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July 23, 2012
TORONTO, ON, Jul 23, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Last June, former commander of the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival that reinstating the draft might be a good idea. A few weeks later, Thomas Ricks of the New York Times wrote an op-ed entitled ‘Let’s Draft Our Kids’ urging the federal government to adopt a civil service mandate for young Americans as they graduate high school.
According to Ricks, a reinstated draft would ‘make Americans think more carefully before going to war.’
The calls for a draft are thankfully still seen as controversial as the majority of Americans are against such an idea. The question is, do McChrystal’s and Ricks’ reasons really justify forcing generations of young people into military service? The answer is an unequivocal no. Conscription does nothing to foster national pride. It will only create resentment and likely result in more cases of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that have led to a spike in veteran suicides over the past few years.
Now Ricks claims that an instituted draft would go far in making America think twice about going to war. The problem with such a statement is that the American people don’t choose whether their masters in Washington go to war or not. Nearly every war fought over the past century by the U.S. military was opposed from the get-go by most Americans. Both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were elected to maintain America as a neutral party while war waged in Europe. Of course both reneged on that promise.
U.S. polls continually show that the public is ready for troops to come home from Afghanistan. When U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, three out of every four Americans agreed with the drawdown. But still thousands of security contractors and embassy personnel remain in the country as a permanent footprint. As of right now, Washington is carrying out covert drone operations in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan that are technically illegal under both the Constitution and international law. American imperialism continues unabated no matter the public protest. A reinstituted draft would do nothing to stop it and everything to enable further conflicts by providing a fresh supply of troops every year.
McChrystal reasons that a draft would go far in equaling out the costs of war because ‘every town, every city needs to be at risk.’ Yet during war every citizen is already at risk by the very fact that they are forced into footing the bill for the fight. Government can’t wage war without first taxing the public. If taxation doesn’t cover the cost, then money is printed which, in turn, creates no wealth and subtly destroys the value of the national currency. The resources used to outfit troops and build tanks, planes, ammunition, and bombs don’t come for free either. For every barrel of oil that goes into maintaining machines of death, it means one barrel less for the consumer economy. Either way, when government goes to war, the public will always pay.
Ultimately military conscription is de facto slavery no matter how you look at it. When someone is forced to do the bidding of another, they are forever in servitude to whoever calls the shots. Unsurprisingly, it is precisely the same people who don’t have to worry about being drafted that are making the call. The fallacious and often used term of ‘shared sacrifice’ by public officials never has a thing to do with sharing. It is the rally cry of one group of individuals trying to coerce another into handing over their free will.
Here is a novel idea: if the country really wants to save ‘blood, tears and national treasure,’ then why not adopt a foreign policy of peaceful trade and nonintervention? In an address to the nation shortly after 9/11, George Bush reasoned that America was attacked because Al Qaeda hated ‘our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.’ This was possibly the most childish explanation for a tragedy ever offered to the American public by a sitting president. Three years earlier, in a Fatwa signed by Osama bin Laden and various other Islamic terrorist groups, a religious war was declared on the West and Israel because the U.S. had been ‘occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places’ along with ‘plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers’ and ‘humiliating its people.’
The fact remains that the U.S. and other Western powers have been meddling around in the Middle East for well over half a century. America’s foreign policy is responsible for overthrowing democratically elected leaders, propping up politically connected oil conglomerates, and, even now, the extrajudicial killing of civilians through drone strikes.
Is it really any surprise why anti-American sentiment had been simmering for decades before it fulminated over the past decade?
If McChrystal, Ricks, or any other policymaker would really like to see to it that the country is more reluctant to go to war, perhaps they should follow George Washington’s advice in his Farewell Address given at the end of his presidency.
‘The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible.’
James E. Miller is the Editor-in-Chief of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.
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