Military Draft in US and Israel: Security and Sovereignty
In line with the Iraq invasion in 2003, representatives in the U.S. Congress have introduced bills regarding the mandatory draft in the United States for military service. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, has proposed a bill entitled “Universal National Service Act of 2006”. According to the law, men starting from 18 years old until 42 years will be required to perform either military or civilian service in accordance with the national defense and hфomeland security. This did not exclude women. (Vennochi)
The United States have not yet adapted mandatory draft since 1973 when the Vietnam War came to an end. During that time, an all-voluntary military was implemented. This was ceased in 1975 and resumed by President Carter in 1980 because of the rising conflict in Afghanistan with the Soviet Republic. (Vennochi)
BRIEF HISTORY OF US DRAFT SYSTEM
Tracing back in the history, the US Congress passed the “Selective Draft Act of 1917” or the so-called Selective Service System. This system will select men, aged 19 to 45 years of age, who will be citizen-soldiers. This system led to the establishment of mandatory conscription or the draft. It classified men in different classes through several factors such as age, health, and occupation. (Geva, 6-7)
Criteria for the Class I – IV are quoted in Geva’s article:
(a) Single man without dependent relatives.
(a) Married man, with or without children, or father of motherless children who has habitually failed to support his family.
(b) Married man dependent on wife for support.
(c) Married man, with or without children, or father of motherless children; man not usefully engaged, family supported by income independent of his labor.
(d) Unskilled or not a necessary farm laborer.
(e) Unskilled or not a necessary industrial laborer
(a) Married man with children, or father of motherless children, where such wife or children or such motherless children are not mainly dependent upon his labor for support for reason that there are reasonably certain resources of adequate support (excluding earnings or possibly earnings from labor of wife) available, and that the removal of registrant will not deprive such dependents of support
(b) Married man, without children, whose wife, although registrant is engaged in a useful occupation, is not mainly dependent upon his labor for support, for the reason that the wife is skilled in some special class of work which she is physically able to perform, and in which she is employed, or in which there is an immediate opening for her under conditions that will enable her to support herself decently and without suffering hardship
(a) Man with dependent children (not his own), but toward whom he stands in relation of parent.
(b) Man with dependent aged or infirm parents.
(c) Man with dependent helpless brothers or sisters.
(a) Man whose wife or children are mainly dependent on his labor for support” (Geva, 7-8)
During the World War II, this system cannot supply the needed manpower for the war. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Military Manpower Commission in 1942. It addressed the manpower needs for maintenance of the armed forces and industrial maritime production. In 1943 a bill entitled “Father Bill” was passed into law which states that fathers, regardless of occupation should have limited selection. (Geva, 9-10)
MANDATORY DRAFT IN ISRAEL
In Israel, both men and women, aged 18 years must serve the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). When an individual reaches 16 and 17 years of age, he or she is invited in the military for service. It includes interviews, physical exams and IQ exams. After 3 years, he or she comes back from the camp and returns as civilian. (Gaines)
What could be the reason for the mandatory military service in Israel? It is in their history. As was seen during the Second World War, many Jewish people died in the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. And Israel, the country with mostly Jewish people, does not want another repeat of that incident. According to, Sagi Yitzari, an Israeli who served in Israeli Army in 3 years, as quoted by Gaines (2001), “Israel is the only country in the world that can’t afford losing in a battle, and maybe in a war. Because of its size and the world we live in, we can’t afford losing even one time because we’re [going to] get a second Holocaust, and there won’t be any Jewish people.” On the other hand, United States did not experience colonialism after gaining independence in 1776. Although hammered by civil wars before, there was no incident of massive killings coming from other state similar to what happened with the Jews in the World War II.
NEED FOR MANDATORY MILITARY SERVICE
As seen from the cases of the two countries. United States military service is voluntary and mandatory in times of insurgencies like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Israel’s case is different for the Israeli Army is the life and survival for Israel. United States, a superpower, has enough weapons to defend its territories and the 2003 invasion of Iraq proved that US can launch an attack to other countries. Israel on the other hand, trains its citizens to defend them in order to prevent another holocaust. Their weapons and military trainings and advancements to both defend and attack are not that of US’s
Mandatory military service in Israel also puts delays on the career advancement of the citizens. The three years of such vigorous training costs a lot of career opportunities outside the base camps. However, some Israelis may find the military as their future careers. In United States, service in the state can be by military or by civilian. These trainings are inserted in the curriculums of colleges and universities or even as early as high school. Career advancement of US citizens is earlier compared to Israel citizens.
Another issue is seen on both countries with regard to having broken families. Military service is temporary for both countries but the military draft during wars is indefinite. In the case of United States, the Father Law has limited the selection of fathers because of dependency of other individuals, like wife and children, on them. During the wars in which the US was involved, all-voluntary military was activated which includes married fathers. The assurance of having the family back intact is hard for the risks of the soldiers being killed in battle are high. In Israel, their conflict with the Palestinians on Jerusalem also brought broken families or worse, deaths of their bread winners.
The issues surrounding the nature of voluntary or mandatory draft in military service pertain to the term security. Military security is attained through strengthening the military through advancement in weapons technology and training of the armed forces. Countries differ in these two mainly because of the budget allotment on military. Statistics can show that poor countries tend to allot more on butter compared to the core countries that have the luxury to spend more on guns. For the United States, weapons technology is higher compared to peripheries like Israel but Israel is catching up through mandatory military training of its citizens.
When we look at the bigger picture, sovereignty is what keeping other states from conquering territories of the other states. As defined in the international law, sovereignty is the “legitimate exercise of power and the interpretation of international law by a state.” States around the world are sovereign and they have achieved that recognition through military expansion through increasing number of military personnel or weapons advancement like testing of nuclear bombs. As long as all states recognize the sovereignty of the other states, no war will emerge. States like the US and Israel are both preserving their sovereignty in different degrees of importance. And if the time comes that these states need their citizens in times like war, every citizen should be willing to be canon balls and shields for their own countries.
Gaines, Joey. “To Young Adults in Israel, Draft is a Vital Duty.” 23 September 2001. <http://www.ypress.org/news/to_young_adults_in_israel_draft_is_a_vital_duty>
Geva, Dorith. “Classified and Depended Upon: Mandatory Military Service in the US, and the Dilemmas of Masculine Citizenship.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 11 August 2006 Online <PDF>. 2008-06-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p104831_index.html>
“Military Service – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_service#Israel>
“US Military Draft should be considered.” 11 August 2007. <http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22226178-5005961,00.html>
Vennochi, Joan. “A Military Draft might awaken US.” 22 June 2006 <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/06/22/a_military_draft_might_awaken_us/>