Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rights and Reason: Sacrifice and Selfishness

The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley thinks the youth of America need to be sacrificed for the greater good. Referencing the last living veterans of theWWI generation, Blankley writes:

Just as the country that sent those 4.7 million young men off to the Great War disrupted or ended those young lives for a larger purpose, today, the country that is America must decide whether it is prepared to disrupt or end young lives for another, greater, purpose. (As the father of two healthy teen-age sons, I think about such matters on a personal as well as theoretical basis.) But it is becoming ever more obvious that we do not have sufficient armed forces to face and master the many perils that are assembling against us. . .

. . . Finally, then — as it always does — it comes down to moral, not mathematical decisions. Unless the terrorists voluntarily go back into their hole (which seems unlikely), the president will soon have to ask the American people to accept our obligation to effectively fight the terrorist scourge by substantially increasing the size of our military. Whether by draft or by voluntary means, it will cost huge sums. Many of those new troops will fight — and some will die — so that millions of American civilians will not be killed by terrorists.
If the war against militant Islam is the preeminent crisis of our day, why call on the draft to fight it? Why frame the issue as question of whether America is willing to disrupt or end the lives of its young people? If the militant Islamists threaten our lives, freedom and prosperity, why is defending against them a sacrifice for the “greater good”? What good could be greater than defending one’s own life and happiness? And why does Tony Blankley ignore one’s selfish interest in defending one’s freedoms?

Why? Because Tony Blankley, like many conservatives, considers selflessness and not selfish interest to be the moral ideal. Even though we are a nation dedicated to protecting the life, liberty and happiness of the individual, conservatives are always nagged by the problem of the “greater good” and how best to sacrifice to it.

Yet an individualist sacrifices for no one. He lives for himself, and to appeal to him, you must appeal to his values. To convince men and women to serve in the military, you need to impress upon them of the gravity of the threat today and the manner in which it impacts them. You need to convince them of the benefits of the martial lifestyle, and pay them enough so that the cost of their service is not the derailment of every other aspect of their lives. And lastly, you must keep the promise that if they are wounded or fall in battle, they and their loved ones will be cared for by a grateful nation.

The idea of the draft should be anathema to any person dedicated to human freedom. Yes, Mr. Blankley, we have a host of threats arrayed against us. We do not answer those threats by betraying our core values, or sacrificing our freedom. It will take men and women of substance to successfully defend the nation. Such men and women will not be found by a draft board.

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