Who Supports Civil Liberties?

Rep. Charles Rangel, the congressional buffoon from New York, has said he will once again try to reinstate the military draft in this country.

His argument, as I understand it, is that we need the draft to bolster strained troop levels, and also to make it less likely that we’ll use troops because the draft will make it more likely that decision-makers will have a stronger emotional attachment to individual soldiers. And that, somehow, this will improve their decisions and this mass enslavement will bolster social justice.

This is stupid in too many ways to bother listing. But, it doesn’t bode well for the quality of initiatives we can expect from the Democrats.

What’s ironic is that this comes at the same time as the death of Milton Friedman, who was influential in ending the draft in the 70s.

One anecdote I like is this one:

Milton Friedman was very persuasive. One of Meckling’s favorite stories, which his widow, Becky, recalled in a recent interview, was of an exchange between Mr. Friedman and General William Westmoreland, then commander of all U.S. troops in Vietnam. In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”

While many Democrats oppose reinstating the draft now, many still favor some kind of imposed national service. What they approve of, and what Friedman opposed, is the notion that it’s proper to treat people as slaves of the state; that the majority can commandeer the lives of others, and that such a thing is noble rather than an obnoxious affront to the most basic notion of civil liberty.

I realize that there are Republicans who support the draft and national service, too. But, I’m tired of hearing people argue that the Democratic Party is the party of civil libertarians, and that they will protect our basic freedoms from those nasty Republicans.

And, this is nothing new. This paper recounts an important conference on the draft at the University of Chicago in 1966. One of the invited anti-draft congressmen was Donald Rumsfeld (R-Illinois), and the pro-draft senator was Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

I Like Donald Rumsfeld

I was looking through some recent links to this site and noticed that somebody came yesterday via a Google search for “i like Donald Rumsfeld”. For a moment, I had the sad thought that maybe it was Rumsfeld himself.

As I’ve written before, his departure is probably a good thing for him personally. I don’t know, or really care, about the politics behind his resignation. I understand that many people are upset by the way things have gone in Iraq and demanded a sacrifice. I’m not so sure that it makes us better off, though.

It depends on whether or not the alternative is better.

I don’t know whether or not Rumsfeld was a great administrator, but I know that he’s a really smart guy with a lot of good sense and he probably made many good and important decisions. Disagreements with generals aren’t necessarily a problem. If the Defense Secretary should never have such disagreements, why would we need civilian control of the military? Bush trusted Rumsfeld to pursue policies that were aligned with Bush’s goals, and I suspect that he did that as well as could be expected.

Let’s hope the new guy doesn’t screw things up trying to please people with different goals.

Happy Veteran’s Day

Now What?

Ok. So, now that the Democrats seem to have won thin majorities in both houses of congress, what will happen?

We’ve already had Rumsfeld resign (something I consider a loss, but I’m glad he’ll be spared the inevitable circus if he’d stayed).

I’m sure that congressional committees will waste a bunch of time trying to score political points by harassing Republicans. That’s not too bad.

It seems like a good situation for gridlock. Hopefully, Bush will veto (or threaten to veto) any outrageous new laws from Democrats, and Democrats will obstruct stupid laws from Republicans. Also, I’m hoping that Republicans, and Bush, will find it easier to oppose the kind of big spending that they have been engaged in, now that it will be Democrats proposing it.

It’s kind of fun to see incumbents having to worry about holding their seats; and also to see congressmen witness the failure of the spend-your-way-to-re-election tactic.

I guess the interesting questions revolve around whether the Republicans will move towards more pro-liberty policies, or away from them (which didn’t work for this election). I’m not holding my breath waiting for Democrats to improve much.

There are also the questions around the effects on national security. I suspect that not much will change. Perhaps getting out of Iraq will become a little more urgent than before, but nobody wants to be responsible for a disaster-laden premature evacuation. And, Iran and North Korea will be demanding more attention anyway.

All in all, I don’t expect any horrible effects in the short-term, and there may be some long-term benefits.

The problems will come if we get a Democrat president and a wider Democrat majority in congress in 2008. But, I’m confident that they’ll find ways to screw up their chances of that between now and then.

Kerry’s Offense

I’m perfectly willing to believe John Kerry’s explanation that he meant to tell a joke insulting George W. Bush rather than members of the military.

Apparently, when he said: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

He meant to say: “… you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

It’s much more plausible that he meant to insult Bush, rather than military personnel. He might actually believe that most members of the military are there because they weren’t good enough students to have better options; I just don’t think he’d intentionally make that case publicly, right before an election.

Now, I’m not one to endorse being easily offended by jokes. But, I wonder why it’s so much more acceptable to insult President Bush and, indirectly, the 62 million people who voted for him than it is to insult the military.