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“The Case for the Draft”


The March 2005 issue of the Washington Monthly has just published a lengthy article titled, “The Case for the Draft.”

Co-authored by Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris, the article’s revealing subtitle reads:

America can remain the world’s superpower. Or it can maintain its current all-volunteer military. It can’t do both.


Now. I do not know whether this particular either-or is true or not with respect to the United States’ remaining the “world’s superpower.”

That is to say, whether or not it is true that the U.S. Government either must institute a military draft to more efficiently fill out the ranks of its far-flung missions of conquest around the world, or the U.S. Government must surrender its status as the “world’s superpower.” For what it’s worth, my own personal belief is that the U.S. Government already has crossed the threshold to become the pre-eminent threat to international peace and security—the one Great Power that all of the other lesser powers need to figure out how to contain and deter. (Decades ago, in fact.—Even before the “Neocons” hijacked the planet earth.) Though I will waste no time in adding here that if the case that Carter and Glastris argue is true, then I believe we have even more reason to oppose the reinstitution of the military draft, and resist everything that would accompany it—because we’d be helping to protect the world from the U.S. Government. The whole point being to starve the Beast. Not to go on feeding it. And this also being true of the so-called “national service” alternative to the straight military draft. Because in the real world, in the United States of America as its exists today, any program of mandatory national service will be used to increase the militarization of individuals and society, rather than to diminish it. One really ought to be opposed to the militarization of life and the world.

But all of this aside. Notice the quite frank and indeed helpful terms in which Carter and Glastris have laid out the basic choice before us:

Preserving America’s Super Power status, and everything that it requires and entails
Surrendering America’s Super Power status, and everything that it requires and entails

Because this really is what it all comes down to. Don’t you think? A choice between more of the same. Or something else.

In everything that touches on life in the United States today, we’ve got to ask ourselves whether we want to contribute more violence to this world, or less? Do we want to increase the militarization of domestic U.S. society, or to reduce it? Do we want to increase the militarization of the affairs among states, making foreign states more reliant on military force in their relations to other states because our Government is a threat to them? (After all, this is what the current contest over the Iranian nuclear program is all about.) Or do we want to lessen it?

More to the point, do we want more American military domination of foreign states and peoples, the way the Carter and Glastris rhetoric about remaining the “world’s superpower” shows they do? Or do we want less? A greater reliance on the threat or use of force in the international realm? Or less? Do we want to add to the list of reasons for building ever-more advanced weaponry—weaponry that can always be turned against us, don’t forget, sometimes by our own Government—or do we want to shorten it?

Make no mistake about it: Carter and Glastris, ultimately, come out in favor of reinstituting a military draft for one simple reason: Because they favor making life within this country, and in its relations to the rest of the world, not only more violent, but more dependent on violence as the arbiter of disputes. “What we really need,” they write, maybe four-fifths of the way through their proposal, “is the capability to rapidly mobilize and deploy a half million troops to project U.S. power abroad, and to be able to sustain them indefinitely while maintaining a reserve with which to simultaneously engage other enemies.” And only conscription will be able to place that many young people’s bodies into that many military uniforms.

But what all of their rhetoric about remaining the “world’s superpower” (e.g., in the article’s very last section, where they state their case conditionally: “if the United States is to remain the world’s preeminent power,” and “If America wishes to retain its mantle of global leadership”) really means is that they want America to be not only a violent state but a violent state without peer. It’s just that from the Carter-Glastris point of view, violence and militarization are regarded as good aspects of life in the United States. Like apple pie and Mother’s Day. Aspects worth preserving. Even enhancing.

I beg to differ with the Washington Monthly‘s authors, of course. But I do believe that in all questions touching on recruitment and counter-recruitment, the possibility of a new military draft or a form of “national service”—Believe me: The latter is the far more insidious of the two—and the militarization of youth—a bit of a sideshow, I’m afraid, as their parents beat them across this finish line a generation ago—So who is going to teach whom?—we ought to frame the discussion before us in an equally bullshit-free set of terms.

Can the contemporary world afford to confront an even more rapacious and insatiable Super Predator State?
And should we as Americans help keep the Super Predator State up and running? Or help switch it off?

The Case for the Draft,” Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly, March, 2005
Letters to the Editor of the Washington Monthly

Nuclear Security—Measures to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism (GC(47)/17), International Atomic Energy Agency, August 20, 2003
Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon,” David Hambling, New Scientist, March 2, 2005

SIPRI Yearbook 2004: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2004

Where are the American Conscientious Objectors?” Baruch Kimmerling, www.dissidentvoice.org, February 14, 2005

AFSC National Youth and Militarism Program, American Friends Service Committee
Center on Conscience and War
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

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