Brought to my attention by Daniel Greenfield in his July 14th Sultan Knish column was Thomas R. Ricks's New York Times opinion piece of July 9th, "Let's Draft Our Kids." Greenfield handily dismisses most of Ricks's proposals as the ravings of an ignoramus and lunatic, but I saw something else in Ricks's article that beggared comment. What Ricks is proposing is a scheme for indentured servitude that makes the old Roosevelt era Civilian Conservation Corps look like a Boy Scout jamboree.
Richard M. Salsman, in his Forbes article, "A Finalized Path to Full, Socialized Medicine in America – Thanks to Conservatives," on the Supreme Court's ruling, noted on June 28th that:
With today’s ruling the U.S. government can do virtually anything it wishes to its citizens – liberty and rights be damned, without limit. Officially in America we now have a totally arbitrary and limitless government. That is, we have a “total government.” In short, we’ve got totalitarian government. As to how much further liberty we may lose in our lifetimes, it’ll depend only on how arbitrary and vicious reigning rulers choose to be, or not. There’s no real Rule of Law any more, only the Rule of Men – and these are mostly ignorant, reckless men.
Greenfield regards Ricks as one of those ignorant, reckless men, brimming with collectivist schemes to bring about the full employment of a generation fresh from indoctrination and epistemological lobotomization in the public schools. Greenfield, for example, quotes Ricks:
A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.
Greenfield: That "great cost" would clearly be more than balanced by taking hundreds of thousands of teens out of the work force and then paying for their college tuition and health care for life, so that they can do paperwork and paint barracks... even though we can already find volunteers to do this already. And in a shocking turn of events, those volunteers would actually choose military service as part of their career plan.
Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.
Greenfield: So now we're drafting people into a national workforce to clean parks in low income areas? Or we could just use paroled prisoners, long-term welfare cases and bored liberal kids for that.
And what about "conscientious objectors" who don’t wish to become indistinguishable elements in the Fascist gestalt? What will happen to individuals who value their lives, liberty, property and pursuits of their selfish happiness? Why, they'll be "free" to choose their fates.
And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.
Greenfield:… sounds reasonable. So long as they wouldn't be expected to pay into the system and get tax discounts so they don't have to pay for anybody else's Medicare, college loans and mortgages for low income areas.
That is, those who don't "volunteer" to serve or who resist conscription will be left to sleep under bridges in discarded cardboard containers and root through garbage bins for scraps of food. In such a society of servitude, individualists will become pariahs and outcasts in their own country – the country founded to protect individual rights. Universal conscription such as Ricks proposes is a prescription for slavery and poverty.
That aspect of Ricks's idea is fundamentally unworkable, as any Alinskyite, fully committed Marxist, or wannabe Nazi will tell you. Those who do not "volunteer" will be forced to choose their mode of servitude. Totalitarians and totalitarianism do not offer anyone optional alternatives. It is but a short leap from "community organizing" to "national organizing." Ask the White House.
It is tempting to suspect that Ricks is probably enamored of that awful Denise Richards vehicle, "Starship Troopers," in which boys and girls donned combat gear to fight telekinetic insects from across the galaxy. In exchange for that "service," and if they survived, they'd get free college education and other societal perks, as well. Or perhaps Ricks dreamed up his scheme from having watched Occupy Wall Streeters demonstrate and riot and engage in criminal actions. "Very nice kids," he might have thought. "But they've got to be channeled into more constructive participation in our democracy."
Ricks is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine, and also the author of several books on the military and military policies. The woozy mission statement of the CNAS betrays it as a left-wing "think tank" dedicated to developing "strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies." It's interesting that the mission statement contains the glaring contradiction of pragmatism and principles. But I could detect nothing substantive in the rest of what the CNAS purports to accomplish.
What inspired Ricks to wax ignorantly on the "benefits" of a new system of compulsory servitude were the remarks of former top commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal in an interview on July 3rd, in Foreign Policy.
"I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn't be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population," McChrystal said at a late-night event June 29 at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. "I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game."
So, we should complement a volunteer force with mobs of conscripts in order to be "representative of the population"? Representative of what? Or of whom? Income classes? Levels of literacy? Gender preferences? Since when was our military dubbed to be an instrument of social policy? Oh, that's right. The military has served as a "proving ground" for social policies for decades now. The Democrats especially have been busy emasculating it ever since Bill Clinton's turn in the White House.
He argued that the burdens of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't been properly shared across the U.S. population, and emphasized that the U.S. military could train draftees so that there wouldn't be a loss of effectiveness in the war effort.
So, the burden of sending "our kids" to serve in a military assigned to implement a foreign "social" policy of converting barbaric, backwater Muslim countries into "democracies," no matter the cost in their lives and dollars, should be more equitably shared by everyone. It was never in America's self-interest to invade Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, or Afghanistan except to retaliate against Islamic organizations and states that sponsored terrorism that had declared war on this country. But the Left has never approved of any war we have fought unless it was preeminently selfless and sacrificing.
McChrystal and Ricks are simply advocating a renewal of the policy originated by Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive wings of the Democrats and Republicans. About our entry into World War I, Sheldon Richman notes:
The messianic President Wilson could not pass up what he saw as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help remake the world. As historian Arthur Ekirch writes in The Decline of American Liberalism, "The notion of a crusade came naturally to Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, imbued with a stern Calvinist sense of determinism and devotion to duty." He was goaded by a host of Progressive intellectuals, such as John Dewey and Herbert Croley, editor of The New Republic, who wrote that "the American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure."
….Within months, the United States had conscription, an official propaganda office, suppression of dissent, and central planning of the economy (a precedent for Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal).
While Richman's thesis, which lays blame on the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 for the rise of Nazi Germany, opposes Ludwig von Mises's thesis that Germany was properly blamed and punished for the war (and I happen to support the von Mises thesis, which can be found in Omnipotent Government, reviewed here), Richman's assertion that the active involvement of the United States in European political affairs laid the groundwork for the next war and for our own brand of statism, is valid.
It is John Dewey's educational philosophy that governs American public schools today, while Herbert Croly, a Progressive, wrote the blueprint for American fascism, The Promise of American Life, in 1909. In it, he claimed that "the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth," and that it was time for the federal government to become more aggressive in economic planning and to assign Americans a better reason for living and working than for their own selfish purposes. Croly explicitly recommended that the United States move from freedom to "corporate (crony) capitalism" and from a Constitutionally limited government to the welfare state. These are the principal characteristics of Fascism.
Thomas Ricks is the trollish heir to the policies advocated by Wilson, Dewey, and Croly in the last century. Nothing he proposes is new or original, as collectivist programs go, except that it proposes to harness the military as the vehicle of servitude. However, the sanctioning of totalitarianism by the Supreme Court and the formal scrapping of the Constitution by the Court have allowed him to come out of the Progressive closet to float his trial balloon of universal conscription.
That his brazen proposals would necessitate a greater national debt is irrelevant. Greenfield in his Sultan Knish column also points out Ricks's utterly reckless ignorance of the dollar costs of his scheme. All collectivist schemes are costly. Costs have never troubled collectivists. But it would be easy to imagine Ricks's appointment to a new Federal Bureau of Human Resources, in which he would lord it over the lives of young people by sending them hither and yon in national service. He would be a natural fit for this new "czardom."
He would also be a perfect companion for another totalitarian, Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources. In 2011, Forbes named her "the most powerful woman in the world." And Thomas Ricks would become "the most powerful man in the world."
They could squabble amicably over where to send you and your children. And if you protested or resisted the new conscription, they could flip a coin to decide what to do with you.