Goodbye, GM …by Michael Moore
1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.
We are now in a different kind of war — a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call “cars” may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.
The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn’t give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true — that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.
In the ongoing struggle between radical Islamism and Western democracy, military intervention by the United States may again be judged necessary as a last resort against particularly dangerous states or organizations. Although presidential candidate Barack Obama made drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq the centerpiece of his national security agenda, so as to focus on the “real fight” in Afghanistan, President Obama will find that even with a complete withdrawal from Iraq, the United States’ current all-volunteer forces will be inadequate for accomplishing its worldwide national security goals. Regarding Afghanistan in particular, even the planned reinforcement of 20,000 to 30,000 troops will not begin to match the 1 to 10 troop-to-population ratio generally acknowledged to be necessary for success in counterinsurgency.
Moreover, as a result of the repetitive stresses of Afghanistan and Iraq, the human-resources quality of the U.S. military appears to be declining: recruitment and retention rates (by pre-Iraq standards) are slipping, forcing the armed services to lower their physical, educational, and psychological standards; to soften the rigors of initial training; and even to expand the moral waivers granted to some volunteers with criminal records. Generous inducements have also been needed to retain junior officers beyond the length-of-service payback requirements of their academy or ROTC educations. The economic downturn might help temporarily, but the problem cannot be resolved by continuing the present system. There will have to be a reinstitution, albeit in a significantly modified version, of universal military service — a “draft.”
Our proposal is to combine a revived military draft with a broader public-service program as already practiced in some European states — a “domestic Peace Corps.” Indeed, a crucial component of our proposal is that draftees be allowed to choose between military and nonmilitary service. A program structured along those lines would simultaneously increase the political appeal of conscription, defuse the opposition of those who disapprove of the use of military force, and serve such valuable national purposes as public health, public works, and the alleviation of shortages of teachers and social workers in disadvantaged regions of the country.
Of course, reinstating the draft will generate opposition from all parts of the political spectrum, on the left by civil libertarians and opponents of any use of force, in the center by classic libertarians and those who would regard conscription as an unfair “tax on youth,” and even by some on the political right, who (as noted earlier) would correctly perceive that the modified draft proposed here would inherently constrain presidential unilateralism. The professional military, traditionally conservative, might initially resist such fundamental change, though we are confident the professional military will come to value its significant advantages.
In the event of new terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on the scale of 9/11, let alone the unimaginable consequences if American cities were struck by nuclear or biological weapons, the arguments against conscription would vanish overnight, and there would be a crash program to build up the armed forces, similar to the aftermath of attack on Pearl Harbor.
War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
At various times in American history, public service and private effort
went arm in arm. After Pearl Harbor, Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam exhorted people to help the war effort, and Americans responded. But since F.D.R., and especially since J.F.K.’s launching of the Peace Corps, national service has been seen by some as a Democratic or liberal idea. In the ’90s, Newt Gingrich argued that the rise of big government programs robbed people of their initiative to volunteer. After Bill Clinton signed the bill to create AmeriCorps in 1993, then Senator John Ashcroft called it “welfare for the well-to-do.”
But these days there is a growing consensus on Capitol Hill that the private and public spheres can be linked. Democrats understand the need to support programs outside of government; Republicans understand that voluntary programs can be helped by government. In his first State of the Union address after 9/11, President George W. Bush called for Americans to give 4,000 hours of service and established the USA Freedom Corps. One of the early critics of AmeriCorps, John McCain, has since become a devout supporter. “National service is an issue that has been largely identified with the Democratic Party and the left of the political spectrum,” McCain wrote in a 2001 Washington Monthly essay. “That is unfortunate, because duty, honor and country are values that transcend ideology…National service is a crucial means of making our patriotism real, to the benefit of both ourselves and our country.”
So what would a plan for universal national service look like? It would be voluntary, not mandatory. Americans don’t like to be told what they have to do; many have argued that requiring service drains the gift of its virtue. It would be based on carrots, not sticks — “doing well by doing good,” as Benjamin Franklin, the true father of civic engagement, put it. So here is a 10-point plan for universal national service. The ideas here are a mixture of suggestions already made, revised versions of other proposals and a few new wrinkles.
1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond
2. Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department
3. Expand Existing National-Service Programs Like AmeriCorps and the National Senior Volunteer Corps
4. Create an Education Corps
5. Institute a Summer of Service
6. Build a Health Corps
7. Launch a Green Corps
8. Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps
9. Start a National-Service Academy
10. Create a Baby-Boomer Education Bond
Voluntary? Really? How long would that last? How voluntary is the collection of funds to pay for all this proposed government expansion.