most of us are preoccupied with the latest tales of mayhem and destruction
emanating from Iraq, the Bush administration is quietly paving the
way for the re-imposition of the ultimate form of slavery: a military
draft to provide additional fodder for the so-called War on Terror.
Without much fanfare, $28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective
Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that
could start as early as June 15, 2005. SSS is charged with reporting
back to Bush by March 31, 2005 (conveniently after the election),
that the selective service system, which has lain dormant for decades,
is ready for activation. If libertarians and traditional conservatives,
who continue to regard Bush as the lesser of the major party evils,
needed a convincing argument that it is long past time to get rid
of this latter-day emperor in the making, this should be it. Libertarians
can disagree on many issues, but on this one there is no room for
equivocation; anyone who believes that the state has the right to
compel its citizens to don battle gear and die for their country
is no friend of liberty.
Bush has succeeded in positioning himself as the enemy of everything
libertarians esteem the most: free markets, peace, fiscal responsibility,
and true liberty rooted in the principles outlined in the Bill of
Rights. Even as our fundamental rights were being stripped away
inexorably by this and past administrations, it seemed unthinkable
that the most basic right of all — the right to life itself — would
once again be jeopardized by a compulsory draft system that had
seemingly been permanently interred more than thirty years ago.
If Bush has taught us one lesson, it is that Barry Goldwater and
Robert Taft-style Republicanism, with its classical liberal bent,
bears as much resemblance to Bush's Republican Party as Aristotle
did to Plato.
If Bush is reelected in November and succeeds in his quest for a
new military draft, it will surely be even more odious in its implementation
than the one that existed before 1970. For one thing, the loopholes
that allowed Bush to escape service in Vietnam during his own youth
will be tightened nearly to extinction. Canada will no longer be
a safe haven for Americans seeking refuge from this latest incarnation
of American slavery as it was in the late 1960s, thanks to the "Smart
Border Declaration," the Orwellian name given to a treaty signed
by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs John Manley, and U.S. Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge. This insidious document calls for a
“pre-clearance agreement” of people entering and departing each
country and, in an effort to make the draft more "equitable"
along gender and class lines, also eliminates higher education as
a shelter. It's as though Bush examined the escape hatches that
were available when he was threatened with enforced military duty
and is determined to make sure they are no longer an option for
the latest generation of draft-age Americans.
Unfortunately, the Democrats are not likely to offer much in the
way of opposition to a new draft. New York City Congressman Charles
Rangel only half-facetiously floated the idea himself a year ago
in an effort to throw a monkey wrench into the Bush war machinery.
John Kerry, who has been on so many sides of each issue that he
is simultaneously right and wrong on all of them, doesn't appear
to have any ideological backbone whatsoever to prop him up. As Chris
Matthews of "Hard Ball" asked of Don Imus during the Primary
season, "Does anyone know where Kerry stands on any issue?"
Kerry has positioned himself as Bush-lite on the subject of Iraq
and is far from likely to take a firm stand, one way or another,
on an issue as explosive as the military draft. That leaves Nader
and the LP candidate, neither of whom is going to be our next president.
So it appears we are destined to suffer through the same old pro-draft/anti-draft
arguments my generation was besieged with for the better part of
three decades, roughly from the beginning of Word War II through
the first year of the Nixon presidency. On one side a new generation
of kids in their teens and twenties, along with their sympathizers,
lined up against hordes of brainless self-styled "patriots"
waving their American flags, denouncing the kids as "traitors"
while they pledge their allegiance to God and Country. What a mindless
and emotionally charged spectacle it was! How tedious and mind-numbing.
And if Bush has his way, we will be able to thank the beady-eyed
neo-conservative from Texas for visiting it on us all over again.
Tuccille [send him
mail] is the author of 21 books, including It
Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, It
Still Begins With Ayn Rand, and most recently of Alan
Shrugged, a biography of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. In
1974 he was the Free Libertarian Party candidate for governor of