Conservatives for Kidnapping

The guardians of ordered liberty and traditional values over at National Review are pushing a solution to all our problems: the draft, or, as they say in the private sector, kidnapping. Or, if not the draft, the magazine is pushing steps in that direction, as many steps as the state can get away with.

But once the imperial state owns people, what else do you expect it to do with them but send them to their deaths? The state acts as a kind of anti-parent: to the same extent that moms and dads love and care for their children, protecting them from harm, the state is careless with other people’s kids, caring only about the public-opinion consequences of body bags.

In wartime, the gloss of civic duty and patriotism has been stripped away. Stanley Kurtz, writing for the online edition of National Review, doubts that we are militarily prepared for a full-scale war on Iraq. Given the likely casualties, he says, we need a draft that "can provide us with combat replacements."

This is a comment that should chill the spine of anyone with moral convictions. Just to make sure we understand, let’s spell it out.

Kurtz, writing from his comfortable chair at the Hoover Institution in lovely Stanford, California, is urging an invasion of a country that has already been reduced to pre-modern living standards by a twelve-year US war, and he is fully willing to contemplate that this will likely mean sending many American troops to their deaths.

Kurtz’s plan for dealing with the massive loss of life is to forcibly drag other Americans out of the workplaces and schools of their choosing and send them to their deaths in a far-flung country as slaves of the US military empire, all in an effort to impose ever-more suffering and death on Iraq.

A more ghastly public policy is hard to imagine, short of all-out nuclear war. National Review conservatives like to posture as guardians of virtue and manners, but when it comes right down to it, what these people are pushing is morally reprehensible and uncivilized. And they have the gall to decry libertarianism as morally lax?

Maybe we should start using the word "combat replacements" more broadly. "How many combat replacements do you newlyweds hope to have?" "This education bill insures that no combat replacement will be left behind."

Now, Kurtz is aware that the draft would meet with political resistance. So he has some suggested half-measures too. He wants people to join the ROTC, a kind of young-pioneers training camp for the military state. In fact, he wants Junior ROTC groups imposed on every public high school, on pain of federal sanctions. "Growth in JROTC and ROTC might solve much of our manpower needs, and do it with volunteers (sic.)."

Yes, this might be resisted, he admits, because we have all become corrupted "in the wake of Vietnam and the sixties." He then informs us that to purge people of such corruption is the real point of the conservative "culture war." "So in the end, the real war and the culture war are the same war."

That’s interesting to know. In the 1980s and 1990s, many regular Americans thought that joining the conservative’s culture war meant being against teen sex, rap music, abortion, and family disintegration. They believed that conservatives were fighting the influence of secularism and humanism in the culture. Now, it turns out, according to Kurtz, that there is only one real purpose of the cultural war against the legacy of sixties: to make parents more willing to part with their offspring as fodder in the war on terrorism.

Kurtz is hardly alone in his views. There is a faction of the right that is trying to whip up a kind of pro-draft movement. My fans over at Americans For Victory Over Terrorism (chairman William Bennett attacked me by name at the group’s first press conference) have released a survey on the draft. They asked college kids what they thought about having military service forced on them.

The results of the AVOT poll: 37 percent of students said they would evade; 35 percent said they would love it, even it meant being stationed in Beirut; and 21 percent said they would serve but only within US borders. This last group is puzzling: a government that steals your college years to enslave you in the service of its imperial military ambitions is not going to concern itself about where you want to do so.

Why was AVOT conducting a survey? To judge whether compulsory military service is feasible. They probably were not very encouraged by the results of their survey. In fact, they probably see resistance to the draft as a sign of cultural decline. Actually, it’s the opposite. Those who are willing to tell pollsters that they would defy the state rather than be coerced to fight its wars are examples of the true American spirit. That 37 percent of students are willing to tell a pollster so demonstrates that not all is lost.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the vogue of the draft on the right. The problem with the post-World War II right is that its devotion to the idea of freedom has been more rhetorical than substantive. They have favored a planned military economy while decrying the planned economy generally. They have pushed for an imperial foreign policy while believing in small government at home. They want wars and more wars that kill kids and take them away from families, but also favor family values.

In the end, they have to make a choice between freedom and the state. They choose the state. That these people are now calling for making slaves out of young workers and students so they can be forced to fight unnecessary wars abroad, is merely the next step in a long ideological decline. Freedom is threatened as much by these people as by any leftwing socialist.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of

Lew Rockwell Archives

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts