Recently talking with L about this, I was persuaded that the United States needs a military draft in order to make the world a safer place. As long-time readers and friends know, I come from a military family.What I haven’t written about before is that like many Americans, I am only two generations removed from abject poverty. These two facts are related. Three of my grandparents grew up in broken families in the rural South of the early twentieth century, became young adults during the Great Depression, and were dirt poor for years and years. Both of my grandfathers entered the military because it was the most promising employment opportunity available to them. My father and uncle, first-generation college students, went into the army not only because of their desire to serve their country but also because of the job security such employment promised.
There will always be men and women who feel such pride in their country that they want to serve in the military, putting their personal safety on the line because of their patriotrism. However, there will also be a large number of very young people who enter the military because while it is not a career that will make them rich, it will appear to be the only available low-paying job with such a high level of prestige, and it offers the promise of “helping pay for college.” In America, this is the ticket to middle-class respectability. Meanwhile, the popular kids from high school–the ones who could afford the expensive, brand-name clothing instead of the no-name imitations; the ones who got a brand-new car on their sixteenth birthday instead of saving up to buy some old hoopty with their burger-flipping money–those kids are going straight to college. They don’t have to risk their lives for socioeconomic mobility.
When our nation goes to war, we are all implicitly responsible for what happens. But we don’t all have to take equal risks. This is wrong. The United States should reinstate the draft and make every single young American eligible with no loopholes whatsoever. Are you in college? I’m sure your professors will understand. Married? Maybe your spouse will join up, too, so she can be with you. Have kids? At least your spouse will still have someone to love if you get killed.
When we invaded Iraq, the safety of every single Iraqi–man, woman, child–was threatened. If we all knew that everyone we know here in the United States is also at risk, maybe we wouldn’t find it so easy to go to war.