Sometimes — well, perhaps most of the time — “conservative” columnists, like left-wing actors and singers, ought to just shut up. Now comes David Brooks of The New York Times (free registration required) to opine that
we need an ambitious national service program to demystify the military for the next generation of Americans. It also seems clear, looking at our history, that combat heroism is not an essential qualification for a wartime leader. It’s much more important to have the political courage that Lincoln had and Kennedy celebrated. But don’t listen to me. I never served.
I never served, either, but I know a dumb idea when I read it.
Brooks started with the observation that, in the campaign of 2000, veterans in South Carolina seemed less awed by John McCain than did non-veterans in New Hampshire. Being a “creative” writer, Brooks couldn’t simply stop with the obvious truth: South Carolinians, being more conservative than New Hampshirites were therefore more likely to favor Bush over McCain. Instead, he extrapolated and embellished his four-year old observation into the notion that “national service” ought to be required. To put it baldly, which Brooks can’t bring himself to do, he wants to restore the draft.
There are many good arguments against the draft, which this succinct essay summarizes. My favorite argument against the draft, however, is one that I coined some years ago: A nation that must draft its defenders probably isn’t worth defending.