The comments on yesterday’s post virtually demand some response before I try to continue my tentative answers to the question I originally posed. Let me take them seriatim. I am not going to reproduce everyone’s comments. That would make this post too long. I ask you to check the comments section if you want to know exactly what I am responding to.
1. Indeed, the draft should be genuinely universal – women as well as men. I should have said as much.
2. The U. S. does not need to endlessly expand its nuclear arsenal to meet multiple threats. Two hundred 0.5 megaton warheads on a number of Trident submarines will do the job.
3. Whether or not nukes are “weapons of peace” is neither here nor there. What does matter is that the greatest threat of a nuclear explosion is from accidents, incorrectly interpreted signals, testosterone fueled confrontations, and the like. A small force of Second Strike weapons, well maintained, is the best we can do in the short term.
4. I do not find it useful or edifying to attempt imperial body counts. Suffice it to say there has never been a pacific empire [i.e. peaceful, not one located in the Pacific region]. I recognize how satisfying it is, when confronted by the celebratory characterization of America as a Beacon of Freedom and Leader of the Free World, to detail America’s predations, government overthrows, renditions, and such, but on this blog, that is preaching to the choir, as they say in some Protestant denominations. Why don’t we simply take all of that as given and move on.
5, There are no rules, normal or otherwise, that other nations abide by save when it is in their interest to pretend that there is, because there is no body – state, international consortium, United Nations, United Federation of Planets, or City Council – capable of enforcing its will. There is simply, in Hobbes’ immortal words, the war of all against all.
6. How can I, as an anarchist, argue for a draft? Simple, the same way I, as an anarchist, can argue for a law that drivers drive on the right side of the road and stop at red lights. I do not think the law is morally binding on me, regardless of how one chooses the legislature that enacts it, but I do think it is useful to have such laws. I published In Defense of Anarchism, recall, in 1970, when the question whether conscientious young men had a moral obligation to answer a draft call when it arrived was a great deal more than an interesting theoretical question. I debated former Yale Law School Dean Eugene V. Rostow on this very question at the centenary meeting of the New York City Bar Association. Rostow argued that young men were morally [not merely legally] obliged to obey an order to report for induction precisely because that order rested on a law passed by a democratically elected legislature. My argument struck at the heart of that claim.
Interesting side note: Rostow’s parents, a pair of old lefties, named him Eugene Victor Debs Rostow [his brother was named Walt Whitman Rostow], but Debs was embarrassed by this echo of early 20th century New York socialism and shortened his name, dropping the “Debs.”