Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ask Not

The Moose wonders if it is time to revisit the issue of national service.

In the aftermath of 9/11 there was renewed interest in national service. It was short-lived. Senators McCain and Bayh offered legislation to expand both civilian and military service options, but their proposal received only lip-service from the Administration.

After all, this was a sacrifice-free war for everyone except our brave troops and their families. The President, instead, implored us to "go shopping" and aggressively cut taxes for the comfortable. Not only was this to be a "sacrifice-free" war for the civilian population, but the class war on behalf of the wealthy was to be pursued relentlessly.

During the past campaign, there was a spirited rumor campaign that inflamed the left about the possibility of a draft in a second Bush term. But would that be so bad? Not a military draft, but a form of mandatory national service, with military and civilian components.

In a must read piece in the Washington Monthly, Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris make a compelling national security case for mandatory service. They write,

"That leaves one option left for providing the military with sufficient numbers of high-quality deployable ground forces: conscription. America has nearly always chosen this option to staff its military in times of war. Today, no leading politician in either party will come anywhere near the idea—the draft having replaced Social Security as the third rail of American politics. This will have to change if the United States is to remain the world's preeminent power."

The notion of the citizens' obligation to society has traditionally enjoyed support and opposition from the right and the left. JFK and Clinton both made service as centerpieces of their Administrations. William F. Buckley wrote a book - Gratitude - Buckley wrote,

"Materialistic democracy beckons every man to make himself a king; republican citizenship incites every man to be a knight. National service, like gravity, is something we could accustom ourselves to, and grow to love."

The military is now having difficulty meeting its recruiting goals. That is not the primary reason for mandatory service, but could provide a necessary benefit. We need a more engaged citizenry that fulfills its obligation to the nation. The atomistic nature of our culture should be combated. On the civilian side, in the coming years, we will have an aging population that will have needs which a national service corps can address. That is what is already happening in some European countries.

Will progressives be so daring to suggest mandatory national service? Ask not...
-- Posted at 2:39 PM | Link to this post | Email this post