Civil Liberties

To Destroy ISIS, Conscript Millennials, Says Baby Boomer Journalist

I am a millennial, get me out of here!


Toy soldiers

National Journal's Ron Fournier has come up with a frightening, ageist approach to defeating ISIS: enslave the millennials! He explains:

I know a better way to fight ISIS. It starts with an idea that should appeal the better angels of both hawks and doves: National service for all 18- to 28-years-olds.

Require virtually every young American—the civic-minded millennial generation—to complete a year of service through programs such as Teach for America, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or the U.S. military, and two things will happen:

1. Virtually every American family will become intimately invested in the nation's biggest challenges, including poverty, education, income inequality, and America's place in a world afire.

2. Military recruiting will rise to meet threats posed by ISIS and other terrorist networks, giving more people skin in a very dangerous game.

The tone of Fournier's column suggests that he considers mandatory national service a compromise in light of political realism—he would clearly prefer to restore the draft outright. This "compromise" idea is less horrifying than the draft, but not by a whole lot.

Disclaimer: I'm a millennial. I'm 26-years-old. I'm married and have a surprisingly steady job writing about why the government sucks. I'm supposed to just set all that aside for a year to work for causes I either don't support, or actively oppose?

There are so many things wrong with this idea. For starters, it violates the principles upon which this nation was founded—that all men and women have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While the Supreme Court has never held that mandatory national service violates the Constitution, the language of the Thirteen Amendment seems pretty clear to me: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."

At the root of Fournier's plan is a more insidiously evil notion: that millennials aren't doing anything worthwhile with their lives right now, and their time would be better spent in Teach for America, or the Army. There's some anti-market thinking at work here, since typically, the activities that free people choose for themselves are more productive and profitable than the ones totalitarian governments assign to them. This is why the comparatively less meddlesome U.S. government is generally in better shape than, say, Venezuela. Fournier is essentially saying that in order to defeat our enemies, we have to mimic their levels of disrespect for individual freedom.

In the October 2014 issue of Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote about all the interesting entrepreneurial things hipster capitalists are doing:

The very things seen as most portending of millennial doom-their overinflated sense of self-esteem and the stagnant economy-may have, when taken together, inspired a new paradigm. For millennials, when life gives you lemons, you make artisanal, small-batch beef jerky. Or start a cargo-bike delivery service. A yoga studio. A craft brewery. A combo cocktail and pie bar. An app-based laundry pickup service. Depending on which survey you consult, 30 to 80 percent of millennials aim to be self-employed at some point in their careers.

I suppose one could possibly justify forcing people to give this up and join the military if the U.S. were facing an imminent end-of-the-world conflict. But ISIS poses no threat to national security; it's a problem for the Middle East—a region that has never benefitted from heavy U.S. involvement in its affairs. In fact, ISIS arose from the ashes of the previous U.S.-sponsored war to sanitize the Middle East. Our record suggests that a concentrated effort to destroy ISIS would only produce Super ISIS.

This goal is worth the mass conscription of millennials? Hell no. I have a better idea. Let's deploy tired, lazy, out-of-touch Baby Boomer journalists to fight ISIS. That would free up some jobs for younger, harder-working writers who actually have novel ideas about productively improving the country. And we wouldn't have to read any more of these lazy columns about the need for involuntary national service!

Any takers?

More from Reason on this subject here.