I get the mass e-mails from the Dean organization. Today, I got another one about the draft. The thrust of the message is to “demand truth” about the draft, but the link is to a site called http://petition.democracyforamerica.com/page/p/nodraft .
From the point of view of pure politics, this is genius. Young voters have the interests and idealism that makes them easy pickings for the left, but they never vote. The Dems have been looking for years for a way to mobilize them; and the Greens count them among the “majority” who don’t vote who will one day put the Green party into power. Feh.
Anyway, the draft is a perfect way to mobilize the young, especially this generation. Hyperactive, over-stimulated, over-sugared, self-centered children of Generation Y unite against doing anything that might help authority or others! The generations before us had FDR and JFK to call them to service. The Boomers, however, already having lucked out by the toil of their parents, were the beginning of this trend; until they were betrayed by Viet Nam and Watergate, they were still more likely drawn to service, but the fallout, as expressed in their children is amazingly different than the Greatest Generation.
There is a difference between being for the draft and being for war in general or any specific war. First of all, while I supported returning weapons inspectors to Iraq, after they found nothing and the rationales shifted and the adminstration was obviously lying, there was really no reason in my mind to support a war in Iraq at that point. We hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan, and these elections notwithstanding (who cares about who is the de facto mayor of Kabul anyway?) there is still much work to do there. And, as has been pointed out at length, there is much work to do elsewhere.
Second, I did support the war in Afghanistan. I did support the first Gulf War–not in the abstract–but given the geopolitical and economic realities of the time, and given that it was well carried out. I am not a pacifist. Ideally, I would like to see world peace; realistically, I know we need defense.
But defense policy is carried out at the behest of a large array of interests that do not generally reflect either (a) genuine self-defense, or (b) the genuine pursuit of the interests of the population at large. It’s possible for this to be done because of the fact that many of these interests control the Government and to the extent they need military back up, they are offered a large and powerful army full of people who feel their purpose is to “defend” America, and want to be used, not shielded (in case you wondered why the military is pro-Republican). Shielding the military makes them feel weak and useless–which is why Democrats have been smart to emphasize this time around putting the blame at the top in Abu Ghraib specifically and in Iraq in general and to talk about the fact that the lies broke the promise to them to use them only when necessary.
So, as if now, we can have war without “sacrifice” (i.e. death of impressed soldiers, higher taxes, rationing, etc.) , we will have war and it will be war that is basically not diplomacy by other means, but trade by other means.
The draft could kill two birds with one stone. It could instill community values in a generation without them. It could instill caution into foreign policy that isn’t.
The argument against is that drafted armies are (1) immoral and (2) ineffective. First, anyone with a bona fide moral objection should be allowed to do AmeriCorps instead. (2) Wasn’t Abu Ghraib the exact kind of thing that trained soldiers were supposed to not do? We have an army of “independent” contractors out there that I doubt are more useful in general than draftees…. plus, it should be part of a democracy that the army is a real cross-section, rich and poor, of the country. No deferments. And it was deferments that kept the children of the powerful and decision-makers weren’t at risk.
If you went to the young in America and said–do one year in the army or AmeriCorps and we’ll pay for college, as is done in Europe, I think you’d get an overwhelming positive response.