In a time when everything and everyone seems to be obsessed with the daily news cycle, The Foghorn decided to take a look to the past. The following article is a staff editorial from The Foghorn, included in its March 6, 1970 issue. In 1970, many male graduating seniors had to grapple with the fact that once they graduated, they would have to sign up for the draft and could potentially fight in the Vietnam War. This staff editorial gave advice to men in this situation: resist the draft. Enjoy the viewpoint of the 1970 Foghorn staff in its entirety, unedited.
Sometime in the next few months nearly all USF male seniors will make that confrontation with conscription that four years of college have delayed. It has become increasingly clear that President Nixon’s draft lottery is a stop-gap measure designed to quiet dissent, and as Mark O. Hatfield has rather succinctly commented, “Substituting Lady Luck for General Hershey does not alter the fact that young men are forced into “service and denied their individual liberty.” Few physically capable males, then, will avoid the summons of Selective Service.
Each man summoned will, then, be forced to make the decision he has been able to postpone for four years. A number of men who cooperate with conscription will do so because they sincerely believe it is an obligation of citizenship. This is their inalienable right, and. we do not dispute it. It has been our experience, however, that the majority of those who cooperate do so because it is expedient and not because it is morally correct. They reason that refusal of service will place a blemish on their records and consequently ruin their careers. For this reason, they decide to work within the system, to sacrifice two years of freedom in order that they might enjoy a lifetime of liberty upon their release from the service.
We seriously wonder, however, whether a man who cooperates with the selective service for such reasons can ever really be free again. As David Harris has pointed out, “The most obvious assumption of military conscription is that the lives of young people in this country belong not to these young people; the lives of these young people instead are possessions of the state, to be used by the state when and where the state chooses to use them.” This has often been the case in the United States, where the government has several times elected to sacrifice the lives of the young to some vague ideal or some future Utopian state.
Many would deny that conscription violates individual liberty. However, the very vocabulary used by conscription adherents validates Harris”s contentions. A clear-cut example of this type of thinking is “military obligation” and all that phrase connotes. The word “obligation” indicates to us an assumption that the welfare of the state is prior to the welfare of the individual. However, as Thomas Aquinas argues in Treatise on Law, the state exists only insofar as it promotes the welfare of the individuals which compose it. Now, since conscription amounts to the arbitrary’ usurpation of the inalienable freedom of an individual” it seems clear to us that a state which engages in conscription (or, euphemistically, selective service) is dearly assuming powers which do not belong to it.
However, the real danger lies not in the state’s attempt to extend its power, but in the willingness of its citizens to accept that extension. The government, try as it may, has no control over the Uves of the individuals until those individuals allow the government to assume control. This is the significance of the selective service controversy. In taking that symbolic “one step forward” into the Army, draftees are, in effect, prostrating their individual rights before the state. Submission to induction, it seems to us, is an admission of individual insignificance.
The widespread acceptance of the principle of selective service in this country has made possible further government encroachment on individual rights. Two glaring examples of this are federal justification of wiretapping and search without notice, and the grassroots campaign against the “liberal” Supreme Court. The former pair is a logical extension of conscription, for if individual liberty is sacrificed in one instance, it can easily be sacrificed in another. The latter, the campaign against the Court, is frightening because it represents a rejection by individuals, of their own inherent rights.
Cooperation with selective service, then, is dangerous business. Although it pretends to claim only two years of personal freedom, the cost to liberty may. in the long run, be far higher. Don’t go. We aren’t going to.