Monday, March 14, 2005

The draft

When I was much younger and less nuanced and against the draft, my mother said to me: "The problem with getting rid of the draft is that the military is then made up of people who *want* to be there." Or people with no other options, I would add now.

Now my mother might add that another side effect of having no draft is that most people don't know anyone in the military.

Iran has a draft. Wealthy people can buy their way out of the draft. College graduates have a fairly simple run of duty. Non-graduates, like everywhere, get stuck with the brunt of the service.

A young friend of ours will enter the military just after Norooz (the Persian New Year).

Our young friend is brilliant. He can brag that he is been arrested for cavorting with the opposite sex (a badge of honor among young Iranians since it is becoming more and more difficult to get arrested for hanging out together). He is handsome. His English is wonderful. He is friendly and a fast learner. He goes to movies. He is secular. He lifts weights. He gains weight. He loses weight.

He is normal. He is comfortably middle class which means that his family does not have enough money to pay for an exemption. He did not make the right choice of study when he entered university and as a result lost interest and dropped out. It's not a simple manner to change majors in Iran. And now, he's stuck with serving out a full-term in the military.

The point I am trying to make is that in countries with a draft, the military is made up of people you know. They are not strangers. They are your friends, your family, and the sons of people you know.

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