Image credit to wikimedia.org.
The U.S. Libertarian Party platform supports “…the abolition of the still-functioning elements of the Selective Service System, believing that impressment of individuals into the armed forces is involuntary servitude.”
Opposition to military conscription has not been tested in many years, since the last time conscription was in widespread use in the U.S. was during the Vietnam War. My male high school students find it remarkable that there was a time when, as graduating seniors, they could have faced compulsory combat duty in an unpopular and profoundly mismanaged war. They wonder if it could happen again. There were some calls to reinstate the draft during the Iraq War, but consideration of the overwhelming opposition among the public put an end to that. Nevertheless, today’s young men need to watch the news carefully, because war is coming. Although it is still unpopular, Congressman Charles Rangel (D) continues to call for reinstating the draft, and he is not alone.
How can I be so certain that war is coming? My certainty is based on US foreign policy, which has been engendering the level of foreign hatred of America that would be sufficient for an attack on us. Given the general militaristic stance of the administration, another such attack could be met with disproportionate retaliation, even a full-scale war.
President Obama has been front and center in establishing this hatred. Fifteen people were recently killed on their way to a wedding party in Yemen. Similar cases have occurred in Afghanistan. The New American Foundation estimates that at least 258 civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone, while according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, over 50 civilians have been killed in attacks on first responders to the scenes of drone strikes, while at least 20 were killed in strikes on funerals.
Obama’s continued silence is worth a thousand words of war. Although they defend the program in general, the administration refuses to provide even basic information about individual strikes. Imagine that a Russian military exercise killed everyone at a wedding in Iowa, and Putin simply said nothing. That should help you understand how our “allies” in Pakistan and Afghanistan feel about our intervention.
If and when a significant terrorist attack occurs again on U.S. soil, we will be asked to believe that it was provoked simply by radical Islam, or jealousy of our freedoms. After all, what did the US ever do to them?
I have no illusions that these considerations will be kept in mind when we are attacked. The young man’s passion for combat, and the old politician’s use of “patriotism” to dismiss dissenting views, will rule that out. Particularly now, when Obama’s major policies are increasingly unpopular (e.g. the Affordable Care Act and domestic spying), he likely joins past presidents who have longed for war as a distraction from domestic impotence. Obama would not have to back off from his war mongering, as he did in September when widespread public opposition and an unexpected agreement with Russia ended his plan to attack Syria. After an attack—the opposition would be shouted down, as it always is, by the cry for a “manly” response.
The best time for a discussion, then, is before an attack, like right now. There is an unknown amount of time before we are attacked again. During that time I’m hoping that politically active people can demonstrate that the American people’s view of war, and of its own government, is more sophisticated than it used to be.
How smart does a politician have to be to understand that blowing up women, children and wedding parties, without apologies or even acknowledgment that it happens, creates hatred of America? They have been publicly warned about the hostility they are inspiring, for example by a former top CIA official and sources in the Pakistani government. One former State Department official estimated that “the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] operative killed by drones.” Judging from their elite educations, our leaders are smart enough to think this far ahead, but apparently refuse to.
Let’s take this time of relative peace to ask what libertarians will do if, after a terrorist attack, the draft is reinstated.
If we’re lucky, war will not break out until after the presidential election in 2016. If war can wait that long, there will be an opportunity for the Libertarian Party to make its views on war and the draft known at its own convention and, hopefully, at the GOP convention. Forget the Democratic convention: no one will criticize Obama there. In 2016, the Libertarian Party should link up with sympathetic elements in and around the GOP to make as loud a statement as it can.
Doug Lasken is a retired teacher for the LA Unified School District, recently returned to coach debate, as well as a freelance writer and education consultant. Read his blog at http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/ and write him at [email protected]