Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Should We Have a Draft?

I was watching the Presidential Address last night on CBS (why CBS? I admit, I was watching a rerun of The New Adventures of Old Christine) and after the speech, Bob Schieffer came on and spoke with Katie Couric. He raised the point (a point I admit I've heard elsewhere) that it seems odd for the president to impress upon the country that it is a time during which great sacrifice is needed, when the only sacrifices are being made by members of the military and since we have an all-volunteer military, those sacrifices are grouped together among the (generally poor) military families.

This got me wondering if the fact that we have an all-volunteer military makes it easier to go to war. Strike that... it's clear to me that an all-volunteer military makes it less costly for the president and Congress to send troops into harm's way. They know that (a) personally, there's no chance any of their family members will be sent to war and that (b) politically, only a small fraction of voters are at risk of having themselves or their children sent off to war. My question is whether or not this margin matters or not. Would we have gone to Iraq with a draft? Would we still be there?

I'd always been opposed to a draft. Now I'm not sure. I still have my youthful, ideological opposition to it, but if it's the case that a draft raises the cost of armed conflict and thus might prevent loss of life, then maybe I need to rethink it.

(Note, of course, that this necessarily implies that I think that there are too many armed conflicts. This may or may not be true. And certainly a draft that would have prevented worthwhile wars is not something we'd want.)


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