CHANCE AND CIRCUMSTANCE: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation by Lawrence M. & William A. Strauss Baskir

CHANCE AND CIRCUMSTANCE: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation

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This work is not truly about ""the Vietnam generation""--all the young men of 1964-73--but concentrates on the deserters, exiles, and resisters who constituted only 4% of draft-age males. More specifically, draft violators (540,000) and deserters (500,000) receive disproportionate attention as against those who legally staved off serving through deferments (15,000,000). The authors' bias is understandable: they worked for the Ford Clemency Board and apparently cannot escape the emotionally charged issue of amnesty. Partially in consequence, the work lacks an extended analysis of government conscription policy: why did the Johnson Administration fail to reform the draft? Relying mainly on published sources, the authors describe the draft's inequities rather than exploring the reasons for them; they did not review the archives of local draft boards, the Selective Service, and Sixties political leaders. Nonetheless, the work serves well as a concise reminder of the draft's prejudices against the less educated and less wealthy. In showing who was drafted, Baskir and Strauss imaginatively draw on sources ranging from the Harvard Crimson to General S. L. A. Marshall. They unhesitantly recognize the ineffectiveness of organized, massive resistance; most of the 15 million evaders, legitime or otherwise, manifested no political or moral objections to the war. For many of them, Vietnam was an inconvenience to be put off by the family doctor, National Guard, or self-inflicted mutilation. A useful start if not the story in full.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Knopf