Threat of war causes anxiety among potential recruits

Ann Vettikkal | Staff Writer

Given war and peace, America currently exists somewhere between the two. 

On January 2, 2020, President Trump issued a strike that killed major Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani. Beyond heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, this event sparked the fast spread of related content at home on the Internet and social media, including jokes about a possible draft for World War III. 

There hasn’t been a draft since the Vietnam War, more than 47 years ago. So when teenagers across the country received fraudulent text messages claiming that they were being drafted into active service by the U.S. Army, the alarms went off. In fact, the Twitter for U.S. Army Recruiting sent out a message clarifying that “the U.S. Army is NOT contacting anyone regarding the draft.”  

Senior Trey Spencer who is on track to complete the ROTC program at Ohio University critiqued the internet’s facetious response to the whole affair. 

“The draft’s not going to happen — not [a] war with Iran,” Spencer said. “Especially today, it’s really popular to make memes and stuff. And that’s all good fun, but I feel like then people take it a little bit too seriously. I think that the talk about World War III is kind of immature.”

Digital Image Design teacher Dan McKay noticed how this current sensationalism by the media has caused an unnecessary frenzy. He has had several friends involved in the military (chiefly for the Iraq War) and even if he himself has never served, he’s seen how these conflicts have created an unhealthy sphere of influence. 

“It’s important to remove yourself for a minute and not worry until you can do some research,” McKay. “It’s really difficult to not get sucked into a media storm or hearsay. There’s often been times when things looked dire. I just try and keep a perspective of ‘let’s give these things time and let’s see what plays out.’”

Although the draft seems like a distant memory for many Americans, the anxious whispers about one aren’t as far away. For McKay, the current conversations feel all too familiar.

“I remember being with a bunch of guys having the exact same conversation almost 20 years ago that we were all going to get drafted,” McKay said, recalling his personal circumstances after 9/11 had occurred. “People were scared. I think I was a senior in college and personally, I had very different plans for my life. So I was not excited. But I had a feeling of, if that’s what’s required of me, I’ll do it.”

McKay also talked about the differences between now and then. To him, social media was the largest factor of change, while the rest stayed relatively the same. 

“Information spreads instantly,” McKay said. “Whereas 20 years ago, people at least went to the news first. It doesn’t always mean it was right. But that kind of slowed things down a bit. But I think the anxieties are going to be the same wherever you feel like you don’t have control of your life.”

Any male that turns 18 and is a U.S citizen must still sign up for Selective Service. Senior Vince Albers, who doesn’t plan on choosing a military path any time soon, felt uncomfortable with this process. 

“When I was applying to college, FAFSA requires you to sign up for the draft,” Albers said. “It was a five-minute online document that I had to fill out. The website itself was very simple. That’s what I kind of dislike about it too — you’re signing up to potentially be drafted into the military but it seems like something so small.”

Albers considers himself “anti-conflict.” Even though he knows that “it’s not going to happen,” he is still uneasy with the notion of a draft on principle. 

“I guess [the draft] could be necessary,” Albers said. “But I don’t think it should ever happen. You’re drafting people who don’t believe in the same thing that the President does. If I’m going to be fighting for something, I want it to be fighting for something that I care about.”

For Spencer, whose walls are lined with the medals of his uncles and grandfathers and has always had an interest in military history, his background shapes how he approaches this subject. But he also talked about how his personal opinions fit in with the nation he will choose to serve, voicing similar feelings for conflicts he believed were unwelcomed. 

“I feel devotion to my country,” Spencer said. “I have been given a very good hand in life. I never had any problems with money and I feel like I owe it to my country. Now, that being said, defending my country is different than fighting in the Middle East. I don’t believe that’s defending my freedoms.” 

McKay also called into question the morality of war on a case by case basis; what we see now should be treated independently of unrelated conflicts. 

“Tons of people have written novels about whether war is just or not,” McKay said. “Who’s making the decisions? Do you agree with them? What are the circumstances? Vietnam was its own thing. 9/11 was its own thing. Now, this is its own thing. We have to be informed.”

As of now, this nation’s fate is not sealed in a sanctioned war or presented with any reason to conscript the youth. But if it ever were to occur, Spencer believes that there is always ambiguity to the conflict, which is often hidden under a veneer of patriotism. 

“I feel like we get too caught up in national pride,” Spencer said. “In reality, war is an awful thing. Not just for our soldiers going over there and coming back with PTSD — or dead — but for the people in those countries. It’s not all just good guys and bad guys. There’s a big gray area. Our message is that yes, we mean business. But also we don’t end up killing people for no reason.”

Photos by Henri Robbins.