A past New York Times editorial by Thomas Ricks shamelessly advocates involuntary servitude. In the article he states:
A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.
This is the blatant promotion of mandatory, menial and poorly paid labor for youth. This is a fiscally conservative proposal to exploit cheap labor to save the government money. No well paid workers! Just cheap conscripts who have no exit and ergo no ability to contest crappy wages and tasks through voting with their feet – will Ricks allow conscripts to unionize? One has to wonder. Unionization would mean the effective ability to challenge exploitative wages.
He goes on to say:
And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.
What about libertarians or people generally who can’t afford to lose government aid in our present corporatist system? No answer from Thomas Ricks. They would presumably still be compelled to serve the aims of government. A good example of how government aid can come with awful strings attached.
Aside from the above, there is an additional ethical issue with Rick’s proposal. The fact that it relies on the initiation of force to even attempt to enact it – it may not end up working even then. The use of aggressive force is a major evil. Thomas Ricks shows no sign of understanding nor even recognizing this truth.
This absence of a concern with the aggressive use of force required leads him to make another dubious argument. Near the end, he says:
But most of all, having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war. Imagine the savings — in blood, tears and national treasure — if we had thought twice about whether we really wanted to invade Iraq.
Whether or not he is correct in his argument; he ignores some salient points. Conscription makes it difficult for people to vote against the war by declining to volunteer to for it. Anthony Gregory points out that a better solution to dealing with the problem of unjust wars is to allow soldiers to quit their jobs. The more moral choice is to work to make this a reality. One way to go about attempting to do that is by encouraging mass non-violent revolt within the military. One could also take a more legalistic route by bringing a lawsuit against the Defense Department. One could invoke the no involuntary servitude part of the Constitution. Both of these options deserve further consideration!