I'm in two minds about Johann Hari's call to bring back conscription. Part of me thinks it's contemptible, the other part thinks it's beneath contempt.
The liberal case for the draft...
This is just nonsense. There cannot be a liberal case for forcing people to do things they don't want to do, at least when those things involve killing people. There may be a pragmatic case, a conservative case, a socialist case, whatever. But to pretend there can be a liberal case is - yet again - a debasement of the language of liberalism.
A draft would change the attitude towards war back home: we would need a lot more persuasion to allow a war to be launched.
Johann raises a serious issue here. Our politics does give too much weight to cheap preferences, and doesn't make voters sufficiently responsible for their choices. But the solution is not the draft. It's to make voters pay, through mechanisms such as demand-revealing referenda.
Would I have (stupidly) supported the war if there was a chance I would have ended up patrolling Basra with a machine-gun?
This is the most outrageous statement I've seen in a long time.
For one thing, the solution to not doing stupid things is, well, not to be stupid.
But there's a deeper problem here. Surely, anyone contemplating whether to support the war would ask: what's it like to fight one? What's it like to be on the receiving end? If you have so little imagination that you're incapable of sympathizing with people, you've no right whatsoever to take views that affect them - especially when the effect extends to killing them. Hey, even I can do this - and I'm borderline Asperger's.
I suspect Johann might have blurted out a pathology of our chattering and ruling classes here. Could it be that these regard real people - soldiers, Iraqis - not as living beings with interests and desires but as mere pawns to be manipulating by their whims?
The second liberal argument for the draft [is that] a conscript army fights wars differently. One of the great forgotten stories of Vietnam is that, placed in an immoral war, the conscript troops rebelled en masse...If we had conscripts patrolling Iraq, there would be a similar mass rebellion.
What use would this be to anyone? How would this help Iraqis? What's the point of pulling people out of good jobs just so they can make a gesture that gratifies Johann's latest passing intellectual fancy?
But then, we're not meant to judge policies on cost-benefit terms are we? All that matters is that they gratify our ego and desire to dominate others.