Observations on the world today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Why the Draft is Immoral 

Pandagon: The Military Archives
I think a draft would be significantly more moral than our current way of staffing our military. In fact, I'm sympathetic to the idea that the country should have two compulsive years of service in return for free college, and make that relevant across the board. If people want to pay for private schools fine, everyone's kids have to serve the country and they'll all reap the rewards in the successive years. Programs that force people of different classes, races, regions and ideologies are, in my view, a good thing for the country.
I am very weary of this topic. Two days ago on Majority Report, Janeane Garofalo announced that she favors the draft also because it is the only way to assure that Americans from all walks of life serve equitably.

If this is the only reason you favor the draft, the argument against your attitude is easy. Let's break it down logically.
• Because the military is all volunteer, they have to find ways to staff the positions.
• To do this, the government offers incentives such as housing, job training and free schooling.
• However, the rich are not attracted by these incentives, so the military is inordinately staffed by the poor and middle class.
• This is de facto classism.
• So when there is a war, the poor are disproportionately the ones to fight and die.
• Therefore, to fix this inequity we must...
...have mandatory service of some sort.

But let's look at three other solutions:
• Therefore, to fix this inequity we must...
a.)...have mandatory service only for the wealthy since there is no way to create incentive for them to serve and since they benefit the most from freedom.

b.)...eliminate all incentives so that only those who truly want to serve will sign up.

c.)...allow the volunteer military to continue as it exists, but put all wars on a ballot and allow them to vote on whether they will fight or not.

Obviously, none of these options are viable. Working backward: option c is the antithesis of what the military is all about. However, of the four options, I like option c the best. Option b would result in zero enlistment and undervalues the service of those who are owed a debt by their government. Option a fixes the problem as presented in the bullet points, but it's every bit as anti-American and counter-freedom and elitist as the current situation. But the option as stated (a draft) also faces many of the same difficulties. Mandatory service is (like option c) not good for the military because it brings in hostile conscripts, and (like option a) it's anti-freedom.

Not every war is just. Present circumstances make that decidedly clear. Conscription not only says you don't get to choose your own battles, it says you don't even have the right to decide for yourself if you are willing to trust the government to choose your battles. Mandatory service tells our young people that their liberty has a window of obligatory suspension. We wouldn't suggest telling people that every citizen must perform mandatory prison time. We don't make charity or community service mandatory as a requirement of citizenship. We can't put the state and it's defense above freedom of choice - the choice to define one's own destiny.

How can people who support reproductive freedom reconcile that with supporting the concept of the suppression of actual freedom?

So do I have an alternative? Well, yes, I do. The solution is to make the incentives appeal to the children of the wealthy as well as it does to the children of the less-than-wealthy. Make it illegal for schools to grant favorable admission status to legacies. Require that applications to college be double-blind. And weight them in favor of veterans.

Socialize higher-education. Mandatory conscription is socialism and anti-freedom. You're already prepared to go the socialized route with a draft. Socializing higher-education at least eliminates half of that insult - the anti-freedom aspect. We already have socialized lower-education (although admittedly, there are inequities, but that's another issue.)

In addition, this solution not only makes the volunteer army appealing to all Americans equally, it also democratizes access to college.

Works for me.

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