As Atrios points out, people who call for the reinstatement of the draft are invariably older than the upper-limit on the draft age they propose. And Matthew Yglesias points out that enslaving teenagers is hardly an equitable alternative to paying taxes. But what really offends me about the latest outburst of conscription nonsense from General McChrystal and Thomas Ricks is the idea that providing the military with more people would mean fewer wars rather than more.
Consider Ricks' piece in the New York Times:
Unlike Europeans, Americans still seem determined to maintain a serious military force, so we need to think about how to pay for it and staff it by creating a draft that is better and more equitable than the Vietnam-era conscription system.Like much authoritarian logic, this argument begins with a stated premise that is completely untrue and several unstated assumptions that are false. The European military is a serious force. The French and British heads of government were sufficiently convinced of their military capability to begin planning an assault on Libya even if the US did not take part in the operation.
Even if the premise is assumed to be true, the conclusion only follows if it is assumed that (1) The US needs to increase its military to make up for the purported deficit left by the Europeans, and (2) The US needs a 'serious' military.
At root, authoritarians are cowards. They can't face the risk of disorder, it frightens them. So they desperately try to prevent change or disorder no matter how clear the evidence that their attempt is counter productive. So they will always want more guns, more tanks and more bombs and more people to carry them for them. And whenever they see a threat, their first reaction is to fire all that weaponry they collected over the years.
Speaking on a panel, McChrystal argued that bringing back the draft would make people more 'connected' to the war.
We've never done that in the United State before; we've never fought an extended war with an all- volunteer military. So what it means is you've got a very small population that you're going to and you're going to it over and over again," he said. "Because it's less than one percent of the population... people are very supportive but they don't have the same connection to it.But here is the thing, how is sending our teenagers to fight in McCrystal's hunger-games going to make voters feel more connected when almost all of them are older than the proposed draft age? The only way that is going to be possible is if everyone knows that they might be drafted in the future. If we accept McCrystal's logic we should draft everyone, especially senior citizens.
In fact, drafting seniors has obviously superior benefits on every single one of the reasons given for conscription.
Seniors have experience, and so the free labor provided by the typical senior would be more valuable than that of the typical teen. Seniors are a powerful voting block, and governments would be even more reluctant to fight unnecessary wars. And seniors also have a shorter remaining life expectancy, so the social sacrifice is less.
So the next time someone starts talking about reinstating the draft, let's start with Dick Cheney.