10) Of course, a cosmopolitan, coastal elite like myself would think that a year abroad is more valuable for young people than a year of service. And guess what? While my particular brand of policy preferences might not be captured in national service, make no mistake that the rules will be co-opted by ruling class elites to serve their ends. Everyone will be forced to serve, but some will serve in ways that reward them personally more than others. The system will be gamed by the wealthy, the well-connected, the folks with the social capital to figure out how things work -- and national service will be set up in a way that serves their ends and reflects their values and preferences.
11) Think of your age. Now imagine if Congress was considering mandatory national service for all Americans a year older than you are now. Think of all the reasons you'd think that was a bad idea.
12) Compulsory national service would seem to violate the 13th Amendment: "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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." FYI, the definition of servitude: "a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life."
13) There are some things, like defending the nation and collecting taxes, that government must do. If barbarians march up to the gates with knives drawn, someone must go out and defend the city. And their weapons cost money. Military drafts for wars of self-defense and taxes are necessary evils -- necessary to avoid free-riders, and evil because they entail that the state use force to compel some human beings to do things that they really do not, in fact, want to do. Unlike maintaining a military, maintaining a force of 18-year-olds doing national service is not a necessity. Indeed, we've managed to be one of the wealthiest, most powerful, most free nations in history without it. If something is unnecessary, it's arguably immoral to force adults to spend months of their lives doing it (even if a good many of them would thank you afterward).
Those are many, though not all, of the reasons that I would oppose any vote to implement universal national service. But there is one other line in McChrystal's WSJ op-ed that's worthy of note:
More than most Americans realize, the demand to serve already exists. In
2011, there were nearly 600,000 applications to AmeriCorps--a program
with only 80,000 positions, only half of which are full time. The Peace
Corps received 150,000 requests for applications but has funding for
only 4,000 new positions each year. This gap represents democratic
energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.
Presuming that they're well run programs, I'd happily support expanding AmeriCorps and The Peace Corps so that more people who want to serve in that manner are afforded the opportunity. Enabling Americans to work for the greater good as they see it -- whether that means peace corps or starting a business or joining the military or working for a big corporation -- is a true strength of our country. Compelling everyone to follow a single path would reduce the value we create as a nation, devalue diversity, and transgress against the right to liberty.