Member Rara Avis
Mike, that perfect world you think I'm envisioning is the very Marine Corps unit of which you wouldn't want be a part. Those there against their will were the rare exception, not the rule.
I would certainly agree with your school analogy, though, as long as you were willing to change the subject from children to adults. No, as much as I believe in life-long education, I do not believe we should force adults to go to school. Harsh as it may be, I think any adult who doesn't want to go to school doesn't deserve to go. Similarly, any nation of people overwhelmingly preferring safety over freedom deserves and will ultimately reap neither.
That's not utopian, Mike. It's just history.
Your wrong, too, in that it wouldn't surprise me to meet draftees who find purpose and pride in being part of the military. Difference is, I wouldn't say they found it so much as they were given it. And I'm very familiar, of course, with the bond that develops between men in the field. I know about men wanting to get back to their unit. I understand that kind of deep loyalty, and I very much appreciate and cherish it for what it is. You shouldn't, however, confuse it for what it is not. Friendship isn't patriotism.
An acquaintance of mine was just released after serving 93 days in County lockup for drinking and driving. An alcoholic for twenty years, it wasn't his first run-in and the consequences this time reflected his earlier bad choices. He's proud that he served his sentence without mishap, and he's both proud and grateful he has remained sober for over four months. The terms of his two-year probation is that he report three times a week for drug tests, with random tests a possibility any day of the week. I think he has a good chance of making it this time, in large part because they've made the alternative abysmally unattractive to him.
Make no mistake -- my friend has every right to be proud of the changes he's making in his life. "I had to learn the hard way," he's remarked to me more than once this month. "That's better than not learning at all," I respond each time. His sobriety has been forced on him by the state of Michigan, but that makes it no less difficult for him. He's fighting for his life, mostly against himself, and should he survive or not, still he deserves credit for the battle. He has a right to be proud.
Mike, everything you've described about military conscription is true. But it's equally true of our prison system. Some will do their time without misfortune and some will leave only carnage in their wake. Some will learn, some won't. Every single one of them will be changed forever, some for the good, some not. The only major difference between military time and prison time, I think, is a reversal of cause and effect. Felons make the wrong choice and pay the consequences. Draftees fail to make a choice in time and then face a conscription that robs them of the chance to make the right one.
I don't think you should have to force a grown adult to act in their own best interests. Doing so, I believe, deprives them of something precious and irreplaceable -- their right to be right. The common good, I think, is always best served at the individual level.
Maybe I've got it all backwards. Heaven knows I haven't fought in every single American war, so maybe I'm just giving our citizens more credit than they deserve. I believe, when push comes to shove, there have always been enough Americans willing to stand and fight to win any just and necessary war. I believe there have always been enough Americans willing to make the sacrifices needed to preserve a way of life they hold dear. I believe there have always been enough willing Americans to win our wars without relying on the unwilling ones. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps this nation rests only on the backs, and blood, of those who didn't care?
I can't help but wonder, though, where we would be today if the Colonies had felt it necessary to draft George Washington?