The Trunk: “National Service” and the Barter of Lives
I don’t think any evil, no matter how big, makes it right to take a kid and put a gun in his hand, force him out onto a raging battlefield, and tell him to shoot or be shot. In fact, that…
Just to be clear I’m not saying you are personally selfish or a coward. Sorry if it read that way.
I’m saying that the price threshold, if you will, for getting all the cowards and selfish people to sign up to fight Hitler on an individual voluntary basis was probably infinity, but certainly too high for society to afford the cost. Why bankrupt society when there was a means at hand to share the cost fairly? I’ll answer my question - even posing the question was ridiculous, and few people paused to even consider it even before Pearl Harbor (note the draft was instituted before the US entered the war - in 1940).
The draft was an intelligent response to the urgent need to fight mass war and to human nature. We all know the job needs to be done, but why be the one that is going to get shot if you don’t have to be. As the line goes in Dr. Zhivago: “Happy men don’t volunteer. They wait their turn and hope it never comes.”
(My father was working for the CCC in the Florida Keys until he walked into a Marine Corps recruiters in July 1941. He always said it was his way of dodging the draft.)
This talk of exploring alternatives is fun collage seminar, but at the time free society, Western Civilization, and all that faced an exigent crisis. Society as a whole was overwhelmingly on board with what its democratically elected leaders chose a response to the threat. It was how our civilization knew how to face it.
Note to that the handful (in the US) who felt that their moral obligation was to resist the draft was worth being punished for it may not have been treated kindly, but they were mostly found things to do outside the war effort. That reflects well on us. In Germany or Russia such moral purity would have likely obtained you an unmarked grave beside the fences of a concentration camp.
You and I, I believe, are two young to have been eligible for the draft in the post-war era, but of us both filled out selective service cards. The understanding between our society and our government was that the draftee army held in readiness during the cold-war was abused in Vietnam. And that those selective service cards were not to be converted to draft notices unless the nation faced another threat that required a levee en masse.
I’ll add that accomodations for conscientous objectors is factor in making just-war-drafts morally acceptable.