Monday, September 15, 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

I have to give Senator Obama credit for his recent appearance at Columbia, in which he supported the repeal of the university's Vietnam-era ban on the ROTC, now continued in ostensible opposition to the Department of Defense's so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. McCain called first for the return of the ROTC, which is no big surprise, but Obama's agreement on the topic wouldn't have been expected. Regardless of one's position on the propriety and tenability of the policy, Obama says "we should have an honest debate while still offering opportunities for everyone to serve.” Sounds good to me. Some people, though, just don't get the point, calling this a "flip-flop" from Obama. He never said he'd changed his mind on Don't Ask Don't Tell, though, and I assume he still opposes it. A future leader of America live-blogs the appearances, reminding me that I really need to save up my downpayment for that cabin in the woods.

Now, while crediting his support of the ROTC, I can't give him a pass on his Orwellian "Plan for Universal and Voluntary Citizen Service", and Shikha Dalmia explains why. I'm all for service, mind you; I'm in the Army after all, and I personally believe that truly voluntary charitable work could be perfectly capable of providing the entirety of our social "safety net". It's when community service is funded, organized, mandated, and coerced using government money and enforcement powers that the whole thing starts feeling a little bit, well, fascist.


Shane said...

The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools. -Thucydides

I agree with pretty much everything in this post. I happen to oppose DADT, and my platoon lost our last Arabic linguist (that is, our brigade lost its last Arabic linguist) to the DoD policy on homosexuals.

And I believe that the de facto segregation that has manifested itself between the nation's academic/financial elite and the military is bad for both the military and society at large. Some of it isn't driven by policy, but the ROTC boycotts in some of America's top schools is policy, and bad policy at that.

I don't really call myself a libertarian anymore, but I still cringe when I hear things like "Mandatory Service." I'm down with government encouraging public service, but dangling near-coercive incentives/disincentives to do so is, like you said, borderline fascist. I believe the better solution, if the government is to increase voluntary service, is to make it easier to make that choice. Read Thaler and Sunstein's Nudge, or even a brief summary of it online, to get what I'm talking about.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

"I believe the better solution, if the government is to increase voluntary service, is to make it easier to make that choice."

In my opinion, you can replace "voluntary service" in that sentence with just about anything, and it still holds true.