In a Fox News op-ed Lloyd Green Campaign Secretary for George H.W. Bush, asked whether in view of White House Chief and Retired Marine General Kelly’s impassioned speech about respect for the military, it might be time for those critical of the military to once again have a “little skin in the game” through mandatory national military service, or a draft.
There was a time when I floated that idea. I no longer feel so, but not, possibly, for the reasons you might think.
I am a combat veteran. My father was a combat veteran. My brother is a veteran of two different conflicts; Vietnam and Desert Storm. It is not that I am opposed to American’s serving their country. In fact I think that young Americans should have a time of National Service serving in agencies like Americorps, or in military service if they choose. It would give young people a sense of belonging, time to grow up away from home, and the opportunity to attend to the needs of others..
However, over the past decades the nature of our conflicts, the nature of our society, and the nature of business have changed making it hard for me to support a draft or mandatory military service.
In a time when the military was composed of “us”; all of us, we thought in terms of defense of our homeland and its people. When politicians talked of protecting America’s interests it was clear that they meant business interests, but we thought then that business success ultimately helped all Americans. And, into the 1960s and 1970s that was true to a large extent. The Vietnam war ended that belief for many. It was not clear how the average American could profit from supporting one side in a civil war being waged on the other side of the world. Our leaders raised the bogeyman of communism in order to convince us that we needed to fight half way around the world. Communists were portrayed as anti-capitalist atheists.
Additionally, it became clear that those with money and influence did not go to war. The war was being fought by the poor and minorities. So, due to widespread opposition, the military went to an all-volunteer military.
Increasingly over the past four decades, business has ceased to serves all Americans. Service jobs have gone abroad, manufacturing has gone abroad, and, more importantly, domestic manufacturing and service jobs have been automated. The success of a U.S. business does not necessarily mean that Americans do better. We can no longer say, "What's good for business is good for America."
Additionally, we have to ask ourselves how an American business is defined. Like cruise ships that may employ Indians and Eastern Europeans, be headquartered in Florida, and fly a Bahamian flag, American businesses may have a headquarters in the U.S., employ individuals on the Pacific rim, and have an actual corporate address that is a post office box in a small town in Switzerland. They pay corporate taxes elsewhere, employ workers elsewhere and yet call themselves an American business.
Corporations hide behind their stockholders claiming, rightly, that they have to attend to their shareholders profits. Well and good, but Americans should not have to go to war, or pay taxes to pay for military expenditures in their stock-holders behalf.
What to do? What about having a “home guard” military that requires national service for everyone; a military that cannot be deployed elsewhere, that is paid for out of taxes, and requires service without deferral. . Conversely, businesses would have a mercenary army serving the interests of businesses around the world, with no national affiliation. Businesses might get U.S. monetary support in proportion to the number of U.S. full time employees with benefits utilized and U.S. corporate taxes paid. Otherwise, they could fund their wars themselves.
The details would have to be worked out. You might have Exxon/Mobil’s army fighting BP’s, but more likely Exxon/Mobil/BP’s army would be fighting the Russian Oligarchs’ army or something more outlandish.
Whatever the case, the increased cost of an oil company’s gasoline secondary to the cost of fighting their own wars might make renewable energy more attractive, and that would just be one of the benefits of separating the interests of America from the interests of business.
On the negative side, I can see an Exxon/Mobile/BP/Russian Oligarchs' army attempting to invade the U.S. to destroy windmills and the "home guard" having to hold them off.
All I know is the system is not really working for Americans as it is.