Conscription, Volunteer Armies, and War

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 20144:30PM - 6:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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Between 2003 and 2011, the sand dunes and alleyways of Iraq were the site of a struggle between the United States military and a series of enemies. Many scholars and pundits would note similarities between this fight and the one undertaken some 40 years earlier in Vietnam.
Numerous parallels could be found in both, including disapproval ratings by American voters and a similar “domino theory” presented to the public by policymakers. Although many similarities exist between the Vietnam and Iraq wars there remains a major domestic difference which is striking when the two are compared – the lack of an active, widespread US citizen anti-war protest movement in the latter. While intense protests, and even domestic terrorism, by Americans would exist during the Vietnam War, it would not be the case during Iraq. This research argues that the reason for this is that a different US military was present on each battlefield.

While the US had a conscription-based force during the Vietnam War, an all-volunteer military was present during the Iraq War. This change in the mode of recruitment caused civilians and soldiers to be either close or distant from one another, both physically and socially. It was this factor which affected the way in which the general public perceived the soldier and subsequently the intensity of the anti-war response. A conscription-based force caused the civilian to be more concerned about the soldier and intensified the means in which the civilian decided to protest an unpopular war, while an all-volunteer force did the opposite. This research, which evaluates the US, a major world player and an important power many other states seek to emulate, can be useful to other democracies, such as Israel, who are currently deliberating the implications of a transition to an all-volunteer force.

Speaker Bio
Yonatan Freeman is a PhD candidate in the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. His research interests include civil-military relations, military manpower systems, and their linkage to the conduct of wars. He is visiting the Munk School of Global Affairs as a Visiting Graduate Student under the Ralph and Roz Halbert International Relations fund.


Sarah Namer


Yonatan Freeman
PhD Candidate, Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Main Sponsor

Halbert Exchange Program


Munk School of Global Affairs

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