A Modest Proposal

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A friend of mine is a person with long-standing and impeccable libertarian credentials, or so I thought. Recently he confronted me with a proposal that was disconcerting, to say the least.

What he said was, "Let’s bring back the draft."

At first, this struck me as a rather inane joke. But he persisted.

"No, I’m totally serious. Consider the situation the neocons in charge of U. S. policy have created. They have an outright halfwit — the dirt-dumbest man ever to get even close to being president — under their thumb. They’ve convinced him that his lunatic u2018religious’ beliefs mandate a never-ending American crusade to rid the world of evil. In particular, that means to attack, bomb, and invade any country on earth they care to target, to bring them whatever the hell they mean by u2018democracy.’ Afghanistan, for instance, which has become a shambles of drug-running warlords growing rich by providing 90% of Europe’s heroin. Iraq, falling to pieces before our eyes…"

"Well, okay, you’re probably more or less right there. But what does that have to do with reinstating the draft, for gosh sakes?"

"Why is it, my Rockwellian friend, that the American people sit still in open-mouthed acceptance of all this garbage? The supine media help, of course. But it’s mainly because the people think it doesn’t cost them anything. Sure, there’s extra expenditure. But as with any welfare program, the great majority vote yeah, yeah, why not? because they believe they won’t have to pay much if anything. But, reintroduce the draft and it’s a whole new ballgame!"

"Meaning what, exactly?"

"Meaning that now their own little kiddies, boy-kiddies, incidentally, not girl-kiddies, who aren’t u2018eligible,’ get shipped out to those exotic places. All of a sudden it’s no longer just the mercenaries who are on the line. I don’t mean just the hired killer u2018security personnel’ but all of the US troops in Iraq, they’re all mercenaries. Now it’s a question of dear Sean, Kevin, Jason, and sweet David."

"But why should these kids be drafted to fight and possibly die in Iraq and wherever else the neocons might choose to send them?"

"Why not? Now Sean and his chums couldn’t care less that the US state is killing and maiming people they have no idea even existed, wiping out families, in Afghanistan and Iraq, by the thousands, as it did in Serbia and so many other places. Literally, they could not care less. The brute fact is that the draft will change all that. These lads will have to say goodbye to their crummy lives of rap music, greaseburgers, and loveless screwing, and go and kill and risk being killed. If Dr. Johnson were alive today he’d probably have a memorable thing to say about that. Sorry, I don’t, at the moment."

"And this justifies violating the natural right to liberty of these young men?"

"I believe it does. Look, these u2018young men’ and the rest of the American public are mindlessly acquiescing in violating the natural right to liberty, not to mention life, of thousands upon thousands of the victims of US imperialism. Something has to be done about that. Is this going to go on forever?"

"I have the feeling that you have some other reason for your betrayal of libertarian principles, isn’t there?"

"Leave aside u2018betrayal’ for a moment. Yes, I do. You’re smarter than you look. It’s a strategic reason. An anti-war, anti-imperialist movement in America has absolutely no chance unless we have a draft. That is the simple truth. In the Vietnam time, the student anti-war movement made a lot of trouble for the warmongers in DC, up until the moment that Nixon, savvy political pro that he was, abolished the universal draft. Then the wonderful young u2018idealists’ vanished into the woodwork. All that most of them ever really worried about was their own hides. The same now."

"And you’re willing to throw overboard basic libertarian principles just to get young guys drafted so that the youth will start opposing war?

"No, that’s not the only reason. Another advantage is that our young men will learn something of world geography. They will learn, for instance, that Iraq is in Asia not South America, that Baghdad is the capital of Iraq not France, and a lot of other good stuff."

"Very funny. I think you’re crazy, or else you’re not a libertarian.

"I’m not any crazier than you are. And I am a libertarian. This isn’t any betrayal of libertarian principles. Instead, it’s their practical application in a given real world situation. As a libertarian I’m thinking more in the long term. Maybe you should too."

"I have nothing more to say to you on this subject."

"Just think about it."

Ralph Raico [send him mail] is a senior scholar of the Mises Institute.

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