Monday, March 12, 2007


I'm for limits on war. The harder it is for nations to fight war, the more genuine conviction and moral/legal authority is needed to initiate the conflict, the better. Which is why I favor the draft.

No, originally, the draft expanded war, made it easier. Widespread conscription was used during the wars of the French revolution, and allowed France to effectively fight off all it's rivals before even having a stable government. After Napoleon took over, it allowed him to come the closest to conquering all of Europe that anyone has ever come. This was a shift from the previous four centuries of war, where professional armies fought each other on the behalf of ruling monarchies. Easy enough to go to war, but expensive and small enough to limit war to a large degree. The ranks had been bolstered by conscripts, but the armies were professionals, removed from the daily life of a nation

France's draft was different. It applied to all men, and it was a tool used to keep the republic intact, first when fighting the established French military, and then when fighting the rest of Europe. This was war engaged in by the people of the nation as a whole.

The latter wars of Europe found larger expanded professional armies and mandatory military training for most men. The entire society was being prepared for war, but wasn't engaging in war much at all. World War One changed this. Suddenly, the large standing armies were not enough, and every nation called up its reserves, mobilizing men between the ages of 15 and 60. And it was a huge, gigantic, attritional stalemate. The draft had made war more costly and harder.

A greater challenge of succeeding in war doesn't, by itself, make war less likely to happen. Untouchable monarchies or dictators would be free from the ill effects of war, and so be able to warmonger as they pleased. Democracies are different. When a government can risk losing it's power by engaging in a frivolous war, the war won't be engaged in, or will be until new public officials are elected. The draft also brings the war home to the elected, if it's executed properly. While the elected themselves are draft-exempt, the children of politicians should be just as susceptible to the draft as anyone. Historically aren't, but should be.

The draft also demands sacrifice on the whole of the nation - not just the professional soldiers and their families. The whole nation. Everyone suffers to a degree in a drafted war, and they should. War requires sacrifice, and the steeper the cost, the less willing people are to sacrifice, the less likely the are to risk going to war. And if the sacrifice is deemed worth it, then the war is probably valid and in the best interests of the people.

1 comment:

Nora said...

Unfortunately, this only works when people actually have control over that sacrifice-- it can't be in the hand of politicians that citizens have no power over.