House passes bill to automatically register young men for the draft

The House of Representatives passed a major defense bill Friday evening that includes a provision that would automatically enroll young men between the ages of 18 and 25 in the Selective Service.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would authorize $895 billion in military spending, passed by a vote of 217 to 199. The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to be picked up due to the numerous amendments related to abortion, diversity efforts and medical treatment for transgender people. . However, the Selective Service provision is part of an ongoing bipartisan effort to maintain the military draft framework, even though the draft ended in 1975.

Automatic registration would replace the coming-of-age tradition that all 18-year-old male U.S. citizens experience when they receive a card in the mail from Uncle Sam telling them to register for the Selective Service under threat of criminal penalties.

Supporters of the legislation called it a more efficient and cost-effective method.

“By utilizing available federal databases, the (Selective Service) agency will be able to register all necessary individuals to ensure that any future military service will be fair and equitable,” said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa. ) said on the living floor. “This will also allow us to reallocate resources – which actually means money – to reading readiness and to mobilization… rather than to education and advertising campaigns aimed at registering people.”

The other, unspoken effect would take away the choice of young men to engage in civil disobedience. If Droveby Matt Welch wrotethe Selective Service is not a proud part of the American civilian fabric, but an on-off tool of the Pentagon:

The Selective Service System was first established in 1917 to feed bodies involved in America’s efforts in World War I. It was disbanded in 1920, restarted in 1940, reformatted in 1948, and then terminated in 1975 as part of Washington’s decisive shift to an all-volunteer organization. army. In 1980, a panicked President Jimmy Carter, alarmed by the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, reinstated draft registration as a rite of passage that boys had to complete within thirty days of their 18th birthday, under penalty of a theoretical five-year prison sentence. . and (eventually) up to $250,000 in fines.

Although there have been only fourteen convictions for Selective Service refusers, and none since 1986, the approximately 100,000 young men per year who ignore Washington’s marching orders are generally barred from working in government, receiving student loans, and (in approximately 40 states) to obtain a driver’s license.

The design is a pet peeve for Houlahan, an Air Force veteran. She has also taken the lead a House bill in 2021 to require women to register with the Selective Service, effectively doubling the draft pool.

There is a growing centrist consensus among liberals and hawkish conservatives on expanding the Selective Service. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, is fighting for women’s right to serve and argues that the Selective Service is an example of overt sex discrimination.

But equality in the service of broader disenfranchisement is not a virtue, and conscription remains an essentially immoral institution.

“Conscription of any kind is inconsistent with any constitution that purports to guarantee individual freedoms,” said Fred Etcheverry wrote in Drove in 1972, when the draft remained an active threat to young men. “What else could prevent the draft from becoming the twelve months Senator Taft feared, or the two years we have now, the four years of the National Service Act Bill, or forever? If conscription is limited to an emergency, who decides what an emergency is? Is ten percent unemployment a sufficiently serious emergency to justify conscription?’

Some form of compulsory military service is a persistently bad idea of ​​nationalists and technocrats concerned about ‘unity’, but America’s all-volunteer military is not a self-inflicted weakness. It is a sign of strength: the confidence of a free citizenry that they will know when to fight. The Selective Service is a trail of fear. It should be abolished and not made fairer and more efficient.

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