Joseph Cannon
November 8, 2008

In all fairness, we can’t really call Obama’s proposed national service plan a new draft. First, he’s not talking about requiring young people to do military service. Second, we are getting decidedly mixed signals as to whether the service will be compulsory. At first, the word "required" was used freely; now we see much talk of tax credits, less talk of requirement.

Nevertheless, this new program certainly feels like the next step toward a new draft. Just as Ike’s planners made sure that the national highway system could see usage as a military transport system, Obama’s civilian service corps could make mustering a draft army much, much easier.

After all, this is the guy who said (vis-a-vis the establishment of ROTC programs on all college campuses):

I think it’s important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.

Hm. And when did you sign up, Barky?

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

You probably already know this quote, from a speech he gave in Colorado Springs:

"We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

God only knows where the money is to come from.

Obama now seems to have drawn this big idea from his secret buddy Rahm Emanuel, that noted rust-proofer of brakes, who wrote the following in a 2006 book ominously called The Plan:

It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. …

Here’s how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They’ll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we’re hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities’ most pressing needs.

Wittily, Emanuel adds: "This is not a draft." This puckish reference goes, of course, to Magritte: "Ceci n’est pas une pipe."

I always get a little worried — more than a little, truth be told — when politicians insist that our post-Apocalypse clean-up crew is insufficiently staffed. That sort of talk makes me wonder what they’re up to. Especially when we think back to the ominous words of one Joseph Biden:

"It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking… Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

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