McChrystal: Time to think about bringing back the draft?

posted at 6:31 pm on January 13, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

General Stanley McChrystal is still making the rounds plugging his new book, as well as talking about any old issue of the day the media cares to toss his way. He sat down on Face the Nation this morning and hit a few of the standard questions on Afghanistan, gun control and Chuck Hagel, before Bob Schieffer decided to ask him whether or not it was time to bring back the draft. (H/T NRO)

When asked about his thoughts on implementing a draft on CBS’s Face the Nation, General Stanley A. McChrystal said national service would have a positive impact because it would “bind people to their nation” and “pull people together in shared experiences.”

Just to get it in context, here’s the video and a transcript of a few of the applicable comments for you.

Schieffer: Would you favor a draft?

McChrystal: I personally believe that national service is important for the nation, and that’s having all young people serve a term of national service. Certainly not all military. But I believe those things do have two effects. One, those things that bind people to their nation are important, and another thing is that we’re also a nation that doesn’t get to know each other too well. Someone from one part of an inner city never meets another person from an upper class neighborhood. We need some things that pull people together in shared experience. We need to be ten years after the fact when they are meeting somewhere, ‘Where did you serve?’ begins a connection that allows them to move on because we are getting too fragmented in my view.

The media’s take on this during this administration is an interesting study in the evolution of the coverage of war under Bush and then Obama. During the Bush years, the big drumbeat from the media was to have Congress threaten to bring back the draft so all of the “rich kids of Republicans who call for war but never serve” would have to go to battle. The rationale there was to have it serve as a cudgel to end the war. But now that Obama is leading The Good War and working on Getting Us Out Responsibly, the draft question is suddenly being treated with a new level of serious inquiry.

But hearing all of McChrystal’s comments in context, he’s not exactly pushing for drafting every high school graduate into the Army. (Though he doesn’t rule out some mandatory military service.) He seems to be suggesting it as one possible option in a variety of choices. And this isn’t something new for him. In fact, he recently wrote an editorial on the subject.

“Service member” should not apply only to those in uniform, but to us all.

The concept of national service is not new, nor is it outdated. When America needs it, national service is the personal obligation of every American. And she needs it now.

All of us bear an obligation to serve—an obligation that goes beyond paying taxes, voting, or adhering to the law. America is falling short in endeavors that occur far away from any battlefield: education, science, politics, the environment, and cultivating leadership, among others.

Without a sustained focus on these foundations of our society, America’s long-term security and prosperity are at risk.

The idea of a national draft is, at this point, essentially a non-starter. There are also problems with mandating any other form of public service at the federal level. But it’s a good discussion to have, if only to remind people that the real way to have young people give something back is to instill those values at home from an early age, with parents teaching by the example they set for their kids. Yet another crazy idea, I suppose.


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