Thirty years ago, when the United States was fighting the war in Vietnam, much of the peace movement revolved around the college campus. Then, anti-war protest was often associated with words like "counterculture" and "draft dodger."
Today's protesters arrive from a different era, the age of a volunteer army. This week in New York, a well-dressed middle-age man was part of the protest. He bore a sign that read: Corporate Attorneys Against the War. When other demonstrators decided to make themselves heard, they blocked Fifth Avenue by staging a "die-in."
While experts differ about whether the draft helped encourage protest or simply served as a rallying point, it became emblematic of the anti-war movement. It's difficult for those with memories of Vietnam to think back without summoning the image of the Catonsville Nine burning draft records in their famous 1968 action for peace.
Though young men are required to register with the Selective Service, the draft was eliminated in 1973.
That is unlikely to change, although early this year Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat, proposed bringing back the draft to raise awareness about the war.
Rangel, who opposed the war in Iraq, hoped that the idea of bringing back the draft would help spur similar thoughts about the war, if not actions. But most say it had little effect on the student population.
Student newspapers at George Washington University, University of Illinois and the University of Arkansas editorialized against Rangel's proposal.
"Basically, the bill was written to include as many people as possible in order to scare as many people as possible into opposing the war to avoid the draft," editorialized the University of Arkansas Traveler. "The tactic is, put bluntly, disgusting."
Most say that while the proposal may have caught students' attention, it had little lasting effect.
"A light bulb went off. It was a topic of conversation but never something imminent in their lives," says Michael T. Klare, professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.
But as President Bush and his Cabinet moved closer to war and the military buildup began, students began to become "much more skeptical about the war, and the anti-war movement began spreading vertically and horizontally," Klare says.
Students from Hampshire College packed 24 buses to go to the anti-war protests in New York in mid-February, Klare says.
Observers of the peace movement contend that the role of the draft was often overrated as a large factor in the anti-war movement, especially among students.
"I haven't heard anyone mention the draft as a reason to protest the war," Klare says. "I think it was a moral issue for everyone."
"Most people protest on moral grounds, not because they are afraid of getting drafted and serving," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University and author of the coming book, Letters to a Young Activist.
The first time Congress considered drafting its citizens into military service, the idea was rejected. That was in 1790, and the United States had won its War for Independence with militias and volunteers bearing arms under George Washington.
It took the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln to institute a draft, and from then on the United States conscripted men to fight its major wars.
The draft came to represent many things - duty of citizenship, emblem of patriotism, rite of passage and finally symbol of dissent, during the Vietnam conflict.
By Jason Song