Retired general and Democrat presidential hopeful Wesley Clark has unveiled his plan for a “Civilian Reserve”.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with using the wide array of talents of citizens to help in times of crisis. But, I do think there’s something wrong with this form of the idea. For one thing, this struck me as suspicious (emphasis mine):
Members would be offered the opportunity to serve as the need for their skills arose. And the call to serve would, in almost all cases, be voluntary. For the most part, Civilian Reserve members could choose whether or not to accept the call to action.
Under circumstances of grave national emergency, the president would have the authority to issue a mandatory call-up. But this would be exceedingly rare.
I’m afraid that what starts off voluntary (“For the most part”) will become mandatory, and not just for what all of the volunteers would agree is a “grave national emergency”.
But, what bothers me more is that Clark seems to think of patriotism and service to our country as synonymous with placing our lives and freedom under the control of the government. That might be the type of service he chose for himself, but he should understand that this country is much more than the government. The government is supposed to be our servant, to protect our rights in cases where the use of force is appropriate. It has become much more than that, of course, but that’s a bad thing. Many good, patriotic, citizens will stay vigilant against rising government power, and not blindly relinquish their liberties to the whims of future representatives.
So, while I agree that there are great resources that could be used more effectively in times of need, I’m leery of the government organizing it and formalizing commitments that can be expanded at the whim of politicians. I’d prefer collaboration with private organizations that marshal genuine volunteers to help when they agree it’s needed.