One of my semi heroes and, it pains me to say this, as us Southerners have a view, "do not speak ill of the dead"-- Milton Friedman, already mentioned at another time but based on an article in Newsweek, warrants additional comments. It is his philosophy about the Volunteer Army that is wrong. Nothing personal, Milt. He said, "a military draft is undesirable and unnecessary. We should man our armed forces with volunteers." What is often left out of Milt's saying about the draft, however, is an "add on", "a military draft is undesirable and unnecessary. We can and should man our armed forces with volunteers as the United States has traditionally done except in major wars." ARE WE IN A MAJOR WAR? Yes, the war on terrorism.
I would love to have talked to Mr. Friedman because I agree with Newsweek, he is definitely one of the most influential men of the last hundred years. Often, I am not so sure that someone like Friedman, God bless his soul, is wrong, rather he is not right. Or, maybe we need to approach the same issue in light of new data or in our case, a new time, i. e., the war on terrorism.
What about our Volunteer Army. 2 questions? Is it successful and is it a good Army. Absolutely, it is successful in terms of fielding a military and a good one. On the surface, the present military is probably as good as any we have ever had. The first question, is it successful? From that point, it is a matter of perspective. The Volunteer Army simply is not representative of our American free society and this is what makes the Volunteer Army morally indefensible.
A very relative factor is always left out of the equation and it is somewhat definitional: when I say the Voluteer Army, I mean, all the "forces." However, much of the volunteer military has always been voluntary: the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, and all of the elite forces such as Green Berets, Navy Seals--an entire Division, the 82d Airborne Division has always from its inception been voluntary.
Milt railed against the draft from a position of his time that really didn't make sense but also, because of the inequity of the draft. Who can interpret this Friedman statement: "the draft is wasteful because determent of students, fathers and married men jams colleges, raises the birth rate and fuels divorce courts." What in the hell does he mean? And, I love this one, "universal national service would compound the evil--regimenting all youth to camouflage the regimentation of some."
To give Mr. Friedman his due, I think one big point is that the draft was inequitable because it was not administered fairly. Where I think he is off the mark is that Universal Service simply provides an opportunity to serve. The fact that it is compulsory is simply an update on the times. Youth, if forced to serve, no exceptions, will do it and when it is over, my prediction is they will say, "I did it, I gave back and I'm the better for it." Friedman didn't like the draft, universal service, price controls, minimum wage standards. He's consistent.
Well, in life, I think there have to be some controls and restrictions. To me, youth serving their country is not so much a control as a freedom to serve.