Letter to the Editor

Without a draft, war is an abstract idea

Thomas E. Ricks [“Toss out the all-volunteer military,” Outlook, April 22] is right to argue that we should at least consider reinstating the draft. I teach at an elite university in Washington, D.C., and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are abstractions for my upper-middle-class students, who know that neither they nor anyone they know closely will be directly affected by the conflicts. This sense of safety affects their judgments on U.S. policies abroad.

For instance, without hesitation my students will condemn Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa and will prescribe U.S. military action against them. This they will do without thinking carefully about the specific nature of the military intervention, its likelihood of success or its potential future course.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are starting to appear in my classes, and this will no doubt have a positive effect on classroom discussions of military actions. But until my students and their influential parents have more at stake, I doubt there will be sufficient motivation to think seriously about the pros and cons of U.S. military action.

Brian Norris, Manassas

 
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