A political consultant over at Open Left is advising progressives to keep quiet about the threat posed by a military draft, largely in the hope that fear will produce favorable political conditions. It's been a long time since I've read an essay that was wrong on so many levels; it's insulting, threatening, and idiotic.
1) Insulting: All of this talk about the morality of a draft (whether for military or civilian projects) effectively glorifies a subset of human activities, while diminishing all others. Why is a soldier morally superior to me? Do all socially beneficial activities require the threat of sudden death? What about engineers and scientists who forgo most leisure time to improve our lives (including military technology)? How about the doctors who are on call constantly? How about those who spend all of their leisure time working on a project that they think is REALLY beneficial to society (whether it is art, an invention, or developing open source software)? How about those who take care of sick relatives and neighbors. Apparently none of these things matter, and all of these activities can be cut short if the draft board decides that "society" would be better off if the person picked up trash along a highway. And we are considered selfish if we prefer to rely on freedom of choice to guide our lives, and professional service to guide our economy.
2) Threatening: Any draft system threatens to seriously disrupt the lives of millions, and will put many of them in harm's way. Any suggestion that we should just let that happen is a threat to me and everyone I care about. This threat can be mitigated by making dangerous service voluntary (either by giving alternatives or permitting domestic military service), but we're still talking about serious disruption to our lives and communities.
3) Idiotic: Much of this argument for a draft is based on the completely speculative theory that a draft will move society and politics in a progressive direction. It just as likely could trigger an outright rebellion (as people see the government as a threat to their lives), or conversely it could result in an authoritarian society where military discipline conditions everyone to just go along with the President's orders. The truth is that we have no idea of what to expect from social engineering schemes like this--and yet we are expected to disrupt millions of lives and squander billions of dollars in the hope that it will generate some sort of beneficial outcome.
While the above flaws in the argument appear to be independent, they are actually united by a common theme: arrogance. All of these flaws arise from the assumption that a bunch of professional politicians in Washington (and their delegates) can judge the lifestyles of millions of Americans and assign each of them to their most socially useful role.