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Drafted For Your Own Good

Over at The Bit Bucket, there's a nice post arguing against the newfound enthusiasm of the center-left for the draft. One of his arguments is:

"The draft would spread the burden more fairly": This is wrong on several levels. For starters, even if we assume all the loopholes are closed so everyone has to serve, it's a safe bet that the well-educated and the children of privilege will get put in front of computers, not on the front lines. I probably count of one of those "children of privilege," in the sense that I have clerical and computer skills that would be far more useful to the war effort in a Pentagon office than anything I could do with a rifle in Faluja. So if the goal is to have equal proportions of rich and poor kids die on the front lines, a draft isn't going to equalize things very much.

In the comments to the post, there is a response from Kilroy Was Here that I think highlights something important about the center-left case for the draft. Kilroy says:

In your refutation on spreading the burden, first, you are describing only one version of a draft. One could imagine a draft that did not have this problem (i.e. random assignments).

My initail reaction was that the idea of random assignments is absurd. The reason, though, is that the only sort of argument that could convince me to favor the draft is an argument from military necessity -- i.e., "we need more soldiers or else the bad guys will conquer us." From a standpoint of military necessity, you want people in the positions where they'll do the most good. It may not be fair that the Bit Bucketeer and I are, because of our privileged upbringings, better suited to the low-risk desk jobs. But it's much more efficient in terms of building a winning army. And if we're in dire enough straits that we have to draft people, efficiency of fighting is going to be of overriding importance.

The thing is that the center-left argument for the draft is not about military necessity. It's about using the military (or an equivalent peacetime national service regime like Americorps and the Peace Corps) as a means for social engineering. The ends being served by the draft are ends of social solidarity -- making people love their country because they were forced to serve it shoulder-to-shoulder with a cross-section of the population, making elected officials care about what happens to Joe Schmoe because their own son or daughter could be in Joe's place.


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