Select Page

The difference between a drafted soldier and a
slave doesn’t amount to a frosty mug o’ spit. Congress,
apparently longing for the good old days of Viet Nam,
Korea, and WWII, is proposing to enslave not just
healthy young men, but pretty much all of us.

Most of the crooks and liars who form the political
class today aren’t old enough to remember them, but
there must be some institutional nostalgia for the days
when America fielded vast armies of conscripts in a
global struggle against tyranny. Congress must feel like
fighting terrorism with a mere handful of volunteers
is for military pikers. Iraq isn’t the kind of war that
molds politicians into “great men.” And naturally, all
politicians view themselves as great men.

What you need for real war, for firebombing cities,
human wave attacks, and concentration camps—is
to enslave pretty much everyone. You just can’t find
enough volunteers for that kind of work.

Enter HR 5741. This law will require all Americans
between 18 and 42 to provide the state with 2
years of their lives “in the furtherance of national
defense or homeland security.”

I’ve always been leery of the notion of “Homeland
Security.” It implies that there is an “Outland” that we also must secure. It
has that semi-creepy, quasi-fascist
sound I associate with
dueling scars, saddle caps and
jodhpurs, eager attack dogs,
and nasty little Luger pistols.
But “homeland security” is
now one of the purposes of a
law that will require all of us
to dedicate two years of our
lives to patrolling barbed wire

I can work up no enthusiasm
for the good old days of
military conscription, or for
civilian conscription of any
kind. Neither can the rest of
the American public as far as
I can see. Although a majority
of Americans supposedly still
buys the much altered and ever
evolving propaganda that we
are fighting a monolithic terrorist
threat in Iraq, that majority
would vanish faster than a
politician’s promise in the face
of a military draft.

Americans have never
been interested in foreign conquest.
We’ve always been much
more reluctant conquerors than
our leaders. Since Woodrow
Wilson’s war to make the world
safe for democracy, the U.S. has
never fielded an army in which
the volunteers outnumbered
the conscripted. In WWI over
three quarters of those who
served were draftees. In WWII,
even after the Pearl Harbor
attack, over 60% of those who
joined the military did so at
gunpoint. We fought foreign
wars in Korea and Viet Nam
with mostly drafted soldiers.
At the height of the Viet Nam
war draftees were suffering
65% of the casualties.

The difference between
a drafted soldier and a slave
relates only to the length of
service, not the nature of the
service. What could be more
ironic than an army of slaves
sallying forth to fight for someone
else’s freedom.

It’s true that America’s
founders believed adamantly
in the “citizen soldier,” but
only because citizen soldiers
were our best defense against
invasion and domestic tyranny.

The Founders to a man
loathed the idea of a standing
army. As they saw it, a well
regulated militia, eager to
serve in defense of their land
and their freedom, would be
the only army America would
ever need. The Founders and
early Americans both would
have recognized conscription
for the tyranny it is.

It is only the imperial
armies of the twentieth century
that have had to force Americans
to fight at gunpoint. The
first draft, during the Civil War,
and ironically on the heels of the
Emancipation Proclamation,
was met with near universal
contempt by those subject to it.
The worst riots in the nation’s
history followed the first draft
in New York City in 1863.

Federal troops fresh from
the fight at Gettysburg marched
into the city to restore order
after five days of lynching, looting,
and arson. People in those
days understood what freedom
was. Despite appalling casualty
rates, the Civil War was fought
almost entirely by volunteers.
Fewer than 6% of U.S. soldiers
were drafted.

Before America began
“making the world safe for democracy”
and “spreading freedom
throughout the world,”
we had no foreign enemies.

Today, after 100 years of ever
increasing meddling in the affairs
of foreigners, America is
hard pressed to find a foreign
friend. Wars of conquest do not
earn friends or spread freedom.
Dropping bombs and bossing
people around makes people
hate us, manufactures terrorists,
and forces us to trade freedom
at home for imaginary safety.

America’s best defense
lies not in drafting a huge conquering
army, but in removing
our soldiers from the 100 or
more countries throughout the
world where we are pestering
the locals and earning enemies.

Safety and prosperity lie not in
foreign invasion and constant
domestic surveillance, but in
the principles of peaceful commerce,
strict neutrality, and
the safety of an armed and
informed citizenry. Americans
have no enemies capable of
invading our shores; we should
reject the idea that we need to
conscript an army of slaves to
defend them.