I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and have decided that the arguments in favor of it are far more compelling than those against it. These are the reasons.
Health Of The Youth
We’ve heard over and over how the obesity problem is destroying the population. And yet, to date, nothing adequate has been done to address the problem. At some point, the US (and most of the “developed” world) will have to decide what sort of society they wish to live in.
Do we want a collection of pencil-necked, flabby geeks, or do we want real men and real women? The choice is becoming ever more pressing.
Most of the blame, unfortunately, cannot be placed at the feet of the youth. It is the responsibility of the older generations to raise and train them in the correct manner. And this responsibility has been shamefully abdicated. The elders have chosen to enrich themselves and plunder their societies and the expense of future generations. This must end. Those who betrayed their responsibilities must be held to account.
The weight of responsibility on the youth has become too great. They are bombarded with tests, programs, rules, medications, and a thousand restrictions. Normal, healthy expressions of identity are being shamed or repressed. The vast majority of young people would be far, far better off marching around the countryside with a pack on their backs than sitting in some classroom learning about some politically correct nonsense in a classroom taught by some degenerate weakling.
All of this has the net effect of turning the youth into neurotic, fat weaklings who are more concerned with their Twitter followers and Facebook likes than they are about how many dead-hang pullups they can do, or how fast they can run three miles. We have forgotten that a healthy mind can never reside in a body that is not strong, fit, and resilient. The emphasis, in fact, needs to be on physical training, at least at the initial stages of education.
Having A Stake In The Society
Healthy societies do not function without the active participation of their constituent members. If we had a situation where every young man and woman were drafted to serve, say, 18 months or so in a national military force, the social benefits would be tremendous.
Young people of different social classes, ethnic groups, and regions of the country would be forced to interact with each other. They would see that they are not so different in thought and outlook. The effect would be to bind together the youth in a shared hardship, a shared experience. This is what is lacking in youth now.
There is too much individualism, too much selfishness, and too much arrogance. Every little boy and girl considers himself or herself a little prince. They can hunch their shoulders over on the metro, crouched before their iPhone god, and imagine that they are something very important. They are not. They are part of the same organic material as everything else in this world. And they need to have this lesson pounded into them.
Arrogance and selfishness foster anti-social behaviors. But this is easily cured, if only the will is there to solve the problem. I truly believe that much of the crime, drug problems, indiscipline, and rebelliousness of people today could be solved by forcing them to undergo rigorous military training for an extended period. All of the anti-social behavior would be wrung right out of them. Very quickly.
Shared hardships and rigorous training would wring out the selfishness and arrogance of the youth in the same way that we squeeze water from a sponge.
Too few young people vote. Too many believe that they are special and unique. Too many lack proper respect for authority and for institutions. Too many have delusions that could easily be cured by experience in leading and being led. Our society has traditionally emphasized individualism over communitarianism, but I think that the time has come when we need to rebalance these values. The good of the community and the society must come before that of the individual.
Everybody needs to have some “skin in the game.” Everyone needs to have some stake in the outcome. When this happens, things just take on an added dimension of importance. All of those useless warm bodies sitting in chairs in Congress and the Senate need to have a personal stake in the outcome. Hardly any of them–any at all–were in the military or have close relatives in the military.
When everyone has a stake in the outcome, the society works better. Consider one example from history.
At one point in ancient Greece, there came a time when every able-bodied male was able to participate in military affairs. Every reasonably well-off citizen could fit himself with armor and, as one historian put it, “go off to battle in panoply.” Hoplite tactics (fighting done by regiments of foot-soldiers in formation) came to be the norm. Metal-smiths were able to produce armor more easily.
This revolution in military affairs had social effects as well. The aristocratic citizen and the commoner were placed on equal footing in the field. They mixed with each other. They interacted with each other. Social and psychological barriers came down. This development in military affairs had a profound influence on the constitutions of the various Greek city-states. Even in Sparta: for there, the ephors became invested with significant political power.
Promotion Of Responsible Behavior
As already stated above, good things happen when men get together with men, and when women get together with women. Youth learn that they are not the center of the universe (which is what our Internet-based social system currently teaches). They learn that they have to get along with others, to make compromises, to stand up for themselves, and to work in groups.
Leadership lessons naturally sink in better when individuals are forced to interact with each other in groups.
Benefits To The Nation
A universal draft would create a corpus of men and women who could be ready for activation in the case of a national emergency. Frivolous wars would be less likely when everyone is aware that they might be required to participate. As said above, everyone has to have a stake in the outcome of the commonwealth for it to function properly.
Col. David H. Hackworth, one of America’s most highly decorated officers and a combat veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, probably said it best when he made the following comments about draftees being an essential part of a healthy military. The quote below is taken from his 1989 memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Soldier:
Even when they pissed me off, I had to admit there was something I liked about the draftees who didn’t want to be there [in Vietnam] and made no bones about it. I liked draftees in general, even with the attendant problems. Historically draftees have kept the military on the straight and narrow. By calling a spade a spade, they keep it clean. Without their “careers” to think about, they can’t be as easily bullied or intimidated as Regulars; their presence prevents the elitism that otherwise might allow a Regular army to become isolated from the values of the country it serves. Draftees are not concerned for the reputation of their employer, the Army (in Vietnam they happily blew the whistle on everything from phone valor awards to the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia); a draftee, citizens’ army, so much a part of the history of America, is an essential part of a healthy democracy, one in which everyone pays the price of admission.
[New York: Avid Reader Press, 2020, p. 656]
What Would This Look Like?
I have given my reasons why I believe this is a good (and necessary) idea. The practical details of something like this could easily be worked out. I personally think the following points are important:
- The sexes should be segregated. Men should be with men, and women with women. Mixing the two creates problems with fraternization, upholding of physical standards, and other unnecessary distractions. Both men and women benefit from military training, but we must go about it in a way that takes into account the characteristics of each sex. It does no good to lie about these matters, or to pretend that differences do not exist.
- Terms of military service should be between 12 and 18 months. Not much more than that is needed. But citizens should be required to maintain physical standards for at least a decade after that.
- The military should not be seen as a way for some to sponge off the government. It does not exist to take care of your kids, or to wipe your nose for you. “Benefits” and “entitlements” should be kept to a minimum.
This represents my thinking on this issue. My book Thirty-Seven contained, among other things, my views on the education and training of the youth. You can find it here.
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