By Meg Curtis, PhD
General Stanley McChrystal re-launched the debate over a US military draft on June 29 at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. Josh Rogin lays out the General’s reasoning in “McChrystal: Time to Bring Back the Draft,” in Foreign Policy, on July 3, 2012.
According to Rogin, McChrystal said: “The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq placed unfair and extreme burdens on the professional military, especially reservists, and their families…” (par. 5).
Thomas E. Ricks takes up the General’s cause at greater length in “Let’s Draft Our Kids” for The New York Times on July 9, 2012. Ricks’ description of McChrystal ‘s recommendation blends the draft, in effect, with Kennedy’s Peace Corps, but enlists the Peace Corps on American soil.
While Ricks presents objections to McChrystal’s recommendation, his support remains clear. Ricks writes:
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. (par. 4)
Ricks omits one positive result from this plan, however: the creation of an experienced force which does not sneer at the dignity of labor.
In his response to the General’s recommendation, Richard Cohen hits the nail on the head when he objects on the basis of boredom, lack of career advancement and no entertainment value. Writing for The Washington Post on July 11, 2012, however, this writer misses the point of labor in “Should the U.S. Revive the Draft?”
Respectable employment need not inspire lengthy careers; neither does it need to entertain workers. Does not mowing a lawn upgrade property values? Does not caring for the elderly remind youngsters of their future as well? At the other end of life’s spectrum, don’t young workers also need to feel an obligation to care for the youngest of all?
If John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” what better way to demonstrate the primary duty of American citizens than to open this opportunity immediately following high school?
McChrystal’s plan serves to advance educational goals across this land. Young adults don’t need internships which replace the workers they soon will be. They don’t need extra time to hang out and increase the number of gangs. The entire country needs a workforce which competes at every level.