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Cassie Sipe

Jul 9, 2024

The Selective Service System ensures the U.S. can rapidly mobilize forces during wartime by maintaining a registry of Americans eligible for potential drafting. The Selective Service Act of 1917, signed by President Woodrow Wilson, initially required men aged 21 to 30 to register but later expanded the age range to 18 to 45. Approximately 2.8 million men were drafted during World War I to build a national army, as voluntary enlistment proved insufficient.

In 1940, men were drafted during peacetime for the first time to prepare for U.S. entry into World War II. The draft, briefly suspended in 1947, was reinstated in 1948 to meet the demands of the intensifying Cold War. From 1948 to 1973, men were drafted for the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Although the draft ended in 1973, President Carter reinstated Selective Service registration in 1980 in response to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and it has remained in place ever since.

The NDAA Bill

The 2025 NDAA bill controversy stems from a 2019 lawsuit by a "men's rights group" arguing that a men-only draft was unconstitutional since it did not apply equally to both genders. The District Court sided with the group, ruling the gender-based exclusion from the draft unconstitutional

Congress attempted to enact female registration through various means, including the 2022 NDAA bill (though the amendment was removed). This led to intense backlash and debates over the ethics of drafting women.

Currently, Selective Service registration is legally-required for all males once they turn 18, but punishments for failing to register are rarely enforced. Nowadays, the 2025 NDAA bill, which recently passed the House, includes amendments to automate registration for men and women aged 18-26 residing in the U.S., including non-citizen residents and undocumented immigrants. This "Co-Ed" selective service proposal comes at a convenient time for the ruling class, as recruitment is flagging and reaching historic lows.

To address chronically low recruitment rates, the military now seeks to recruit undocumented immigrants and re-enlist soldiers who were discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. This approach aims to ensure a steady supply of working-class youth for military service (known as the "poverty draft"), by circumventing anti-war sentiment prevalent among young people.

Bourgeois politicians argue this proposal will address the decline of U.S. influence and military strength. The U.S. empire remains determined to maintain its hegemonic ambitions, as NATO engages with Russia, China, and Iran, and while Israel faces a potential seven-front war. As multiple military advisors have called for reinstating the draft due to the U.S.- Russia proxy war in Ukraine.

Military Readiness

NATO has escalated the conflict in Ukraine and is now preparing to establish land corridors in order to swiftly deploy troops near Russia's borders. The NATO aggressors have placed 500,000 troops on standby alert in case of a potential war with Russia. Several European countries, including the Baltic States, France, Germany, and the UK, are considering reinstatement of conscription. Incidentally, France's Emmanuel Macron has not ruled out the possibility of deploying troops to Ukraine independently, while British PM Rishi Sunak recently suggested mandatory service should be instated.

In fact, President Zelensky recently lamented that Ukraine is running out of men, with the implication that EU/NATO troops should intervene if Russia prevails. While the public largely remains skeptical of U.S. military effectiveness, some military analysts claim the U.S. can engage in a three-theater war, even as the U.S. military and its proxies fail to deter Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Currently, women serve in combat roles, and some argue that requiring them to register for selective service could enhance military readiness, despite rising female enlistments and declining male enlistments. However, others believe this requirement would harm military preparedness. Recent changes to military practices, such as lowered fitness standards, removal of certain disqualifiers, dropping the high school diploma requirement, and changes to drug testing and training programs (for overweight or academically-challenged individuals), reflect these recruitment challenges.

Despite its already diverse composition, the U.S. Military has intensified its focus on "wokeness" and critical race theory, establishing offices like the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to promote DEI and address discrimination. DEI initiatives have led to diversity training programs for service members. However, the promotion of individuals based on diversity quotas is seen as redundant and is believed to negatively impact morale and recruitment.

Potential Outcomes

The bill's amendments could punish widespread anti-war sentiment among young, working-class Americans by potentially subjecting them to conscription. The 18-26 age group, now heavily invested in anti-war campus protests against Israel’s US backed genocide in Palestine, echoes historic figures like Muhammad Ali, who opposed the draft during the Vietnam War. Just as many young men fled to Canada during that era, a draft could spark mass emigration among youth seeking to avoid military service and improve living conditions as "passport bros." As Cardi B wisely pointed out, drafting "Zoomers" is doomed to failure.

Why should women be forced to fill the gap to wage endless, imperialist wars? Do we want to replicate Ukraine's situation, where an entire generation of men have been killed or fled as the Kiev regime increasingly turns to conscripting of women?

Why should our mothers and daughters be sent to fight the empire's wars as the U.S. Empire continues to seek conflict with Iran, Russia, and China? Any move towards a draft could ignite widespread protests that would pale in comparison to recent anti-imperialist, pro-Palestine protests, intensifying class and political divides and alienating an already disenfranchised generation.

Echoes of Vietnam

Historical precedents show that similar conditions and major conflicts have led to the enactment of the draft in the past. Public concern that this amendment signals a potential draft amid a possible war is understandable, as we navigate a new Cold War and as public confidence in the US military wanes. Low recruitment, a significant issue back then, remains a problem as more working-class Americans increasingly realize they don’t want to die for imperialist wars. The draft was discontinued in 1973, largely due to public backlash and anti-war sentiments from the Vietnam War. Military recruitment is now at its lowest point since 1973, coinciding with the reemergence of Vietnam-style student protests, challenging American imperialism during a similar political climate.

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