Most issues have at least two sides. In this Counterpoint column, different opinions are shared on common questions.
Compulsory service is not the answer
Compulsory service should not be required of all citizens, and it comes down to four simple words: We live in America. Our bedrock values are about having the freedom and liberty to choose our own paths in life. A willingness to focus our talents, resources and efforts to work toward achieving our dreams means that just about anything is possible in this great nation. Compulsory service for all constitutes a slippery slope whereby an already bloated bureaucracy grows and the ability for people to make choices that are best for them could greatly diminish.
Moreover, how would we, as a nation, pay for such an ambitious program of service? The country has the largest national debt in its 241 years, and it is difficult to even wrap one’s mind around the sheer cost required for such a massive endeavor. Mandatory public service for all would mean major additions to systems and infrastructure; how would everyone be compensated in the process of completing their assigned duties for however long as their country requires them to serve? There are many more questions than reasonable answers. How would suitable candidates be aligned with the right kinds of jobs and positions? Who would be responsible for identifying the best talent to achieve the greatest “bang for the buck?”
Our nation has a rich history of volunteerism, and there is no shortage of examples of Americans pulling together to serve in times of peace, war and crisis. Forcing people into government service would require a bureaucracy the likes of which we have never seen, and how many untold thousands might be ill-served by being numbers rather than being able to leverage their natural skills and abilities to enhance society?
Compulsory service is not the answer. History has shown that when our country needs quality people to serve, there are many capable Americans who willingly answer that call without having to be coerced.
Lt. Col. Kirk Luedeke is stationed at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, Army or Combined Arms Center.
With citizenship comes responsibility
Fifty-nine years before John Kennedy’s stirring call for Americans to give back for the blessings of liberty our country provides, former Leavenworth City Attorney and Supreme Court justice David Brewer struck a remarkably similar theme. With the privileges of citizenship, he said, comes responsibility.
I agree. It is a lesson my father taught me when I was a child.
Kennedy was a member of the “greatest generation” who served at a time of maximum danger to defend our land from threats to our very survival as a free nation. But he saw, as did Brewer, that we must serve not only when times are hard but when times are good. Both men envisioned a future when in a world at peace our opportunities for service extended beyond the military.
I agree. We benefit as a nation when we imbue in our youth the opportunity that comes from stepping outside their neighborhood to see and serve a cause greater than themselves.
My father spoke as a witness to the young men who might otherwise have joined the unemployed in the 1930s who instead gained experience, pride and a different perspective on America through their service in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Too few know that before Gen. George C. Marshall led Americans in war, he led Americans in peace as the commander of 35 CCC camps in Oregon and Washington.
Kennedy did not just advocate for service from Brewer’s academic perspective. Through the Peace Corps he expanded the opportunity to serve beyond the narrow scope of military service. The obligation and opportunity for service should not be limited by gender, ability or disability nor excused for reasons or economic privilege or hardship.
Whether at home or abroad, we should once again as we did in the past provide the opportunity to satisfy the sacred obligation of citizenship by allowing Americans from rural and urban, mountain and prairie, north and south, east and west to serve in new as well as old ways.
The Republican Brewer and Democrat Kennedy challenged us to find ways to invest in our nation through the sweat and toil of service that are neither liberal nor conservative but American.
Lawrence “Chip” Levine is a veteran military intelligence officer.