Regarding Robert Lezzi’s Jan. 10 letter, “Benefits of returning to the draft“: Putting aside the fact that a draft would put the United States in the same league as repressive regimes like North Korea and Iran, his comments ignore reality. He says that only when a draft is reinstated “will Americans react and vote accordingly,” reversing bipartisan support for current troop surge plans. Did he miss the midterm elections? Or the fact that top Democrats have not only opposed such plans but have threatened to withhold funding.

Lezzi also states, with passing reference to Vietnam, that a draft would end apathy since fewer apathetic Americans would be shielded from the fallout. This assumption rests on the fallacy that public outcry and protests were somehow more widespread during the Vietnam era than now. Again, reality is quite the opposite where history is concerned.

In the case of Vietnam, apathy prevailed for years and protest was very slow in developing. Protest was so slight that no one even remembers that President John F. Kennedy attacked South Vietnam in 1962. By the time protests had risen to any meaningful levels in 1967, heavy saturation bombing had transformed the region into a kind of moonscape, and highly respected (and hawkish) historians like Bernard Fall wondered whether Vietnam would become extinct as a cultural and historical entity.

Contrast that with the Iraq reaction. Despite there not being a draft, opposition (both in the United States and globally) was immediate — far greater, and much worse than during the Vietnam era. Few can forget February 2003, as it was the first time in U.S. and perhaps European history that a war was massively protested before it officially started. The U.S. just doesn’t tolerate an aggressive war to the extent it did in the 1960s.

todd rho

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