Conscription and the Nation
In America today we feel, more than ever, detached from our political institutions and our military. Most Americans are unknowing of even the most basic facts about the countries with which we share our world, and although most Americans support our troops - even if only in word - the result of having a small, professional military is that its members are sent off to fight in conflicts in lands of which the average citizen knows nothing. Nor is this without consequence to the country itself. Politicians may make disatrous foreign policy decisions based upon frivolous interventionism, an approach made possible by the low political cost of the deaths of professional soldiers.
The flip side of losses within a purely professional military is that the average citizen has no real way in which to demonstrate his or her loyalty. Whatever the veracity of the citizen's feeling while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the fact remains that true feeling cannot be incorporated into the pledge without sacrifice.
It is the price paid that gives the salute its value. Yet recently wholly civilian leaders have trivialized the labor of our troops by saluting them in military style - a right reserved for those who have made the sacrifice of service. And a good many citizens wish to help their country in some way but are unable to find any institution in which to enshrine their deeply felt national commitment.
At the same time the country is in many ways struggling with a troubled sense of identity, a loss of traditional values - the work ethic, the meritocratic sense, the feeling of national solidarity. Universal military service would in many respects help in the rectification of these problems. First off, universal rolling drafts would give all the people of...