Sunday, April 22, 2012

Washington Post "brainstorming column" suggests reimposing conscription


The Washington Post has an interesting “Outlook’s 4th Annual Spring Cleaning” page in the Outlook Section, p. B4, link here.  

I’ll take up a couple of the items.  One is criticism of the all-volunteer military by Thomas E. Ricks.  The commentator writes that the all-volunteer military is successful “militarily”, but not politically and ethically. He says we were reckless when we invaded Iraq and would not have done so with a draft.

Conscription raises the idea that individuals must share the risks and perils that it takes to provide them a stable and prosperous culture.  That means, individuals must be open to exposure to sacrifice for the common good.  This, as I’ve noted recently, was a paramount part of “moral thinking”.   The Supreme Court has even ruled that the male-only draft is constitutional. As a “moral precept”, it began to unravel in the 1960s with the Vietnam era conscription, of which I was a part. 

The draft didn’t keep us out of Vietnam, but maybe the convenience of student deferments did.  When the debate over gays in the military erupted a quarter-century later, the irony of the whole paradigm was exposed, although by the 1990s a lot of people had forgotten we used to have a draft.

But after 9/11, Charles Moskos, one of the originators of "don't ask don't tell", argued vigorously for returning to conscription and suggested that (back in 2001) DADT could be easily repealed if the (both-sex) military draft were re-imposed. 

There’s something else about the idea of this kind of “moral duty”.  Shared sacrifice is still not the same thing as shared purpose.

Another topic is school “Grades”, by Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry.  But when I was growing up, Grades were a kind of currency, a measure of self-worth.  Life was actually pretty rich and interesting even in the days before I was on my own as an adult with my own fiat money and bills.

The topic of Software Patents (Christina Mulligan and Timothy B. Lee) I’ll take up momentarily on the trademark blog.


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