Rick Jahnkow -
Counter-recruitment and school demilitarization work in the U.S. has gone through several cycles of expansion and contraction during the last few decades. The first expansion was during the early 1980s when it was supported by a small number of national organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), War Resisters League, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) and National Lawyers Guild. Most grassroots activities at the time were carried out by chapters of these organizations and a number of independent community peace groups (including COMD and, eventually, Project YANO).
Many counter-recruitment organizers in the 1980s came from the Vietnam-era anti-draft movement, so it was common for them to include draft counseling information as they also worked to counter the presence of military recruiters in schools. This dual emphasis was encouraged by the return of Selective Service registration in 1980 and the government’s various efforts to coerce young men into compliance. Frequently, organizers saw no distinction between the issues of recruiting and Selective Service registration, which had both positive and negative consequences. It was positive in the sense that fear of a possible return to the draft fueled more youth-focused organizing and helped increase awareness of recruiting and militarism in schools. But on the negative side, the frequent focus on Selective Service kept many activists from fully comprehending that economics had become the primary factor driving the militarization of young people, and that draft counseling was not an effective approach to the problem. Another negative consequence was that as concern about conscription diminished in the late 1980s, the overall level of counter-recruitment work also fell considerably.