But why take my word for it? Two of this country's most distinguished scholars, Gary Becker and Richard Posner, have addressed this issue on their always interesting blog. Posner doesn't like the argument about the impact of the draft, instead arguing that five factors explain the lack of serious and violent protest over the war:
Becker, however (and obviously infinitely more accurately), agrees with me:
First is that the opponents of the war in Iraq have the support of one of the two political parties....The Left knows that violent protests against the war would weaken Democratic Party opposition and the likelihood of a Democratic President's being elected in 2008. Moreover, they have less need to protest because they are aligned with a powerful political force.
Second, the opportunity costs of time are higher today than they were in the 1960s and early 1970s for potential protesters.
Third, the great expansion of the electronic media, including the advent of blogs, gives people outlets to blow off steam that are much cheaper, in cost of time, than street demonstrations or acts of violence.
Fourth is a learning factor. The violent protests against the Vietnam war probably did not shorten the war, but instead helped Nixon become President.
A fifth factor [is] cultural rather than economic or easily expressed in economic terms: For many of the Vietnam war protesters, the war was a symbol of what they believed to be deeper and broader problems with the United States and the entire Western world. They thought the "system" rotten and entertained Utopian hopes of overthrowing it and substituting a socialist or anarchist paradise. This belief gave the war more resonance as a target. Partly because of the collapse of communism, partly because of greater prosperity, few Americans are hostile to the American system. Most blame the Iraq war on the incompetence of the Bush Administration rather than on some more pervasive social or political pathology. This tempers their anger and their willingness to take career risks by engaging in protests against the war.
The absence of a military draft is the most important factor behind the minimal number of violent protests against the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.
Representative Charles Rangel of New York has proposed to reinstate the draft. He has claimed that President Bush would not have invaded Iraq had a universal draft been in place. I do not believe he is right, but I do believe the pressure to withdraw earlier would have been far greater if young men were being drafted in large numbers.
The war in Iraq is being fought only with volunteers for military and civilian service, although some members of the armed forces and the reserves would not have joined if they anticipated the war when they enlisted. The reliance solely on military volunteers means that "taxes" to fight the war are spread over all taxpayers, and are not concentrated on young people.
Thoughts? What explains this puzzling lack of protest?