I received a fair amount of email from WorldNetDaily readers
regarding my last editorial,
where I voiced tacit support for the resumption of a military draft to
fill recruitment shortfalls caused by willful neglect and abuse by the
Clinton administration. I stick to my primary assertion that before any
draft is reinstated, Congress needs to regain control over how the
military is utilized and reform presidential discretionary uses of the
Having said that, I report today that most respondents to that
article say they don’t agree that a draft is necessary or, for that
matter, legal. But to be honest — though most e-mails made reasoned,
impassioned points — as I see it, the U.S. government has every right
to draft young men into military service, per the Constitution of the
United States. In fact, in times of great crisis, the Legislative Branch
has a duty to do so.
Oh, I know that won’t sit well with many of you. And I’m not writing
this column merely to agitate or belittle anyone. Rather, I’m merely
attempting to clear up what I perceive to be misconceptions about
Congress’ clear constitutional authority when it comes to drafting young
men for military service.
First of all, let’s examine Article I, Section 8, as it pertains
specifically to the Legislative Branch’s military duties:
- “To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to
that use shall be for a longer term than two years . …” Granted,
our current military structure seems to violate the “two years”
provision of this duty, but clearly it gives Congress the authority to
“raise and support” an army. How else can this be done but through a
- “To provide and maintain a navy. …” You’ll note that there
is no time or monetary limit imposed on this provision, which
lends credence to the belief that not only does Congress have the
authority to create a navy as well but they have the authority to
require men to serve that navy.
- “To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and
naval forces. …” Does this not include rules concerning the
formation of an army — hence, requiring a draft to fill numerical
quotas established by Congress (the current congressionally mandated
army level is 480,000 active duty personnel)? Does this provision give
Congress the authority to skirt the “two year requirement” cited above?
- “To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of
the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions. …” Again,
clearly Congress has the authority to call forth military forces, from
whatever quarter they come from, and require their service on
behalf of the country. That supposition is supported in the next
provision as well.
- “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia,
and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of
the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment
of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to
the discipline prescribed by Congress. …” In order to “organize,
arm and discipline” the militia, doesn’t Congress have to have them show
up first? If they can’t require participation, how can they accomplish
this provision? Also, “in service to the United States” is pretty clear
to me — if the government needs troops, this provision authorizes
Congress to use them.
These provisions collectively give the U.S. government the right, the
duty, the obligation, and the authority to raise armies, support them,
require their service on behalf of the country, and fund them. The only
glitch here, save for the appointment of officers from states, is the
two-year requirement of the first provision.
But consider that Congress, in “making rules for the government and
use of land and naval forces,” has indeed made these rules. They
have passed laws enabling not only the raising of an army, but a
permanent army. So does that override the “two year” clause?
Judging by my e-mail, however, the most troublesome aspect of reader
opposition to the draft came from those who believe the Thirteenth
prohibits Congress from exercising their authority to raise an army and
support a military force by way of a draft. To believe “involuntary
servitude” should also apply as a prohibition to the draft is
disingenuous at best because, for one thing, the circumstances are
nowhere near the same.
Perhaps this is nothing more than an exercise in semantics, but as
I’ve demonstrated, I believe the Constitution clearly gives Congress the
authority to create an army, whereas the 13th Amendment
specifically prohibits slavery. Furthermore, how can compulsory
military service compare with slavery when slaves were not paid, not
taken care of, not given any choice (there are military deferments in a
draft), and not allowed any pretense of freedom? Soldiers who are
forced to serve at least can reap the benefits of their effort (freedom)
if they don’t lose or aren’t killed — neither of which is a given. And,
slave families were not compensated if a family member died “in service”
to his master; military families get monetary and other benefits from
the government if their loved one is killed in battle, which is as it
Slaves, by comparison, had no choice but to be slaves. They were
born slaves, remained slaves, and died slaves. They had no other rights,
no hope of freedom and liberty, and weren’t even considered
citizens. So how does a
drafted male — who retains all other rights granted by the Constitution
– suddenly take on the guise of slavery? That’s just too much of a
stretch for me.
Saying the 13th Amendment — passed immediately proceeding the Civil
War — was not pointedly directed at prohibiting slavery (and not
service to the country) is like denying the Second Amendment gives
individuals the right to keep and bear arms. The language of
both is clear, concise, and easy to define.
Finally, as well, the Supreme Court has ruled that a draft is both
legal and constitutional.
In 1981 in Rostker V. Goldberg,
the Supreme Court ruled that the Selective Service Act — which
establishes a mechanism for conscription — does not violate the
Constitution. Though this case dealt with Congress’ decision not to
draft women, the Court ruled, “Congress acted well within its
constitutional authority to raise and regulate armies and navies when it
authorized the registration of men. …”
“Congress specifically considered the question of the Act’s
constitutionality,” the Court said. “While Congress is not free to
disregard the Constitution when it acts in the area of military affairs,
this Court must be particularly careful not to substitute its judgment
of what is desirable for that of Congress, or its own evaluation of
evidence for a reasonable evaluation by the Legislative Branch. …”
Thus, it seems to me that regardless of any public opposition to
compulsory military service, Congress — backed by the Supreme Court –
has a right and, indeed, a duty to “raise an army” when they need one.
The perception one may have of the law or the aversion one may have to
the draft aside, the legality of it is established.
It’s hypocritical to me to insist that Congress take seriously their
constitutional responsibility for defending this nation while insisting
they not make us citizens part of that equation. How can that even be
done? How can we demand so much “freedom and liberty” from the federal
government that they would never have the “right” to require us to
defend our own country? Are we that willing to just “assume others will
do it for us?” I don’t think our Founders assumed that, considering what
they had to go through to be free in the first place.
Several readers of last week’s column suggested that the Constitution
be changed to reflect a more definitive position on Congress’ ability to
draft men into service and “regulate” the military and militia forces.
That’s probably a good idea, but I’ll remain wedded to the belief that
if we choose to live here and enjoy the benefits of this experiment in
liberty, we ought to be required to defend it if need be. That’s not
“statist,” “socialist,” or “fascist” — it’s common sense to me. I hate
how big the federal government has grown, but to my thinking the
military and our national security are a hell of a lot more important
than HUD, the Education Department, the BATF, the National Endowment for
the Arts, and about a dozen other worthless agencies.
In fact, if a draft were ever started, maybe we could pull first from
some of those 900,000 “non-essential government workers.”