In the pages of the NY Times this morning, noted author and military expert Thomas Ricks urges the United States to reinstate conscription.
Unlike Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who called for a reintroduction of the draft at the Aspen "Ideas" Festival because "if a nation goes to war, it shouldn't be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population," Ricks doesn't approach conscription from the point-of-view of civil-military relations.
Instead, Ricks argues that compulsory service — "Let's Draft Our Kids," in the words of the headline — could save Uncle Sam billions of dollars…
"One reason our relatively small military is hugely expensive is that all of today's volunteer soldiers are paid well; they often have spouses and children who require housing and medical care.
"Unmarried conscripts don't need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less."
Okay, let's play this game: One reason our relatively small medical establishment is hugely expensive is that all of today's medical doctors are paid well; they have often spouses and children and country club memberships and massive student loan debts to pay off. Unmarried conscripts who have been sent to Upstairs Hollywood Medical College and Beauty School don't need such compensation. And much of the surgical labor currently contracted out to specialists with years of residency and fellowships behind them could be performed by lesser-qualified people for a quarter of the price.
Or, one reason bridges are so expensive is that all of today's civil engineers are paid well; they often have spent years studying for rigorous PE exams. Think of all the infrastructure we could build with a protractor and a team of 19 year-olds.
Besides the questionable savings associated with turning over tasks now done by experienced military professionals to teenage conscripts, there's also the issue that getting drafted for military or alternative service is almost as bad as being picked up by the Browns. And even if compulsory service could "save the government money," it would still be goddamned awful.
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Tags: Military, New York Times