King from SCSU Scholars recently reminded us of the economic ills of conscription in response to Rep. Charles Rangel's biennial submission of a bill to reinstate compulsory military service. Various versions of Rangel's bills have called for some form of mandated military or civil service that is "impossible" to get out of. Even with the civil service mandate, it is still immoral to allow for conscription. It is indeed slavery, as King points out, and it is even legalized involuntary human sacrifice.
During both the 2000 and 2004 election, I found myself having to explain to my friends why the junior Bush did not really serve his country in the National Guard, he served himself. I repeatedly heard lines like, "Well, they weren't using his plane," or, "Well, he really wanted to go..." Rubbish, all of it. If he really wanted to go to Vietnam, they were taking volunteers for the Army or Marines at the time.
Larry Pressler, a former Senator from South Dakota, wrote about his experiences during the early Vietnam Era Draft, and the moral consequences of conscription in an op-ed appearing in the Star Tribune : Many of those who didn't serve were helped by an inherently unfair draft. I don't fault anyone for taking advantage of the law. Where I do find fault is among those who say they were avoiding the draft because they were idealistically opposed to the war-- when, in fact, they mostly didn't want to make the sacrifice. The problem is that for every person who won a deferment or a spot in a special National Guard unit, someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve.
I add, among those who say they wanted to go to war and joined the National Guard instead; they mostly didn't want the inconvenience of actually going to war while maintaining a "clear" conscious.
Personally, I'd like to see some stats on the "someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American," however we do have two former presidents, one a draft dodger who alternately had student deferments for study abroad and National Guard spots which he never filled; and a war dodger who had a powerful father and a National Guard spot, as anecdotal stories on how elitism played out.
As Rangel personally experienced in other situations, as well as Timothy Geithner, priviledge buys one exemptions from doing ones duty. What makes any of us think that a poor black kid from Minneapolis North will have the same opportunity to work in a nursing home or teach in an inner city school as a rich kid from the Hamptons? No, they will go off to war as cannon fodder as they have in the past. Only the children of the powerful, rich, connected, or savvy parents; and those who are intellectually gifted will be given coveted slots in civil service.
I am a populist to the extent that I note two sets of "rules" in this country and find that there is a class of people exempt from playing by the rules. I am in favor of a volunteer military because it at least gives the poor a choice about serving during war, a choice that only the most fortunate have had in the past. I do not begrudge anyone the legal outs of the Vietnam Era, provided they are intellectually and morally honest about what happened and what they did. And as a society that claims not to be barbaric, that claims to be equal, we need to acknowledge that these exemptions constituted the legal involuntary human sacrifice of individuals without connections in the past, and will in the future, while we sleep with a clear collective conscious.
As a side reminder, I am not really monitoring comments, and may not immediately respond to comments. This is my hobby, my family is my life.