Monday, April 19, 2004

War doesn't have to be our future

Kos posted today that he supports a military draft. His logic is that having more people in the military rather than making it the job of professionals would reduce the number of people who advocate for war. I disagree, since I think it could go either way - people with family and friends in the army either become stiffly opposed or radical supporters. I respect Kos a lot, because every time I read his blog I get a fresh perspective on a complicated situation. But I've come to the realization that drafts, and the military, aren't the answer. We need to devise new answers for a new world. Why?

One: while I believe that there is a necessity for a national defense force of some kind (though why it needs to be military is beyond me) the U.S. Army has been used for defense exactly how many times in the last several decades? A huge draft would gift the government with a powerful, self-renewing force they could then use to wreck more havoc in the world in the name of "protecting American interests." We have so many other options to explore. The employment of diplomatic and economic pressures, for example; the continual re-evaluation of our own policies. The terrorist attacks against the United States were reactive in nature, rather than active; they were devised because of existing, contested US policy in the Middle East. These policies were already contested through regular channels and had been maintained. We essentially backed people into corners, and when you do that they fight back. That's not politics, that's just human nature. People find their bosses aren't listening and they strike, right? Same sort of thing. Had we left options for rational diplomacy in the hands of others this might not have happened. We didn't, because neoconservatives currently in charge of our country believe in getting what they want at all costs, never giving anyone else a chance, and never looking for alternate ways for both groups to get what they want.

Secondly, the military is a regimental institution whose training and methodology focus on following orders, the hierarchy and chain of command. Look at how excited the Dems were by John Kerry-an ex-military man willing to question the use and implementation of the military. That alone shows the force of military thought. If everyone's got to go through it, wouldn't that encourage that type of thought? Also, why not draft for diplomatic corps as well? Doesn't diplomacy deserve as much, if not more, consideration than the military? Shouldn't we therefore draft for all alternatives, not only those involving guns? If we draft at all?

Thirdly, training to fight, and fighting itself, puts fighting into people's heads as a primary, even a preferable, option. When you fight, you learn to think fight... And it's hard to stop. You forget about other options and pressures-diplomatic, economic, social, the works. Fighting is what children do when they can't get what they want. When are we going to grow up? Its one thing to use fighting to remove leaders deemed truly unreasonable or insane. It's quite another to use it because you can't get what you want fast enough.

Four, the existence of the military as is causes a polarization in thought which is destructive to American interests. Our focus becomes, well, sporty. Our team against their team. We forget that there are ways to get what both teams want, and focus instead on beating what we want out of whoever Them is at the time. This is destructive to American interests because if we focused instead on ways of achieving both goals, we become perceived as wise, even-handed, and most importantly-they owe us favors. The whole “we don't need anyone else, America can go it alone” is also childish. Adults work together. Adults work as teams. And besides, how much does that line in quotations sound like an angry teenager? “I don't need you! Ill do what I want!” Do we need the image of ourselves as bratty children? Admittedly this is more of a general point than one related to the draft, but we only NEED a draft because of our damnable insistence-not on always, always, getting our own way, but doing it at the expense of others.

Fifth, there is no way to de-classify the Army. Even if you made it possible for the rich bastards to be forced into service, chances are they'll be able to buy their way to a cushy post they never have to show up for. Money itself doesn't care whose pockets it lines. This means not only will rich people have the most political power in this country, they'll be able to assuredly send only poor people who don't even want to be there to die for their lordly masters' economic gain. Heh, if it were possible to change this, I'd demand that government jobs be draft jobs, with everyone having to take a turn in some kind of political service; would be nice, wouldn't it? Really anyone being able to be president? Would remind people they're public servants, not public masters. Of course you could argue the holders of the posts would need education, etc., but Bush hasn't got any... [snide giggles]

Now, while I'm intrigued by a war-less world, I'm aware we don't live in one and need to deal with other countries who might attack us. Pre-emption, of course, is a stupid reaction to that idea. So is building up a military already the most powerful in the world; that just leads to competition. What I'd support building aside from a military structure is a true defense structure, based in the US. I'd have to think longer before I could say how such a structure works, intimately, but if a 24 year old boy can think of such a thing right off the bat, what can men of experience do?

I'm aware that there'll be lots of people out there saying this is all liberal bulls**t, the kind of stuff you get from PETA or whatever. Two things in response to that, for your consideration. One, while PETA is radical, if they weren't there, the less-radical liberal would become the radical. Without someone pushing the envelope on the left, the political "middle" shifts back right. There is no abstract map of discourse, nothing dividing hemispheres; there's only arbitrary judgements and pre-established definitions. If people don't engage in discourse, their "hemisphere" isn't part of discourse at all. Therefore it is important to keep pushing the envelope of political debate, because otherwise there'll be no reason to listen to the more middle-of-the-road liberals. Secondly, the exposition of ideas expands the political debate. If nobody talks about a way to eliminate war, war won't be eliminated. That simple. And something that's such a waste of life and land and money and technology should be eliminated, shouldn't it? But the war president thinks of war first.

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