Former Nixon speech writer Noel Koch recently opined in the Washington Post on the great character-building consequences of conscription. Mr. Koch’s voice is only the most recent addition to a choir chanting loudly for a return of the draft.
I’ve seen no systematic evidence to support the contention that the draft makes people more mature, more responsible – all around better. The only empirical facts offered, by Mr. Koch and others, along these lines are anecdotes about how military service made them better people. (“I was a long-haired, aimless, doped-up, America-hater before I was drafted and came out of the military a clean-cut, focused, sober, and proud and productive citizen. And the same is true of all my buddies.”)
No doubt such an experience is true for many draftees. But surely the same sort of maturation process describes the typical person aging from 18 to 20 or 21.
If I were to accept the canons of (il)logic and argumentation adopted by these supporters of conscription, I would argue, with all my facts dead-on accurate: “Before I entered college at the age of 18, I was an aimless, apathetic, beer-guzzling ignoramus interested only in football and women. Within a couple of years I was focused, much more sober, bookish, and on my way toward a productive and fulfilling professional career. The same is true for many of my friends. Therefore, let’s conscript young people into college.”
It’s disquieting to realize just how many people are utterly enchanted by raw coercion. The thrill of thinking of people commanded to do the bidding of the state seems to overwhelm logical faculties.