The Great Draft Dodge

Karl Eikenberry and what Americans lost when they stopped fighting.

By James Kitfield

Karl Eikenberry couldn’t understand why the staff sergeant insisted that he take a loaded pistol to patrol the barracks. The West Point cadet was in Hawaii for the summer, serving as a staff duty officer with the 25th Infantry Division, which had recently returned from Vietnam. It was his job on weekend nights to ensure good order.”Why would I take a sidearm?” Eikenberry asked.

Today, Eikenberry is a former ambassador to Afghanistan who also commanded the U.S.-led coalition forces there as a three-star Army general. And as America’s longest war comes to an end, part of the baggage he carries is a deep unease about the nature of the pact sealed way back in 1973, the year he graduated from West Point and entered military service. The shift from a draft to an all-volunteer force, Eikenberry believes, fundamentally changed not only the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, and between the civilian government and the military, but also the compact between citizen and society.

Operation Iraqi Freedom