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The US Needs A Draft

The United States should establish a mandatory two-year paid national service program that would bring together Americans of different backgrounds and help overcome barriers to a deeply felt and widely shared civic identity. If young Americans grow up believing that theirs is a divided country, it will remain so.

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – The United States needs a new draft – but not the kind you think.

For 25 years, before retiring as the 31st Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, I proudly wore the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, the USMC’s insignia. I faced all kinds of enemies on the battlefield, without fear or doubt, because I always believed wholeheartedly in America’s democracy and the Constitution that is its foundation. We are losing that belief and our connection to it.

When I was a young Marine in Vietnam, during a time of deep internal division in America, about half the country’s people said they trusted their fellow Americans. That was very discouraging. Today, according to a recent Brookings Institution study, that number is less than one-third. Americans’ civic discourse has all but disappeared, giving way to pessimistic apathy, blind partisanship, and un-American rage at our fellow citizens.