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February 01, 2007



He seems to be using "liberal" with the American meaning of left-wing illiberal.


"through mechanisms such as demand-revealing referenda"

Then the likes of Halliburton, defence contractors and others who stand to make fortunes out of war could outbid the poor saps who would have to actually go fight. I know a version of this happens already in some places but explicitly making it the basis of our foreign policy doesn't seem like the greatest idea.

Bishop Hill

Hari is perverting the meaning of the word "liberal". But you are equally guilty of misuse of language when you refer to his "intellectual" fancies. ;-)


You express my sentiments precisely. I read Hari's article, and it struck me as foolish.

Mark Holland

National Service (not a continuation of wartime service but brought in by the Attlee government) was extended from one year to eighteen months and later to two years because of the Korean War. NS troops also saw action in Palestine, Malaya, Suez and Cyprus. So much for it being a disincentive.


Good. It's a bullshit argument on so many levels - prompted by Johann's guilt at supporting a war he never understood in the first place.

a) One is the squeamishness argument, which is no good. You might as well ask "Would there be any heart-transplants if we had conscript surgery teams?" Not if I was on it, you wouldn't. But it would be absurd to conclude from this that therefore no heart operations should take place. Anyone with half a brain could produce dozens of examples that make the same point.

b) His concept of how conscript armies behave is, unsurprisingly given his past form, completely ahistorical. Being a 'liberal' no doubt Johann doesn't approve of much of the behaviour of the IDF over the years, yet they have national service in Israel. Iran-Iraq war anyone? And let's not even mention the 'unpleasantness' between 1939-1945.

Johann really pisses me off with this tortured liberal routine. He's come a long way since he was using his Independent column to advocate the invasion of North Korea. Now he invites those of us who supported the invasion of Iraq to 'reflect'. Some of us did this *before* we supported it. Johann obviously didn't bother - but isn't this rather *his* problem?

David Gillies

This is the same nonsense that uber-cretin Charlie Rangel (D, NY) mooted last year and has the same set of boneheaded motivations (makes it harder to go to war; makes it damn near impossible to win when we get there). So this tripe isn't even original tripe, just the warmed-over witterings of one of Congress' most stupid men.

Antipholus Papps

Why doesn't the little shit just sign up for the army and spare us his insipid yet disproportionately annoying articles.


To argue that because conscription leads to worse discipline within the army, and correspondinly reduced efficacy as a fighting force, this argues in its favour is one of the more baffling arguments I've heard recently.


Jim: firstly, if decisions about going to war in the future were to be taken by means of demand-revealing referenda, current employees of the armed forces could be given the option of leaving before the new mechanism was introduced. That way, no-one could legitimately complain that fighting a war to line Halliburton's pockets is "not what they signed up for".

Secondly, if the type of outcome you envisage were to become commonplace, troops would demand better renumeration; a rise in the price of war implies a reduction in demand, assuming the demand is elastic (which seems reasonable).

Thirdly, the US military comprises some 1.4 million people on active duty, and a further 1.3 million reservists. Even the CEO of Halliburton might baulk at buying all of them out!

Fourthly, even if he did, the soldiers and reservists would be compensated, presumably handsomely.


Excuse me but how did anyone come to the conclusion that the problem with the Iraq war lies with the voters? Britain is engaged in the Iraq war because Parliament wanted to invade. The people made it abundantly clear they wanted none of it. The real issue is how we make the politicians pay for their actions.



I can't stand Hari.

It's also worth noting that, born as he was in 1979 and assuming National Service as he envisages it would kick in for a year or two at the age of 18, he would have just missed out on Kosovo, so wouldn't have had to fight.

He's also a bit of a tubster, judging from his photo, so probably wouldn't have passed the physical... The dastard.


One of hte more interesting ideas in this field is Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers. He describes a society where nobody is forced to join the military - but only people who have signed up and served a term are eligible to vote.
The rationale for it in the novel is that those who are are willing to put their life on the line are ever so slightly more concerned about fellow human beings than those who do not - and this makes them more competent politically.


Johann Hari has himself pointed out that his taking of seroxat has resulted in his finding it difficult to behave in a way consistent with his own well-being (http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=364), cushioned as he is by an artificial sense of well-being.

This leads me to wonder, should decision-makers (or even opinion formers) on anti-depressants be required to step down?

james higham

Without doubt it's beneath contempt because:

1] it conscripts those who are powerless in society;
2] it's for motives which are contemptible;
3] the regulars hate them - the're walking dangers to both themselves and the regular soldiers.

Surreptitious Evil

I am really not sure that the military wants tens (selective draft) or hundreds (full national service) of thousands of people who don't want to be there. Just putting the numbers through basic training would swamp the current force.

I would also take issue with his insistence that the people fighting the war are "overwhelmingly black, brown or poor." The British Army, much to its embarrassment and, it has to be said, of its own making, is overwhelmingly white. Many of the non-whites are not British - Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC being a classical example, as well as the less fortunate Gunner Samuela Vanua.


Peter Briffa

Well he seems to like you, Chris.


"smart and very engaging" indeed.

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