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Every now and again, I see an article that just makes me go wtf? Noel Pearson wants to reignite debate on the draft. He wants to implement a “fairer draft” by which he means forcing more “privileged people” to serve.

Does anyone else feel that using compulsory military service to discriminate against one group to the benefit of another is in any way a good idea? How about raising from the dead some ideas that have been long ago superceded by the notion that specialists are better suited to fighting in modern, more technology focussed wars?

His argument makes little to no sense in Australia where there are far easier jobs to get for an economically disadvantaged person than serving in the Australian armed forces. We have HECS, so anyone can go through university. We have student Centrelink payments that let you study without working.

His argument sort of makes sense in America, where manpower is important to their army. But the NYT article he quotes, by Larry Pressler (a Republican) doesn’t even ask to reinstate the draft in America. He uses the draft back in the 60s to illustrate a broader point about ‘elites’ evading their responsibilities through technicalities (hence, the Technicality Generation).

Some American soldiers are lured in because its their only hope to leave their small hometowns behind and see the world. Others are attracted by the steady money (until you die) and the GI Bill which pays your way through college (a chance many poor people would not get).

But anybody who knows anything about America knows that the most overweening characteristic of that country is their overwhelming sense of patriotism. I’ve really no idea about the realities of the demographics in the US Armed Forces, but I wonder how many are poor, black people (as they were in Vietnam) and how many are stupid, white people who have been duped by their government into believing that your country is worth dieing for in wars completely irrelevant to US national security. How many are your typical Republican meatheads who think might is right, and that unswerving obedience to a commanding officer is an admirable goal?

It sounds to me (and Pearson quotes no evidence more recent than Vietnam) that he’s just reviving without modification outdated arguments from the Vietnam War. How well do such aged and classist arguments work in the modern day? Remember when John Kerry said we were sending poor, uneducated people to die in Iraq?

It seems to me, that if you really want to stop the poverty cycle, the solution is not to forcibly conscript the rich and the privileged as reparation for injuries done to the poor and unwashed back in the 60s. The problem is as much cultural as governmental. We need to educate people. It is not economic duress that drives people to the military these days, it is lack of education rendering the stupid unable to fend off arguments that to be patriotic is to serve your country.

The times have changed. Get with it, Noel Pearson.

(PS: The most amusing  thing about this article is that he criticises the Left for playing into the hands of Milton Friedman back in the 1960s by saving the “privileged” from the draft. The really great irony is that he quotes Pressell’s “elites” argument without hesitation. The elites argument is, of course, the backbone of the modern Tea Party movement, a far more insidious beast than the liberty-loving Friedmanites).

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