I recently asked my representatives to reinstitute the draft and impose a war tax. I’ve watched the discussion of these ideas on several forums and I’ll clarify my position by responding to some of the most common criticisms of these ideas. First, let me reiterate my position:
In my estimation, the only way to end the cycle of endless war that we have seen develop since Vietnam is to make war very unpalatable: to levy a very high price for war in the form of uniform sacrifice across the population. As long as we have a volunteer military, people can rationalize away the soldier’s sacrifice as “their choice”. I also advocate war being self funded by substantial progressive federal income surtax. In short, as long as it is someone else’s child and as long as our lifestyle isn’t affected by war, the massive push for war coming from vested military and industrial interests will succeed in getting permission to persecute them.
That’s it in a nutshell. Now, the criticisms:
We had a draft in Vietnam and that didn’t help the war end any faster. This is a favorite of mine because it takes absolutely no account of the change in social values since the 1960’s nor does it take note of the changes in how we perceive war. The generations that lived through and fought in WWII were the parents of the draftees in the 1960’s. Anyone who suggests the frame of mind of those folks mirrors the frame of mind of today’s parents is high. It’s the Greatest Generation vs. the Me Generation relentlessly working on down to the freakin’ Pepsi Generation. WWII forced the nation to fundamentally recreate it’s self and to sacrifice it’s comfort to persecute the war and the war was successfully framed as an unavoidable fight for Freedom itself against an imperialist fascist regime . The profound failure, both strategically and politically, of the Vietnam War engendered skepticism of the government’s ability to make good decisions at a level that did not exist before that war. In short, there is no basis for arguing that our eligible population would react to a draft in the same way our grandparents did. Not for these wars of choice, not for these wars of preemption, these wars of securing foreign resources for domestic corporate exploitation , these wars of “we’ve built a $515 billion hammer so it’s nails, nails, nails as far as the eye can see”. We aren’t the same people and these aren’t the same wars. For fucks sake, college kids didn’t have to go to Vietnam so the middle class was completely insulated! No basis for comparison in these respects.
A draft will encourage war by creating easily attainable human fodder for the war machine. I think this is just flat out wrong. Given what I’ve said above and knowing, for myself, that I would renounce my American citizenship and leave the country forever before I would give my service or the service of my children to an unjust war, I believe a military draft would suck sufficient oxygen out the room to deprive the war mongering elites of the easy kill, the mindless fall back on self aggrandizing patriotic rhetoric that can only maintain it’s efficacy in the form of a comfortably disembodied myth. The shit would get real.
Wars aren’t like other spending: they are “of necessity” and shouldn’t be held to the same financing standards of other programs. Bullshit. All wars are discretionary. We haven’t been constitutionally justified in attacking anyone since Pearl Harbor and even that one was a scratch waiting for an itch.
The draft will be unfair. The elites will get sweetheart posts and deferments while the poor do the fighting. One could argue that this is the case already. As our economy continues to sour towards all the but the wealthiest of Americans, as unemployment rises and young people see fewer and fewer options for supporting themselves, the military becomes less and less of a choice and more and more the employer of last resort. Aside from the momentary patriotic upsurge in educated middleclass volunteers after 9/11, it is indisputable that the volunteer military exploits the economic stratifications endemic to our society. With extremely limited deferments, with the addition of women in combat and with strong oversight of compliance, a draft would be more just than the current “volunteer” system.
It is hard to believe that we need this kind of wake up call. That knowingly causing the death of hundreds of thousands innocent people: children and babies crushed, blown up and irradiated for a reason even a gifted orator like our president simply cannot adequately or truthfully articulate, isn’t enough to call back the dogs. That knowing the enemy has long fled or that we attacked in error and without justification, isn’t enough to call back the dogs. That spending a million per man while children sleep in cars isn’t enough to call back the dogs.
The mass majority of Americans will accept any level of violence so long as it is kept abstract and it is most certainly, purposefully being kept that way. This is why I support bringing these wars home in as tactile a manner as possible, in the form of a draft that will randomly consume our children and war tax that will immediately and transparently deplete us financially. Only then we will even begin to deliberate the true costs of war.