Some Americans are worried that the draft may be coming back after a U.S. airstrike against a top Iranian commander sparked fears of another war, possibly one that could evolve into World War III, The New York Times reports. So many people visited the Selective Service website in the hours following the airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani that the site crashed.
Officially, The Draft Is Still A Thing
“The Draft,” as it’s called colloquially, should more accurately be referred to as the Selective Service, which still exists. The Selective Service still requires men to register for it as soon as possible following their 18th birthday. Those who fail to register could be denied federal jobs or student loans, among other penalties.
However, though the federal government maintains the Selective Service program, the reality is that no one has been conscripted into service via the program since the Vietnam Era. What’s more, getting the program up and running to the point that young men should generally worry about getting summoned before their local Draft Board would require political will that, for now, simply isn’t there.
Bringing Back Conscription
In order for the military to begin conscripting young men into service, the first thing that would have to happen is that Congress would have to pass a law authorizing the process. That’s because conscription officially ended in 1973, when then-President Richard Nixon ended the unpopular and controversial process as part of his promise to end the war in Vietnam.
Whether or not there’s enough support in Congress to pass such a law is unclear, and indeed impossible to try to gauge, inasmuch as no one has even seriously talked about bringing back conscripted military service for nearly 50 years.
However, writing in Business Insider, Grace Panetta notes that popular support for bringing back conscription is low enough that few, if any, in Congress are going to be willing to pass such a law.
Even if such a law passed, there are a myriad of practical problems for getting it enacted. For one thing, as much as 71 percent of young men of draft age are simply ineligible for conscription; they’re too obese, they have criminal records, or they don’t have a high school education.
Still, fears of the return of the Vietnam era bugaboo were enough to cause several people, presumably young men or their parents, to panic.
So busy was the Selective Service website that the agency was forced to tweet out that “technical difficulties” due to “misinformation” had caused the website to go down, albeit temporarily.
Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time. If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience.
— Selective Service (@SSS_gov) January 3, 2020
At least one young man on Twitter blocked the United States Army’s Twitter account, stating that “They can’t draft you if they can’t see you.” However, that’s not how the draft works, as the Times points out.