S. had nevertheless lost more troops to accidents and disease than to armed engagements.
For the rest of the conflicts, however, if their veterans were to be told that only fifty thousand persons had perished, they would have been sorely insulted by the underestimating ignorance of the new generations. Vietnam had destroyed 58,000 American lives, the Civil War — 750,000, World Wars I and II combined — some 650,000. Is that the combat efficiency conscription advocates seek?