“What goes around comes around.” This is the maxim most frequently
employed to explain why kids today dress just as stupidly as their
parents or grandparents once did. It also fits when contemplating why
policy hacks recommend ideas just as stupid as their parents and
grandparents once recommended.
Take the draft. We used to have one, and many folks today feel that,
in the words of the Squirrel Nut Zippers song, “If it’s good enough for
granddad, it’s good enough for me.”
Pundits are increasingly punditting that American youth should be
waylaid at the age of 18 and indentured into a hard but rewarding life
of military service. What ever for? For starters, it’ll be good for
them. The cheering section for a renewed draft cite the need for our
kids to be well-rounded, disciplined, and get decent haircuts. Col.
David Hackworth, widely respected authority on matters military and
someone I greatly admire, actually suggests these reasons for a draft.
In his WND column, “Harry Truman had it Right,” Hackworth hearkens
back to the grand old Truman days, when most every young Turk was fitted
for green pants and a military-sponsored attitude adjustment. In the
old days, the Army took our tender saplings and “imbued” them “with the
right stuff,” made them patriots and decent folk. Looking at the
butt-sagging, unshaven, poorly dressed form of Generation X, Hackworth
says we need “a well-rounded, carefully constructed program to save our
country’s youth before they self-destruct.”
I’ll go for that. But that “carefully constructed program” is not
the military. The military is not a reform school. Uncle Sam is not in
the business of yanking out the brat circuits in heads of the spoiled,
undisciplined rabble of the chronologically disadvantaged. I hate to be
so obvious, but the military exists to defend our borders, not correct
mistakes in parenting.
Disregarding the “military as youth-messiah” argument, other reasons
are often bandied about — not the least of which is social engineering.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, explaining in a February
1999 column why he loathed serving in the Army, apparently sees enough
value in it to suggest that maybe today’s urchins should be conscripted
to the same fate — which he happily confesses was “rotten.” His
reason: it’ll be good for the melting pot. Ignoring the sentimental
reminiscences about how Cohen learned to accept folks of darker hue than
himself, let’s face it: coercing ethnic accord seems a bit amiss. If
race-relations are so poor that you need to strong-arm folks to rub
elbows and bump gums in hopes that they’ll learn to like each other,
then we’re in very bad shape. Perhaps what we need is an occupational
peacekeeping force from the Balkans to come over and help us out.
Another big draw for the draft is the ever-declining number of
recruits signing over their souls to the various branches of military
service. This factor has great appeal to many. Writes Cohen, “a draft
of any kind would end the military’s personnel shortage overnight. …”
Hackworth favors a draft for this reason as well. Doug Bandow of the
Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, does
not. In fact, in a recent Cato study, Bandow demonstrates why a draft
wouldn’t help matters much at all. As Bandow explains, monetarily the
military cannot afford a bumper crop of conscriptees; given training
costs, it can only afford limited numbers — numbers which Bandow argues
are miniscule enough to make little overall difference.
Further, as Bandow points out, the quality level of draftees is
usually much lower than willing enlistees; thus, they require greater
attention, more time to effectively train, and they still hate you for
it in the end anyway. It’s like forcing kids to take piano lessons when
they’d rather play basketball. The end result is often children who are
equally as unhappy as they are rotten pianists — not good for the kids,
or the ears.
Of course, you could probably slow the enlistment-office exodus by
simply providing a decent level of pay while ensuring that the doughboys
won’t be ushered off to some Third World rat hole to slap the hands of
juntas and uppity military leaders. Apparently, the brass-collared
warmongers can’t get it through their Brylcreem’d noggins that most
folks would rather sign up for another tour of duty at Burger King than
a two-year stint babysitting misbehaving minorities in Bosnia, Somalia,
or any other geographic muck mound.
When you boil it down, it’s a simple economic problem; the garbage
with which enlistees must deal simply is not worth the pay. If it were,
troops would stay and potential enlistees would do what enlistees are
supposed to — enlist. The fact that they’re not means one thing: it’s
not worth it to them to do so. Yet, when no one shows up for the war,
the wonks can’t imagine that there might be something wrong with the war
itself. Heavens no. Not the pay-package either. Don’t be greedy.
Potential enlistees just need a little encouragement — something like
the force of law, threat of arrest, the rattle of handcuffs, and deep,
If you ran a business selling the latest doojigger, and few folks
wanted to buy, what could you do? You could make the product attractive
by cutting the price; you could sell the latest hoozawitz instead; or,
you could go out of business. What you couldn’t do is hold folks at
gunpoint and force them to buy.
Only the government gets to do that.
Can’t persuade a man to join? Fine, just coerce him to. That’s what
it comes down to — no matter how many glowing arguments you make about
societal betterment. If a draft is instituted and you happen to dislike
the idea of the Spartan life, tough beans. You’ve got to answer the
call or face the consequences. If being forced to aerate the livers of
foreigners with high-caliber weaponry doesn’t suit your fancy and you
decide to dodge, you have two options: 1) jail, or 2) going on the lam
to avoid it. In the first case, you’ll be handcuffed and incarcerated
against your will. In the second case, you’ll be hiding out, growing a
beard, wearing sunglasses and a porkpie hat in hopes that the first case
doesn’t occur. In either case, however, you are forced into a situation
against your will by the state.
Interestingly, this is actually one of the offences perpetrated upon
the American colonists listed in the Declaration of Independence.
Of the disesteemed King George we read that he “constrained our
fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against
their Country. …” While hijacking Americans on the ocean and sending
them home to kill their fellow countrymen is especially egregious, I
doubt the writers of the Declaration would have forgiven the king if he
only kidnapped Americans for the purpose of killing Frenchmen or the
Irish. It’s the kidnapping they didn’t like. And at bottom that’s all
a draft is — legal kidnapping, man-stealing.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t defending the right to life and
liberty with such tyrannical means sound a little odd? It’s like
treating alcoholism with a bottle of Jim Beam. Who cares if the
incorrigible brats of America learn to dress sharp as razors, say “sir,”
accept fellows of different race, creed and color, and swell the
dwindling ranks of our ever-thinning red line? If these benefits are
bought with the price of coercion and tyranny, someone had better check
the bank balance. We’re bound to get juked on this deal.
Joel Miller is the Assistant Editor
of WorldNetDaily and thinks the only sensible and understandable thing
ever done by Bill Clinton was dodging the draft.