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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


some drafts are worse than others

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, November 21, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
By now everyone has piled on to the draft idea floated by Sen. Rangel. To be honest, I don't think it's such a terrible idea. Not that I'd neccessarily support it, but I can see the merits. Israel, Switzerland, and numerous other countries have much the same thing.

The thing is that there are indeed benefits to military training and there owuld be a net positive social impact. So it isn't an idea I would easily dismiss.

Now, there's already one diary on the rec list about why the draft proposal is good politics, but let's actually talk about the draft in the context of policy instead.

The problem with Rangel's proposal is that it's too comprehensive. There are about 8,000,000 people in the US of age between 18 21, and paying them their salaries alone would be a quarter of a trillion dollars a year. But it's a good starting point for a debate about what a draft can look like and what purpose it could serve.

Let's first and foremost remember that a draft does not neccessarily mean combat. If we think of the draft as akin to national guard service, then suddenly the question of its purpose becomes a lot clearer.

I think a more reasonable proposal would be that all high school age kids be enrolled for a mandatory semester in basic (but not intensive) military training. Then, have a rotating system whereby everyone is called up for 3 months of service sometime during the ages of 18-21. They would simply report to their local National Guard office and for all intents and purposes be a part of the Guard for that period. Every five years, they would again be asked to spend three months of service thereafter.

The period of service would be tax free and would carry full health benefits. (this would also open the door to scaling up the VA system for health care to cover all uninsured, but that's a different topic).

What would you do during your service period? Everything that the National Guard does. Teach kids, save lives in disasters, build housing for the poor, provide security for major events, and of course respond to disasters. And once in a while, if the events warrant and we are faced with a truly global scale war for which the volunteer Army would be insufficient, then also provide rotating support. Terms of that would be a different matter of course. But the likelihood of it would be much lower than today, because it would need to be a World War scale conflict.

The benefit is that a lot of people who taste the military life might well choose to make it a career. It's not unreasonable to expect that a draft as outlined above would probably greatly increase the size of our volunteer army - and the extremely hard to recruit and train special forces.

At any rate this is an idea that we should consider and discuss, not reject out of hand.

(xposted to my Daily Kos diary, including a poll).


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.