Bring Back the American Draft

The question of whether we need a universal military draft will be important as long as this country is placing thousands of young men and women in harm’s way in Iraq. As long as Americans are being shipped off to war, then everyone should be vulnerable, not just those who, because of economic circumstances, are attracted by lucrative enlistment bonuses and educational says Charles Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from New York. You can read more here.

The draft is a logical extension of democracy. If a nation is deciding on whether to wage war or not, one of the questions its citizens should have to ask is whether they are ready to step in harm’s way for the aims that their government is pursuing. The war in Iraq for instance is being fought by young people from the poorest backgrounds, many who signed on just because they did not have other economic options, while almost none of their leaders in the White House and Congress have experienced war or even have children in uniform. In fact a large number actively avoided the Vietnam draft and got off by being connected to the high and mighty.

I have so often railed against the state, especially the Kenyan one, on this blog but there is something about this posture that can sometimes be a bit false, particularly if it is in wartime. Let me stay with the United States for a minute. In the most general terms, both the Left and the Right of that country regard their politics to be in some way opposed to the state even as they fight for the right to possess and direct it. Both sides are after all arguably different strains of classical liberalism with its clarion call of individual rights not only pre-existing the state but taking precedence over it.

From the Left comes the rebellion against The Man who is supposed to support the military or use it to not only dominate and control society – the playground of the (vulnerable) progressive individual with his inalienable rights – but also to embark on a violent imperialism abroad. The Right also fights The Man who it supposes to be a be-suited bureaucrat determined to bring the economy – the playground of the profit-maximizing individual to whom private property is virtue – under his malign control. Both sides regard the state warily and want it cut down to size when it does not serve them. The hunger for power by these two broad groupings is ever present, and is really at the heart of their critiques against the state. If you were a Martian and heard either side rail about the evils of state-power, as I have done so often myself, you would think that the state is run by robots or is a very big animal with a will totally disconnected from the politics of the day.

Yet the government, if democracy exists in America, is created and maintained by the interaction between these camps. The government to put it more simply is the people. If it wages war, so do they. So why should the poorest among them, eighteen year olds from trailer parks who sign on to get a college education and a job, have to be shredded by IUDs while the rest sit back and snipe at each other over the actions of the government from their safe seats?

It does not matter that an individual American did not support the war personally; celebrating his country as a democracy means that he implicitly has to own the actions of the present government. Military service and the draft are an extension of democratic citizenship and not to be understood as an extension of Left or Right politics, or for whom you cast your vote, or the anger or delight you feel as news of the war carries to you.

But in politics as in life nothing is so clear-cut. I suspect that my reasoning opens a Pandora’s Box. If indeed the government is the people in a democracy – take or give some problems here or there – then it might make logical sense for civilians to be violently attacked by forces opposed to that nation’s policies. The more robust and realized a democracy is, the thinner gets the boundaries between citizen, military and government. Thus it would make perfect, if heinous and cruel, sense to attack the citizen of a democratic country because you are opposed to his government’s actions.

About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

6 Responses to Bring Back the American Draft

  1. Doctor G says:

    Hey, I saw that CNN interview, I really liked Rangel, he made sense. If it is patriotic to send kids to war, why should it just be poor rural kids with few other options? Why send troops on more than one tour of duty? Bring back the draft.

  2. Kamau says:

    Isn’t your view of democracy kind of utopian also, kind of like the utopians of the lefties and righties you talk about? I was at the airport in San Diego the other day and found my hands-off pragmatism really challenged when I saw the baby faced Marines celebrating their graduation. Many were from small towns of the Red states that were gung-ho in their support of the Bush agenda and the fiasco that is Iraq. I asked my self is this is the price of democracy? If it is what kind of democracy are we talking about?

  3. paul says:

    What you say makes sense. If there was an understanding before Iraq that there would be a draft if things went sour, then it seems much less likely that we would have gone to war. It is easy to support war when you know it will have no impact on you. The draft brings it home.

    Your new layout is nice, but your blog is now syndicating excerpts, rather than the whole article. While this surely drives up the hits on your site by forcing a visit on every new entry, it is pretty inconvenient for those of us on slow internet connections, as we can’t read entire articles in an rss reader. I assume this is an accident – please adjust to syndicate the whole article.

  4. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  5. Cannon's Canon says:

    current conscription law limits eligibility to men only.

    the conscription switch can be flipped on in times of need by the state. does your utopic vision address this dissonance, as it strives for “equality”?

  6. Troy says:

    I know this post is four years old, but I felt this was worth adding.

    “It does not matter that an individual American did not support the war personally; celebrating his country as a democracy means that he implicitly has to own the actions of the present government.”

    This idea is completely illogical, and out of touch with reality. You seem to have no concept that the United States is a republic. Because somebody voted for their representative, they are complicit in any and all actions of said representative? Ridiculous. “The government IS the people” is a falsehood in the same way that “the constituent IS the representative” is a falsehood.

    Plus, your naivete seems to be showing. The Vietnam years showed two things quite clearly:
    1. The sons of the rich, powerful, and connected are still fairly immune to the draft.
    2. The government will go to war, regardless of whether the people want it or not, draft or no draft.

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