"Morning Joe" panel: Second look at instituting a public-service draft for young Americans?

This one’s long but stick with it. The good stuff doesn’t start happening until after we’re treated to the thousandth iteration of Charlie Rangel’s master plan to end war as we know it by reinstituting a military draft which virtually no one supports and which Congress will never again feel safe voting for. A draft which, incidentally, he thinks should now include women:

“Now that women can serve in combat they should register for the Selective Service alongside their male counterparts,” Rangel said in a statement. “Reinstating the draft and requiring women to register for the Selective Service would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation. We must question why and how we go to war, and who decides to send our men and women into harm’s way.”…

“The Congress never gets a chance to vote up and down on these war questions. Every president just puts our kids in harm’s way and we just foot the bill, but there’s no real sacrifice in what’s going on. Less than 1 percent of American families are involved in the military and they really pay the price for it,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

He’s right that Congress doesn’t always get a chance to vote. They didn’t get to vote on Libya, for instance, because King Barack chose to ignore the War Powers Resolution. They did get to vote to authorize military force against Al Qaeda after 9/11; that one passed 420-1, with Charlie Rangel in the majority. To understand his position here, though, you need to realize two things. One: He thinks being a soldier is something only the poor and uneducated do because they’re not qualified to do anything else. That’s egregiously incorrect but it’s useful as a way to discredit basically all military action in a draftless age as exploitative and illegitimate (except for the actions Rangel voted for, I guess). Two: If you agree with the objection raised by the panelist in the clip that a conscripted military would perform more poorly than a voluntary force, you’re missing the point. Degrading military capabilities is a feature of this strategy, not a bug; the whole idea is to give the president and Congress additional reasons — logistical and political — not to undertake military action, irrespective of whether action might be warranted. When you pare away the politesse, what Rangel’s really saying is that his colleagues don’t care about needlessly sacrificing American lives, they only care about whether they’ll suffer political consequences for sacrificing them, the odds of which would be increased by a draft. If that’s true, we don’t need a draft, we need a new Congress. Maybe he’ll name names and tell us who should be replaced.

But never mind all that. The real hook here is his idea for an alternative to the draft: Instead of being forced to serve your country militarily, you’d have the choice of being forced to serve your country in some other “public interest” capacity instead. Involuntary servitude in the form of conscription used to be justified as warranted only in urgent matters of national defense, but the master planners of tomorrow like Charlie Rangel and Scarborough and a palpably enthusiastic Carl Bernstein see a lot of compulsory nation-building here at home that can be done by America’s 18-year-olds. Bernstein specifically mentions infrastructure work as a possibility and goes so far as to suggest using currently inoperative military bases as … barracks to house the public-service conscripts, I guess? Not sure. (Reason’s Matt Welch once described the idea of mandatory national service as a “militaristic conception of citizenship.” He didn’t know the half of it.) But if you’re a high-school senior who’s thinking about premed or whatever, good news — you might get to spend two years jackhammering bridges as part of some sort of stimulus plan before getting on to that. For all the heat our side produces about infringements on liberty from gun control, the casualness with which the idea of forced youth labor for the greater good is kicked around here strikes me as much creepier. But then, gun control might possibly, conceivably happen in a few years if Democrats take back the House. This won’t. That’s why the former gets more heat.

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