Ron Paul On The Draft

In the second of a series of videos that takes us on a tour around Ron Paul’s Congressional office, the Congressman discusses a framed Robert Taft quote that hangs on his wall concerning the draft, his personal experiences with the draft, and his thoughts today on its possible return.

Date: 02/10/2009


Ron Paul: I’m getting concerned that the draft may be reinstated with this new administration. Both Rahm Emanuel and Obama have spoken about this and they certainly support National Youth Service, but with our expanding role in the Middle East especially around Afghanistan, Iraq still ongoing, and as well as the war potentially spreading into Pakistan means that there may be a need for a draft. And they may use one of the arguments, “Well it’s good for unemployment too, it might lower the unemployment figure,” which will be a horrible reason to reinstate the draft.

Well, a quote that I have in my office is a favorite quote from a Republican Senator back when this issue was being debated in 1940 in the lead up to World War II. This quote comes from Senator Robert Taft who strongly opposed the draft for the correct reasons, because he defended his position on a personal liberty argument. This is the quote that I have here in my office; he says:

“A compulsory draft is far more typical of totalitarian nations than of democratic nations. The theory behind it leads directly to totalitarianism. it is absolutely opposed to the principles of individual liberty which have always been considered a part of American democracy.” — Senator Robert A. Taft, August 14, 1940

And he said this on the senate floor most likely, on August of 1940 during this debate because it was just by October of 1940 that draft registration was required, and of course it wasn’t many months later that the draft was used to draft literally millions of Americans to fight in World War II.

But even a long time before this, Daniel Webster got on the Senate floor and argued the case against the draft under much more dire circumstances, because at that time literally, Washington DC was being bombed and burned by the British, yet Daniel Webster got on the floor and defended the position that you sacrifice liberty by the use of the draft.

So, once again we should be concerned about this. For years now I have routinely introduced legislation to get rid of the selective service, because why have a selective service if you’re not planning to have a draft. And to me that is the most serious attack on personal liberty. It is involuntary servitude. If you can draft young men and women and send them overseas in wars that are undeclared and think this is part of a method to preserve liberty, then we are sadly mistaken. And the truth is, in this day and age, if there is to be a draft, it will be both for men and women, because we sure wouldn’t want to treat one sex unfairly compared to the other, but that is a heck of a way to have equality to treat both sexes the [same] way by enslaving them and forcing them to go overseas and fight wars.

I actually have some personal experience about the military draft because I was in the middle of my medical training during the Cuban crisis. I was a resident for a hospital in 1962 when the crisis broke out. I got a note that said I would be drafted into the army as a buck private unless I wanted to volunteer, then I could be a doctor and I could be a captain. So guess what? I became a volunteer, and I kid about that, but it was rather serious. I was not too happy about going in, but it must not have bothered me too much, because I ended up staying in the Air National Guard afterwards. I think my attitude right now about foreign policy and foreign intervention and undeclared wars has changed a good bit, and I might not have been as complacent as I was back then. But unfortunately the military draft makes young people more vulnerable, because we are not as sophisticated as we might be in maybe our willingness to stand up and ask questions about just why are we so involved militarily around the world.

Well, this is an appropriate time for this subject to be discussed, and we may well move into the direction of having a national youth service for domestic reasons and a lot of people say, “Hey, that’s a good idea. Everybody serves, everybody owes something to their country”, and therefore they’ll start it that way and then it will move into the military draft.

One of the arguments for the draft that has annoyed me to no end over the years has been, “Well everybody owes it to their country.” Just tell me why would an 18 year old young man owe war to the country and say if you’re 45 or 50? Just think of all those individuals who never serve, who are 45 and 50 and lived a good life and are very wealthy, what do they owe? If you were going to use that argument, the 18 year old owes a lot to himself and we owe something to the 18 year old and that is to preserve our freedom in this country, to make sure that we don’t use government force and government power to reinstate the military draft.


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