To end war, revive the draft — but draft whom?
A military draft was proposed by writer Thomas Ricks in the New York Times’ op-ed page of July 10. The title of the piece: “Let’s Draft Our Kids.” I say let’s not draft our kids. But I have in mind some other people’s kids
A draft—conscription—is involuntary servitude. It’s the government reaching down and saying, “Hey, you! Stop doing what you’re doing. Set aside your plans for your life for the next two years. You will serve us. You will do what we tell you to do, and accept pay at the rate we set. And if you think our offer is crummy, too bad, because it’s not an offer. It’s a command.”
I’m opposed to this. The government’s job is to protect the citizen. It should not grab him like a sandbag in a flood unless there is a flood--unless the country is being invaded, or is at imminent threat of invasion. Which it is not, and has not been for a very long time.
Further, I think that in the 20th century the power to conscript the citizen made it easier to fight wars America should have stayed out of.
In the past decade, a counter-argument has arisen: that the volunteer military has made it easier to fight wars, including Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The argument is that the politicians have sent the troops off to war, and the average American doesn’t care because he’s not at risk. Therefore, make the average American, or his kids, subject to the draft, and he’ll pay attention.
That is Ricks’ argument. There is some logic to it, and regarding the financial cost of war, I agree with it. Congress has put war on the credit card. If you want the average citizen to care about war, make him pay for it. But drafting his kids puts the costs on them. As economist David R. Henderson notes, Ricks’ argument boils down to, “put millions of innocent people in involuntary servitude so that their parents become politically active.”
And Ricks does mean millions. Clearly he understands that the military doesn’t want everyone. He proposes a draft that would give the draftee a choice of combat-ready military, noncombatant military and civilian servitude: building trails in the parks, emptying bedpans, etc. He even has an option for libertarians like me: skip national service entirely, but lose your rights to Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, etc. (but still pay all the taxes).
This amounts to a lot of unfreedom for a lot of Americans to achieve an aim that—if you grant Ricks’ logic—could be achieved much more easily. The people who need to take personal responsibility for war are the members of Congress. Only they have the constitutional power to authorize war and to raise the money to pay for it. They have defaulted on both those responsibilities many times, and in regard to taxes are defaulting on it now. Therefore, put the burden on them. Draft them, or their kids.
Would it be unfair to draft their kids? They aren’t responsible for their parents’ political decisions. But at least the total amount of unfairness, compared with Ricks’ proposal, would be greatly reduced.
Imagine it! Anytime America went to war, members of Congress or their children, and only them, would be automatically subject to a draft. Would that focus the congressional mind? I think it would. It would work better than Ricks’ proposal, and cost less.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics