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August 16, 2008

If You Want a Draft, Draft Yourself!

By: Bernard Chazelle

My opposition to the draft, to any sort of draft, is fundamental. (Disclosure: I was drafted and I "served" in the French foreign service for two years, ie twice as long as it would have been had I chosen to serve in the army.)

I deny any government, elected or not, the right to kidnap my children and ship them off to a battlefield to kill or be killed. I accept to pay taxes and that's the sum total of my debt to my government. In every other respect, my government owes me, not the other way around.

Conscription is the most fundamental denial of liberty, on a par with slavery.

I am not a pacifist and I support a professional army. But I oppose the draft even in times of war. If your country cannot find enough volunteers to defend itself when attacked, then it's not worth defending.

Perhaps someone can mount a philosophical defense of the draft that I will reject but I can still respect. So far, no one has. Nothing I've read even rises to the level of respectability.

The typical line justifies the draft on the basis of its wonderful consequences. For example, a draft might make politicians think twice about starting wars, which would be good. Yes, that would be very good. So what? I can list all sorts of wonderful side benefits we got from slavery, too.

Even if a draft saved lives I'd be opposed to it. Just as if someone could make a persuasive case that enslaving a population would be the best way to protect it, I'd still be against it. I do not base my opposition to slavery on a cost-benefit analysis. Some things are wrong in and of themselves. The right of the state to own my life and turn my children into murderers and murder victims is absolutely, entirely non-grantable.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at August 16, 2008 04:18 PM

"If a country cannot find enough volunteers...not worth defending."
Too much time in the faculty lounge syndrome.
People don't see the threat (Europe, anno 1936, for example) so by the time countries are invaded, it's too late to debate whether or not a country is "worth" defending.
My grandmother got slaughtered by the Division Totenkopf because her country, with not enough volunteers to defend it against the Blitzkrieg, would be deemed not worthy a defense?
Your position is too noble for the real world. I was drafted into the US Army, and even today I wish we had the "citizen soldiers" army of those days compared to the "volunteer army" ruthless capitalism and lying jingoism has created.
Willie and Joe are still better than the Abu Ghraib (sp?) crowd.

Posted by: donescobar at August 16, 2008 05:12 PM

I could not agree more with every word you have written, Prof Chazelle. Draft is TOTALLY unacceptable. In addition to what you have said, the RICH and the ELITE would always find loopholes to avoid it so the argument that everyone would sacrifice equally or would bear the burden equally ( of killing and be killed!!! )would be invalid. In my view, politicians will start wars whenever they please. Draft will not deter them, as again, they will have some means at their disposal to get 'deferred' status for their children. Your sentence, "Some things are wrong in and of themselves" is the greatest moral argument against draft.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 05:26 PM
Yes, that would be very good. So what? I can list all sorts of wonderful side benefits we got from slavery, too.

Say what?

Posted by: Labiche at August 16, 2008 05:33 PM

donescobar: If I may, there was draft during Vietnam war but which also had its massacres, lies, destruction of Cambodia, agent orange, Napalm etc ( thanks to the government )and you say, you prefer that to "volunteer army" ruthless capitalism and lying jingoism has created"and Abu ghraib ( again thanks to the govt). Both are equally horrible because WAR is horrible, period. Sadly, instead of investing in creative ways to MAKE PEACE ( which would neither need draft or a volunteer army ) all the resources are being watsted in making WAR MACHINERY.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 05:51 PM

I couldn't agree with you more, but there is a good argument for the draft. Not a draft like we've ever had, but a draft designed to equalize the pain of war. With computers and census and military data, it would be easy to set up a draft designed to draft those people from geographic areas underrepresented in the military, i.e., a draft that would first call up young men and women from Nantucket, Palm Beach, Malibu, the ritzier parts of Manhattan, etc.

This draft, of course, would never be implemented. The surest way to ensure that government pursues peace is to make sure the the children of the elites would be the first drafted.

I would not support any other kind of draft for all the reasons advanced in this commendable post.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at August 16, 2008 06:27 PM

Mark Gisleson: I just want to make my point clear. When I said, children of the rich and elite would not be drafted (TRUE), I did not mean, they 'should be drafted'. My point is NO ONE should be drafted. Children can not choose their parents and just because one happens to be born in a rich family, one should not be victimised and used by the state to kill or be killed on a whim of a person in authority a.k.a. the president or the congresss.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 06:49 PM

the draft issue is irrelevant. iraq has proven that war can be seen as another brilliant development program. when your own starter army falls short of your mission parameters, you can buy soldiers and support staff from poorer countries all over the world.

anyway bernard: no worries: no one needs your kids to fight. their working dollars have already been drafted. cut taxes for new pentagon spending now and instead they'll be paying down the rest of the bill your tax money didn't cover!

Posted by: hapa at August 16, 2008 06:56 PM

The idea that conscription ever makes politicians "think twice" about starting wars is just blatantly false. It didn't stop the US in SE Asia, it didn't stop Japan in WWII, it hasn't ever stopped any leader from starting a war they wanted with an army of impressed soldiers. Even if they were doomed to failure.

Posted by: darrelplant at August 16, 2008 07:04 PM

Your sentiments are right on target. When you come to realize that taxes — which are equivalent to a draft on your money, which are an equivalent to a draft on your time and your effort — are equivalent to the draft, you’ll not only be “right on target” but “right on the money” as well.

The government doesn’t have any business conscripting me either directly through the military draft (or one of these frequently-floated “national service”-type plans), or indirectly through taxation.

C’mon by “The Picket Line” ( to learn about how to resist the tax draft.

Posted by: David Gross at August 16, 2008 07:11 PM

Please please yes a draft!!! Draft in economic order! The more money you or your family have the sooner you are drafted. Also due to technological changes make the draft age 25 to 65! No exceptions, ie pimple on arse doesn't negate your draft eligibility. Love to see what the vote for war would be if all millionaires were required to fight!

Posted by: shediac at August 16, 2008 07:13 PM

So don't forget
The draft resister
In his silent lonely plea
When they march him
Off to prison
In this land of liberty
Shame, disgrace, and all dishonor
Wrongly placed upon their heads
Will not rob them
Of the courage
That betrays their innocents
So don't forget
The draft resister
In his silent lonely plea
When they march him
Off to prison
He will go for YOU and ME.---Steppenwolf

FAILURE to control OUR government will bring US all WE have feared, draft included, and much more. When OUR neighbors call upon US (U&I) to stand up and and say no and are refused and even abused, then WE get that which WE DESERVE.

Bernard: YOU are still looking for some morality, some form of right and wrong in war. There is none, never has been, never will be, it just is.
And when it exist, most citizens are not willing to fight, so they are refused a choice. That's why YOU willingly pay those WAR TAXES, so that YOUR children will have NO CHOICE. YOU refuse to argue and suffer the consequences when that TAXMAN is at the door and YOU'll say nothing much when the sheriff hauls YOUR child off to boot camp.

Read that 14th Amendment, YOU FEDERAL CITIZENS have ONLY the rights Congress deems YOU worthy of, not those guaranteed in the BILL OF RIGHTS. If Congress says fight, YOU fight. When YOU take the king's pound, YOU take the king's law, and YOU serve the king.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 16, 2008 08:33 PM

A lot of the debate is that a "fair" draft will never happen. What if it could happen?

What is going on now is that there is a belief that the Armed Forces job is like a Fire Fighter, and it's their job to do as they are told. I think this belief would disappear if a draft and war tax was imposed to pay for any any future wars.

Posted by: throbo at August 16, 2008 09:15 PM

Mike Meyer: I checked the 14th amendment and it is about due process and equal protection after the civil war.
Do I have it right?

As a nauralized citizen, during the oath, either one agrees to bear arms for the country or do alternate service. So a conscientious
objector can refuse to go to war.

I am very interested in knowing which amendment you are referring to, which allegedly takes away my rights given to me by Bill of Rights. Thanks.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 09:21 PM

throbo: I do not think it is a matter of 'Fair" draft. It is about NO DRAFT. Why do we have to have an army that can fight wars on two or three fronts? Why does our country have to dominate? Armies are supposed to be for self defense and not for agressive pre-emptive wars. Volunteer army would suffice for that purpose ( though I personally am against any standing army and any war ). In the twenty first century, if we can not have conflict resolution at a negotiating table, we have learnt nothing from history.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 09:35 PM

Donescobar: Oh yes, the draft in WWII did so much good! Imagine what would have happened without it...
If they had to rely on volunteers, I don't know. Maybe the Germans would have wiped out 20 million Russians and 6 million Jews... Well, a good thing that didn't happen.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 16, 2008 09:35 PM

Labiche: There was this little thing called the Civil War that, I believe, had something to do with the fact that some people thought slavery worked out quite well for them.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 16, 2008 09:42 PM

donescobar: how many times in the last 100 years has the US military protected America? I can think of exactly one such occasion, and even that is a stretch.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 16, 2008 09:55 PM

Rupa Shah: The 14th Amendent created a second citizenship concerning the freed slaves. Congress believed, and rightly so, that the southern states would deny the freed slaves citizenship and the attending rights in order to force a defacto slavery. Congress created a FEDERAL LEVEL CITIZENSHIP in order that Congress and the army could enforce rights for the freed slaves, the rights to be determined by Congress itself, since some rights and priviledges varied from state to state. The theory being that Congress would mimic the US Constitution as close as possible concerning the freed slaves. The legal theory is that those citizens were CITIZENS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA and therefore RESIDENT ALIENS (residents) of whichever state they were living in and under direct governance of Congress itself according to Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the US Constitution, much like ALL judges, lawyers, and federal employees. One should read the attending SCOTUS decisions to get the full flavor of the 14th Amendent. Reality is WE live under the SCOTUS interpretations of the US Constitution and not OUR own interpretations.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 16, 2008 10:32 PM

Mike Meyer: Thanks for the info. Will check it out.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 16, 2008 10:36 PM

What about the presence of military service in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at August 16, 2008 10:41 PM
Labiche: There was this little thing called the Civil War that, I believe, had something to do with the fact that some people thought slavery worked out quite well for them.

Bernard, I understand that you're strongly against for a variety of philosophical reasons, but:

1. Your assertion that places conscription on par with slavery, is, well -- debatable*, and

2. So then bringing slavery into it would be flawed IMO. Why? in the ideal sense, universal draft implies everyone that meets criteria. Slavery did not apply to everyone; if it did I don't think that sons of slave owners would be too keen to be enslaved themselves, nor would the system of slave ownership propagate without dynastic transfer of wealth -- which participatory slavery would make somewhat difficult.

*Conscription is limited by need and duration. Slavery was not as I recall. To compare conscription to slavery is, well difficult to justify in my opinion from the point of empathy or understanding of either institution.

I don't disagree that a draft would not work, but I do somewhat disagree that the draft would have no effect on the elite institutions if they were placed into positions of direct peril.

But hey, that's just my opinion. Not worth getting into a fight over.

Posted by: Labiche at August 16, 2008 11:09 PM

re: slavery

In most modern draft systems recruits also get paid and have some choice about what they do while in national service, making the comparison somewhat more obviously superfluous. A levy on time, rather than time and money.

Posted by: buermann at August 16, 2008 11:36 PM

without conscription, the nazis might have been defeated by Poland in ' read it here first.

Posted by: bobbyp at August 16, 2008 11:50 PM

Labiche: Conscription and slavery differ in everything, except where it matters. In both cases, you don't own your own life. Slavery means you do if you have the right skin color, which makes it worse. But at the core it's the same principle: you're denied ownership of your own life.

I am not a libertarian. I believe in government. But my life is mine and no one else's. On that particular point, I have a libertarian position.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 17, 2008 12:23 AM

How about capturing enemy soldiers in war and imprisoning them then making them work as part of their imprisonment?
How many years of captivity have to go by before that's slavery?
Captured POW's just sitting around drawing rations and a bunk (in the ideal Geneva Conventional world). Or people you could as easily have killed forced to do work that needs doing for the war effort.
It all gets messy and complicated, and those lines aren't as clear in the real world as they are in thought.
Requiring military service isn't massively different than the social brainwashing/general curriculum of compulsory education K-12.
Endangering lives, altering lives, how different would America be if kids weren't forced to go to school but could "volunteer"?
Yeah, there's an immediacy to the violence of the military, but if the country's at war...
Is it slavery if the starving work for room and board?
Isn't slavery the misuse of another's life for personal gain?
Defining it purely by economic metrics means any remuneration will negate the accusation. Hence the term "slave wages".
Being forced to work for someone and not getting paid is one thing, being so hungry, having a family so hungry you'll do anything to feed them, is another.
Taking advantage of that hunger may not be definable as slavery, but it is exactly what's wrong with slavery.

For this government to institute the draft would be just another extension of the evil they've already accomplished, just so we're clear on that.

Posted by: Roy Belmont at August 17, 2008 01:07 AM

Labiche: "*Conscription is limited by need and duration. Slavery was not as I recall. To compare conscription to slavery is, well difficult to justify in my opinion from the point of empathy or understanding of either institution."

Perhaps that argument may have been valid last century, but can it still be valid now when soldiers are fighting 1) a war of limitless duration (in the new, improved "war on terror") with 2) limitless need for service, as is now the case, with retired and in some cases disabled soldiers being called back into service and some soldiers being forced to serve more and more tours lasting longer and longer?

Sounds suspiciously more and more like slavery to me...

Posted by: steve the artguy at August 17, 2008 02:33 AM

"I believe in government. But my life is mine and no one else's."

It seems to me this arrangement of property rights might be conducive to some foreign power coming along and robbing you of both.

If you believe in government, and the government has some sort of conjectured obligation to protect those which it governs, and that obligation encapsulates an otherwise unavoidable social risk to the entire population - not just our hardy volunteers, or national defense would be no different from any other potentially deadly vocation - the risk ought to be shouldered by everybody with the back muscles for it, and not just shirked off on those with a propensity for institutionalized violence or a deficit in risk management skills.

steve the artguy @ 2:33, you might note that what you're aptly comparing to slavery is the unnecessary byproduct of depending on the volunteer system to fight idiotic wars, rather than the somewhat more democratic system of spreading the idiocy around by general conscription.

Posted by: buermann at August 17, 2008 04:25 AM

What's the one instance in the past 100 years you felt the military was'protecting' America, Bernard?

(For the record, I'm of the opinion that ANYONE who has ever credited our soldiers for protecting our freedoms is certifiably insane)

Posted by: Paul at August 17, 2008 08:04 AM
I am not a libertarian. I believe in government. But my life is mine and no one else's. On that particular point, I have a libertarian position.

That particular point is fairly central.

Two cavemen travel a dark road at night. They travel together because a rough social compact exists -- one that has allowed them to cooperatively protect each other, to hunt together increasing their chances for food, and to move around at night more freely.

They are attacked by a bear. Does the second caveman then say, "The compact was good for as long as it lasted, and benefited me, but now, I think I'll leave while the bear is chewing on my partner? I'll find another partner that will trust me."

Governance is a lot like that -- the social obligations and compact between the governed and the government can be fairly simple to understand, but when it becomes complicated people can start equivocating, and weaseling -- providing very good reasons why they left that caveman to be chewed on.

Lucky for us, the cavemen lived in simpler times, with much less formalized education, such that their rhetorical devices, equivocations and rationalizations were fairly transparent to fellow cavemen.

That's not to say that I don't understand your POV. I do, I just don't think that one can pick and choose when they are told to storm the volley because their life is more important than that of others. hasn't ever stopped any leader from starting a war they wanted with an army of impressed soldiers....

What matters is the form of government and the type of compact between the governed and the government. The compact changes based on education, based on information exchange, based on external circumstances.

Was conscription responsible for the holocaust? Much more likely, I'd put the Treaty of Versailles as responsible. And beyond that, I'd blame those freaking Serbs and Gavrilo Pricip, because without that ass setting of the tinderbox, WWI, the decline of colonialism, the redrawing of the middle east, and WWII would all be globally different endeavors.

Posted by: Labiche at August 17, 2008 09:29 AM

Labiche: In your story about the cavemen--you say, 'THEY' are attacked by the bear so both have to fight the bear to save themselves. However, if they were just looking for food and they come across a bear passing by and cavemen A provokes the bear against the advice of cavemen B and as a result is attacked by the bear, is it still expected that cavemen B go to the aid of caveman A?
Most of the times, universal rules and rights and responsibilities apply between those who Govern and those who are Governed. Because as a rule, those who govern have MUCH greater power than those governed, the temptation to abuse that power is limitless and in that sitution, the governed has NO OPTION but to take control of his/her life. And why does the government need a draft? Recent history is a reminder that by doing so, it can control a population of certain age to
fight its illegal wars. In that situation, the contract between the governed and and one that governs is null and void.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 10:13 AM it still expected that cavemen B go to the aid of caveman A?

Is the consent of the individual required for every action when working as a group? It seems to negate the definition of group (or a representative democracy).

Two things: 1. As the group grows, inability to act takes form when that's the case. The group would go hungry and die, and 2) because as the group grows, the risk/payoff endeavors of the group increases. Five guys can bring down bigger pray. Fifty guys a herd. Fifty voices opting out at various stages do not.

Opting out only benefits those that are not dependent on the group to the same level. Not dependent because of wealth, or education or position perhaps.

In answer to your question, my answer is yes. The compact is such that if you think your fellow caveman is an ass, you should find another caveman to travel and hunt with before you get to the dark woods.

That's sorta why not paying taxes but still claiming to be a US citizen doesn't make sense and people need obscure references in the constitution to rationalize why they don't want to pay taxes, but want to benefit of the infrastructure. Libertarians, objectivists and Republicans do it routinely. So do off-gridders.

Note that I'm not taking the position of America, love it or leave it. There's ways to fix things and still stay, but a big part of this involves being part of the group (and realizing you're part of the group for better or worse).

Sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes I get my way, and sometimes people I think are unmitigated assholes will get their way. But eventually, everyone will die -- so to postulate that one can opt out of dying through self assertion is a bit off.

Posted by: Labiche at August 17, 2008 11:06 AM

Why blame the draft for how our government (and most others) have abused it, that is, not used it much of the time for legitimate defense of a country?
Change the political/economic/social system and the draft will then be employed for the necessary defense of the citizenry. The idea is sound and a piece of the social contract.

Posted by: donescobar at August 17, 2008 11:08 AM

I think conscription can be a good thing and it's totally separate issue from 'turning children into murderers'. It's not conceptually different from taxation, jury duty, public education: you're being trained to defend your country, if necessary. I like the Swiss model, although they're now talking about switching to professional army too.

Posted by: abb1 at August 17, 2008 11:31 AM

donescobar: I agree with you that political, economic and social policies need to be changed but how is that relevant to "DRAFT"? If there is concern about DEFENSE of the citizenry, the better way to do it is to have mandatory 'Defense Training' starting at age 18. And then to remain in state of readiness, one would be required to give one month out of a yr for refresher training course which would be again mandatory and just like jury duty, it would not affect one's job situation. This would strictly be defensive. We would not be maintaing huge army at a huge cost.
Again, to emphasize, I am against all wars. Wars never solved any problems. They lead to more wars. So as far as I am concerned, Draft or volunteer army do not solve any problems.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 11:44 AM

Labiche: In this whole post (not just your comment) I get the feeling, the rich, the educated, or the elite should be treated differently or if they also had to be drafted, there would be no draft. As citizens of the country, they need to be defended too, they can not be excluded. So, there should be no draft so neither a person from the bario or an ivy league school has to go to kill and be killed.
I do agree with you that if one does not like the govt, one can change it but unfortunately, it sounds easier than done.
And I agree with you, eventually everyone is going to die and we always do not have control over how but one certainly can reduce the chances of an unnatural death ( which would leave behind many destroyed lives ), by not having a draft ( or a volunteer army, for that matter ) as more often than not, it will not be for the defense of the citizenry.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 12:11 PM

Well, that would be another version of the draft, and maybe a better one. And yet. To say that "wars never solved any problems" strikes me as wrong. War, including offensive actions, solved the problem of 20th century German Fascism. That it led to other problems isn't surprising to anyone interested in history. What should the still unoccupied countries have done in 1939? Or:
Wars got the foreigners (Japanese, French and American) out of Vietnam. If I were Vietnamese, I'd say that they solved the colonialist problem for my country. You think "diplomacy" would have done it?

Posted by: donescobar at August 17, 2008 12:17 PM

I disagree with Bernard -- more specifically, I disagree with Rupa.

I think there should be a draft; in fact, it should operate at a very low level even in peacetime.

And it should fall only on the top 1% of wage earners and/or property owners. And only them. If you don't want to be drafted, make less money. No exemptions. I don't care if you're on a fucking cathoder. We'll wheel a desk into your hospital room.

I state plainly what most humans, hell, most so-called progressives, hedge around: there is an inherent moral hazard in extreme wealth, and it is nearly impossible to maintain such wealth without disasterous moral failure. Just having 10 million dollars in the bank means that you're probably fucking society over, one way or another.

Sure, it's possible to be virtuous enough that that level of wealth can be had and one can remain a decent citizen. (Note: I didn't say a virtuous person. I didn't say an excellent human being. I submit that you can't even fucking make par once you've hit your first billion. The rich man would be pleased if he were mediocre in honor.)

This sort of thing has been covered before -- at least two thousand years ago. The entire point of the "eye of the needle" metaphor used by Christ was exactly this. (For shits and giggles, though, watch a fundie cover it, and you'll see ne'er an economic implication.)

So if we will tolerate vast accumulation of wealth, let there be responsibilities commensurate with the burden.

And I'm not unwilling to broaden this burden to other members of our aristocracy. Include federal officeholders -- if children shall benefit from the privileges of their parents, so should they be burdened.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 17, 2008 12:18 PM

And by the way, as I mentioned in a previous thread, regardless of whether or not a draft is imposed, war should be redefined, as a matter of law, as found to exist when American soldiers take any military action outside our own country. No declaration is required. Further, once war occurs, the immediate reslt is a huge tax on the incomes, wealth, and property of the top 1% earners and the top 1% property owners. Every year of war decreases the wealth of the most wealthy. Each of these should be not only mechanical processes, but enshrined in the constitution. Just to make sure it sticks, any citizen can bring a claim that the nation is in a "state of war" in any jurisdiction and, just to drive the damn point home, the burden of proof is on the defense.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 17, 2008 12:18 PM

donescobar:RESISTANCE on part of the Vietnamese people got rid of the colonialists but THE WAR conducted by the colonialists destroyed the country. I have not written against fighting aggression but if USA had destroyed the industrial complex ( in which Americans had invested heavily ) which was helping Germany with its war, Germany's war would have ended much earlier and in any case nothing justified dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
As far as diplomacy is concerned, in this century, if we are not able to resolve our differences peacefully, we are only looking at nuclear destruction of our planet.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 01:06 PM

Supposing that
1. there is a need for an army of some size and
2. that there are not enough who wish to fight and who are capable of being professional
isn't a random draft more fairly distributed across classes?
Or is economic hardship a good enough reason to "want" to fight?

Isn't this just dodging the real issue: to what extent should military objectives be pursued by a nation, and what should they be?

Posted by: me at August 17, 2008 01:20 PM
I get the feeling, the rich, the educated, or the elite should be treated differently or if they also had to be drafted, there would be no draft. As citizens of the country, they need to be defended too, they can not be excluded. So, there should be no draft so neither a person from the bario or an ivy league school has to go to kill and be killed.

Rupa, not to belabor the point, but *I* do believe that they are different, and *I* do believe that class warfare is going on. *I* do believe that the rich make their wealth off the backs of the exploited. *I* do believe that the educated are a distinct class that uses rhetorical devices to set themselves aside and exert influence on the basis of unique qualifications regardless of experience. And if they happen to prosper from that position, then ain't they fortuitous?

NooQ -- in the equivalence of conscription to slavery -- the phrase that made me do a double-take was this:

I was drafted and I "served" in the French foreign service for two years, ie twice as long as it would have been had I chosen to serve in the army.

Perhaps undeservedly, I applied transitive(?) properties with the section below that said:

Conscription is the most fundamental denial of liberty, on a par with slavery.

So to my ears the equivalence was roughly that Slavery = "one year of conscription in the French Army". Now, I have never been in the French Army, but I have observed them from relative proximity, and *I* would not have thought their experience was of equivalence to slavery.

But you know, we're all different and maybe it was. It just seemed odd to me watching Roots and all that the two were comparable.

BTW -- Does being in the French Army actually and realistically equate to delivering death and the fear of imminent death? Let me remind of the Vichy, and the famously pragmatic French that have led to the American misapplied term *"surrender monkeys". I prefer to think that on the whole, the French are better lovers than fighters, and that philosophy reflects in the risk that their military takes. Conscripted or not. :-)

* Have a sense of humor people.

Posted by: Labiche at August 17, 2008 01:21 PM

NoOneOCon:I agree with you. Wealth does corrupt. In fact, IMO, one can not accumulate a lot of wealth without doing something immoral ( STRICTLY MY POINT OF VIEW ) even though it may be LEGAL.
HOWEVER, to me personally, DRAFT means preparing for WAR and not preparing for DEFENSE. So as a person against war, draft is unacceptable. Also with increasing disparity and inequity in our society, the burden would be disproprtionate as you mention.
Most important, if the citizenry felt it had been treated justly and fairly and felt a stake in the society, it WOULD willingly defend ( again, I am taking about defense ) the country, even without a draft. So, draft would become moot.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 01:27 PM

The draft for an American means one of two very broad things:

• One will lose one's life or;

• One will engineer the death of an innocent person.

Debating the differences between them is mostly pointless. It's a bit like asking would you rather commit murder and live a murderer or, instead, be murdered? The only relevant question is what asshole is forcing you to make that choice?

The fact that one's experience in the military may vary is of no moment. If a man gets trafted into the military and is never personally at risk of harm, he still helps his army murder others.

Involuntary servitude is evil, regardless of the duration. And even if conditions for the draftee are good, his work ensures that the conditions for his army's victims will be awful. Because of the almost completely immoral nature of military action, a human must enter into the military freely. Without freedom of action, it is impossible to argue that a military is moral. (Yes, even in our so-called "good" wars. Both the Civil War and WWII were only made inevitable by evil acts by the so-called "good guys" during the peacetime runup to both wars, so sell me another.)

Differences of degree really don't mean much. If I kidnapped Labiche and held him in a well-fetted cell, bigger than an average American's home, for two years, I suspect no jury would show me any particular mercy.

Comparing worse variants of the a given crime to the crime one prefers does not excuse one. Should I kill a man then say, "well, that's still less people murdered than the Boston Strangler?" The draft is still slavery. The fact that it isn't institutional rape and child trafficking and mass theft and everything else American slavery is doesn't make it somehow "better."

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 17, 2008 01:33 PM

Rupa, the draft is also a countermeasure to self-selection; even when imperfectly executed.

Posted by: Labiche at August 17, 2008 01:33 PM

I suggest some here read "Pacifism and the War," by George Orwell, published first in 1942. As he said, the German army couldn't have been beaten by lying on one's back. Nor the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam. Nor...

Posted by: donescobar at August 17, 2008 01:41 PM

"had its massacres, lies, destruction of Cambodia, agent orange, Napalm etc ( thanks to the government )and you say, you prefer that to "volunteer army" ruthless capitalism and lying jingoism has created"and Abu ghraib ( again thanks to the govt)"
Disagree. In the first case, it was industry that researched, created and marketed(1) those substances (agent orange was a Monsanto invention, I believe). That is the driver, and weak democracy (poor and inconsistent media and education and the complicity and neglect of various middle classes) allowed that driver to manipulate the government to the ends it was seeking: enlargement of potential public markets, resource control and in the shorter term, creation of a lucrative private market.

The latter case was due to disregard of the law, not its enforcement which is the essence of a functioning government.

The problem is not "The Government". It is lack of accountability and effective regulation of
the institutions set up to enact the will of the people, as opposed to those expressly founded and legislated to enlarge the profits of their owners-- such can never be more than barely accountable to the people as a whole.

(1) to a specific, limited and not general population, obviously.

Posted by: me at August 17, 2008 01:41 PM

Given the grotesque disparities in educational and employment opportunities in these highly militaristic United States - disparities which barely register (if at all) on our national conscience - there's something not quite right about an ivy league academic digging in his heels against conscription.

Don't worry, Bernard. The odds of your children ever being conscripted - well, who am I to talk about odds with a math professor. I couldn't make it out of Algebra II.

But, WTF, I'll bite. As long as I have to coexist with billions of people who like the idea of a nation state (including those who acknowledge they have no real voice in its policies), I say give 'em a choice: two years in the peace corps or two years in the war corp. It ain't perfect, but it's better than an escape clause for the check-writing American elite, a good many of whom dedicate their comfortable lives to bringing humanity invisible suits, minoxidil and space-based laser weapons.

Go Team!

Posted by: Arvin Hill at August 17, 2008 01:43 PM

Maybe those of you in favor of a military draft will also explain why you wouldn't draft a police force?
A police force is much more involved in protecting one's society that an army. So why not police conscription? 99.99% of army actions have NOTHING to do with protecting people. If protection is your thing, then draft cops. I'll be opposed to it but your case will be much stronger.

darrelplant agreed. i'm saying that even if a draft made politicians think twice about war, i'd be opposed to it. but i agree with you that all the evidence shows that it does not.

paul i say "a stretch." i'll let others argue why fighting WWII saved american lives when it so obviously did not.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 17, 2008 02:27 PM

I have not had a chance to read all the comments as I must run. Will read them later and respond but IF we want a just society ( and world ), we CAN NOT have it by putting one group against another, using different standards. If one wrong has been commiteed, it has to be made right, not commit another wrong.
Also, yes, private companies were involved in making chemical weapons and ( other killing machines ) but after all, it is the govt that makes the decision to use them.
Have a nice day everyone.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 17, 2008 02:31 PM

you draft not to maintain a standing army, but to train the citizens for an emergency situation. You train them, give them uniforms and weapons and send them home; this way when there is an emergency you can mobilize the whole country in a matter of a few hours.

Police force is a standing force; permanent, professional service.

Posted by: abb1 at August 17, 2008 05:51 PM

Germany drafts firemen, why wouldn't we draft police? It's a perfectly sound option for fulfilling a service requirement.

But protection was the assumption, not the argument. The argument for the draft is about sharing the burden of common risks. If you don't think those risks exist, then why have an army at all?

"99.99% of army actions have NOTHING to do with protecting people."

In whose army? People keep bringing this discussion back to the otherwise irrelevant foreign policies of this or that country. Well OK then: far as I understand it Finnish law restricts the number of soldiers serving abroad to 2,000, and at that only on a volunteer basis, in UN peacekeeping missions. A strong argument could be made that the other 355,000 reserve forces, all drafted, spend their time in the service doing things 99.99% related to the defense of their country.

Posted by: buermann at August 17, 2008 09:54 PM

I'm with abb1 - I love the idea of a citizen's militia. Everyone has to spend a few weekends a year learning the skills needed to resist an invading or occupying military force. It wouldn't have to be just guns and killin'. For the conshies, you could teach 'em quartermastering, field dressing, non-violent resistance, espionage, etc. Those less pacifist who don't like the idea of infantry could do sabotage, computer hacking, psy-ops. Everyone could learn the necessary skills to see off the invader - or, hell, resist a local dictatorship - and go back to their dayjobs.

It's my favourite idea - think the government would go for it?

Posted by: Rob Weaver at August 17, 2008 10:09 PM

"Maybe those of you in favor of a military draft will also explain why you wouldn't draft a police force?"
Because there isn't a problem getting enough people to be police.

Posted by: me at August 18, 2008 04:03 PM

it's thoughtful essays such as this that keep me coming back to "a tiny revolution."

you have made my previously incoherent thoughts on this topic coherent.

Posted by: karen marie at August 18, 2008 06:47 PM