If Obama is Right About Self-Sacrifice, Why Not a Military Draft?

It is that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work. — Barack Obama

“What if we reinstated the draft?” wonders David Fazekas, writing at yahoo.com on 6/5/14.

What we’re talking about is conscription, forcing every man and woman to serve their country. As in the 70’s, Americans may get desperate in how they dodge their responsibilities, but unlike the 100,000 that ran off to foreign countries, current dodgers may stay put, and hide behind their career.

But for those that do answer the call of duty, would they really be pulling their weight alongside the over 1 million active military men and woman currently serving?

“I’m not sure it would add a lot from a standpoint of quality of the service,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star General James Cartwright.

No matter. It’s not about the well-being of the military or the security of the nation. It’s about compulsion for its own sake.

“It’d be a better and stronger and more patriotic America,” said Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) who introduced the Universal National Service Act in 2003 and has been lobbying for it ever since. “If indeed a president decided that he is going to place our young people in harm’s way, the congress now has to go home and tell you why we need your kid.”

Notice Rangel’s premise. Forcing people to serve in the military against their will can “make” people more patriotic. Really? Forcing people usually makes them resentful and fearful, if anything. Patriotism — rationally and properly defined — refers to an authentic, sincere and spontaneous love of one’s country. The love can arise from something rational, as the love one feels for a free country which protects individual liberty for all; or the love can arise from something questionable or pernicious, such as nationalism, racism or other forms of collective tribalism. Either way, love implies a voluntary submission in which — through the operations of one’s own mind — one has concluded something is good. You cannot compel love.

Rangel speaks as if simply compelling people to go through the motions of a patriotic action — serving one’s country in the military — will, by itself, make one patriotic. The implication here is that an emotion such as patriotism consists of going through the behavioral motions of country-loving. It has nothing to do with thoughts, ideas, premises, emotions or anything at all pertaining to consciousness.

Speak for yourself, Charlie Rangel. Maybe you don’t have a consciousness worthy of the name, or maybe you simply go through the motions of existence like a preprogrammed automaton. But that’s not human nature, and that’s not the rest of us who reside outside of your political bubble.

Of course, these politicians are the same people who claim that you can have “health care for all” simply by electing a hapless politician to sign it into law. “It’s law, therefore it is,” and the vast complexity of facts which make up the countless interpersonal associations and economic transactions comprising “health care” be damned. Wishes can be compelled into existence.

The military draft? It’s the perfect union of liberalism and conservatism. Each outlook — at its most consistent — stresses self-sacrifice. Liberals can force individuals to sacrifice for the sake of the state; conservatives will rationalize it as God and country. Rest assured it has nothing whatsoever to do with military preparedness or safety. It’s all about ever-more subservience of the individual to the state. Little wonder a prominent leftist Democrat has been pushing it, and if it ever comes to pass, it will surely be bipartisan.

What’s keeping the Republicans or Democrats from pushing the military draft, given the allegiance each party claims to selfless service?

The most likely reason is the political unpopularity of such a measure. If you think Obamacare raised howls of protest from about half of the population, you haven’t seen anything yet. Imagine what a military draft would do.

Americans would not stand for it, by and large. But most would not reject it for the right reasons. The right reason to reject the draft? Ayn Rand stated it most eloquently:

Of all the statist violations of individual rights in a mixed economy, the military draft is the worst. It is an abrogation of rights. It negates man’s fundamental right—the right to life—and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man’s life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.

If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state’s discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom—then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man’s protector any longer. What else is there left to protect?

Bingo. The only problem: Most people don’t agree with Rand on the principle of individual rights. They’re happy to violate the principle of individual rights in the name of self-sacrifice if the sacrifice involves somebody else for their sake. Higher taxes for more social programs? There’s nothing more popular — provided that somebody else is paying the higher taxes and I am getting the lion’s share of the new freebies from the government. No, not everyone is this corrupt, but a majority must be, because that’s the winning political calculus for politicians seeking office today. How else could a lightweight like Barack Obama have become, and remained, the American president when running on the platform of spreading the wealth?

Most Americans don’t like the idea of self-sacrifice when it means that they are the selves making the sacrifice. Most would call the rejection of self-sacrifice a vice. I call it a virtue. The vice is when people are willing to sacrifice others for the sake of themselves — by forcing them to pay tolls, taxes or other penalties to make their own lives easier.

In a proper society, nobody would be compelled to sacrifice for anyone. Sacrifice, while certainly your right to engage in if you’re neurotic enough to desire it, would never be a legal requirement.

Without such a principle to guide us, sooner or later the draft, and a lot worse things, will be upon us.

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