Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An Army of Slaves: The Military Draft

Rep. Charles Rangel (D) has this past week called for the enactment of national conscription. He posits that a draft would reduce the likelihood that American politicians send their troops into foreign conflict, as they would face the moral dilemma of sending unwilling soldiers into danger. Such an argument, regardless of how true it may or may not be, does not justify the existence of a draft in the United States.

Freedom is a concept that is held dear by Americans. They value their individualism, and their right to live as they please, so long as it is within the (sometimes overbearing) constraints of the law. Indeed, such fundamentally American beliefs are upheld by the document all Americans hold revere, the Constitution. It is thus morally unacceptable for the government of the United States to enact a draft. A draft is governmental coercion: it is a government action undertaken to support governmental objectives. A draft, conscripting forcefully citizens into the standing army, forces the draftee into carrying out the wishes of those he does not necessarily support. It is outrageous that such force and coercion be used while calling it ‘patriotism’ in the process.

An army of slaves does not bode well for the world’s leader of freedom. And that is just what a draft would entail. Throughout its brief history, every war the United States has fought has been under the banner of freedom and liberation of those oppressed peoples of the world. Yet, especially in the Vietnam War of the 1960s, the United States operated under a cloak rife with contradictions. The soldiers used in Vietnam, to liberate the “oppressed” were in fact oppressed themselves, coerced into service, supporting government at the expense of personal liberty.

Conscription, while being morally indefensible, is at the same time economically unsound. A draft represents central planning at its finest. The government (military) coerces young men into service, and subsequently delegates them to the positions that the government deems fit, not the individual. The government, in a draft, has ultimate say in how military resources, in this case labor, are allocated. Central planning does not work as an economic system, and it doesn’t work in a military one. Inevitably, the government will misallocate conscripted soldiers, not maximizing the efficiency of the army – which could prove to be disastrous.

A volunteer army, on the other hand, tackles all the problems a draft poses. An army of volunteers ensures a military that is both willing and patriotic, ingredients critical to beneficial military morale and subsequently success. It also allows the individual to work in the capacity that he or she chooses, ensuring, as the market theory dictates, an efficient allocation of resources conducive to success.

The thought of a compulsory draft in the United States is disturbing. To consider it would be to support coercion, to support government intervention in how individuals lead their lives. To consider it would be to impose patriotism on the unwilling, nationalism on the reluctant. It is morally wrong, and economically unsound. A draft would be, quite simply, a disaster.