Ho Chi MinhMost of the people on the Left whom I know confuse the righteousness of their opposition to the draft during the Vietnam War with the justice of the Vietnamese Communists' cause. Instead of standing on the principle that the draft itself was unconstitutional and should have been repealed, they want to argue that somehow Ho Chi Minh was a secular saint. That usually ends up putting them in the position of blaming the killing fields on Henry Kissinger and joining John ("I served in Viet-Nam") Kerry in suggesting that the reeducation camps were "not so bad." Unfortunately, conservatives like Ralph Peters seem to want to play their own version of political Twister. Instead of being satisfied with the justice of our cause against fascists (past and present) and communists (past and present), they want to impose on American citizens an obligation of service that is the directly contrary to what Washington and Madison and Jay and Hamilton and Jefferson all believed were our G-d-given rights of liberty.

Ralph Peters is simply wrong when he writes that "the most privileged Americans used the Vietnam War as an excuse to break their tradition of uniformed service." Rich Americans have had a long and cherished tradition of letting other people do the actual fighting. For every George Washington, there have been dozens of Thomas Jeffersons. I don't take that as a sign of American degeneracy but rather as proof that our remarkable society is willing to place the value of individual liberty on a par with the interests of the state. For most of this country's history, the idea of a draft was unthinkable. It was the very offense that made the colonists so angry at George III and his ministers. It was the greatest single difference between Englishmen and their colonial cousins; few of the Brits could conceive of the notion that the King did not have the right to quarter troops in people's houses, impress seamen for the Navy and disarm citizens.

For almost all of our history Americans have left the fighting to willing volunteers and been willing to pay them for the real costs of that service.  Fortunately, after 75 years of conscription — i.e. compelling each male citizen of a certain age to buy a lottery ticket on his own life, we have returned to that tradition of relying on some people to enlist and do the fighting for all of us. That is the very reason we are no longer losing wars and will not lose them in the future.





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