Though polls showed that many Americans opposed the Iraq War, that invasion and occupation was historically unprecedented in length and yet never generated the kind of mass protest that earlier, shorter wars evoked. Same thing for the Afghanistan War. Same thing for all the forward deployments to far-flung bases and one-off missions.
The pattern suggests that in the absence of conscription, dissent — if it exists at all — becomes a low-grade affair (an email, a petition, etc.) but not the kind of serious movement required to compel military policy changes. Why? Because as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, without a draft “wars remain an abstraction — a distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect (most people) personally.”
The danger, says West Point’s Lance Betros, is that Americans then “reflexively move towards a military solution before they will try all the other elements of national power.”
~ from Was Ending the Draft a Mistake? by David Sirota ~
I find it sad to say that far too many of my fellow citizens have a compassion deficit. If an issue doesn't impact them directly, it is deemed unimportant and insignificant. Though most of the world's religions, philosophies and other types of belief systems strongly condemn the acts of war and indiscriminate killing, most Americans would never consider demanding an end to our perpetual state of war.
This is not to suggest that Americans don't care about any issues. Suggest gun control and many of them are ready to take to the streets with their loaded guns. Suggest that a county courthouse is not the most appropriate place to hang the Ten Commandments and you may well have a riot on your hands. Suggest that women should have the right to control their own bodies or that homosexuals should have the legal right to marry and calls will flood into our elected leaders. But worry about the death and carnage that war and/or military aggression brings? You will be lucky these days to get ten people on a street corner waving signs!
You see, without the military draft, war is out of sight, out of mind. As Sirota suggests in his column, war become a sterile abstraction. It is not something most Americans have to deal with. Since it rarely impacts them personally, they simply don't give a shit if it means death and destruction for strangers, particularly strangers who belong to a religion that many don't approve of anyway.
Of course, a military draft is not a perfect solution. It is really nothing more than a lottery that impacts the poor and middle class -- the elite have their ways of skirting it. But while it is far from perfect, it IS one mechanism that would cause much of America to look up and take notice. It is hard to avoid when men and women start coming home in body bags or with messed up psyches. This is happening now, but not in huge numbers. If the numbers went up, then my guess is that more Americans would start to think twice about being mindless cheerleaders for our insane military-industrial complex.