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May 30, 2004

Leiter on the draft

As Brian Leiter points out, most pro-war intellectuals have no intention of joining up, and no fear that their children will be drafted.

This is a fair point, especially against those warmongers who question the patriotism of their opponents. There's nothing inherently more patriotic about pro-war intellectualism than anti-war intellectualism. People who advocate war in principle have no right to pose as tough guys. It's tacky.

But willingness to fight isn't the ultimate litmus test. The government hires people to do all kinds of things that the average citizen doesn't feel like doing. That's the beauty of being a citizen. I don't want to put my life on hold to fight crime, put out fires, or maintain the sewer system, either. I'd rather stay home and pay taxes. As a tax payer and a citizen, I'm entitled to a say in how my tax dollars are spent. One proposal was to hire people to invade Iraq. This is a a terrible idea, but I wouldn't call it hypocritical.

Okay, it's not fair to be quite so blasé. The armed services is an unequal opportunity employer. If everyone had the same opportunities as the average Yale student, we couldn't afford to hire soldiers. College money induced a lot of people into the armed forces. The offer is open to everyone, but it doesn't start to seem attractive unless your options are very restricted. The real hypocrisy is not that wealthy Americans don't want to fight, but rather that they don't want to purchase the services of troops at a fair rate.

[Edit May 31: The last paragraph is unclear. I'm not arguing that we should pay soldiers more, although that would be a good start. I'm arguing that it is extra hypocritical to associate one's position with toughness and self-sacrifice, when other people are actually making the sacrifices--especially if you benefit from the inequalities that prompted them to make the sacrifice in the first place.]


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