In the United States, since the 1970s, the all-volunteer military has greatly reduced the number of Americans who serve in the military. A recent survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of Americans over age 50 served, or were related to someone who did. That was the generation that grew up with the draft. Only about 60 percent of Americans aged 30-49 served or are related to someone who did. For those aged 18-29, it’s only about 33 percent. During World War II, over nine percent of Americans were in the military, now it’s about a half a percent. But the situation now has been the norm through most of American history, something we tend to forget. Conscription in the U.S. was only used for a few years during the Civil War (between 1863-5), World War I (in 1917 and 18). World War II (1940-47) and the Cold War (1948-73). Actually, very few men were conscripted in 1948 and 1949. But when the Korean War began in 1950, that changed.
Conscription was never popular during its brief history (about two centuries in the West), and never worked very well either. It won’t return to use in the United States for the same reason it disappeared in Britain in the late 1950s, and would have gone the same way in the U.S. during the 1960s had there been no Vietnam war. The main reason that conscription doesn’t work is that in most countries, there are far more young men becoming eligible for military service each year than the military needs. So someone has to decide who will serve and who won’t. This leads to widespread discontent over how unfair it is that some go, and others do not.