November 24, 2014
The draft is daft II
The proposal to restore compulsory military service in order to keep idle youth away from crime has thus far failed to recruit many more prominent voices in favour (perhaps because of the debate’s timing in a week cut short by the May Day long weekend) despite flash surveys showing over 60 percent of the general public drawn by the superficial attractions of the idea — today’s editorial will thus focus on the man placing this issue on the map, Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados (not the person originating this debate but the one giving it weight ex officio). Perhaps the only element worth adding to the debate at this stage is an academic study prior to the abolition of conscription in 1995 showing that draftees had a four to five percent greater chance of becoming criminals. It only stands to reason that giving a youth a year of military training including improved marksmanship and then returning him to the same deprived socio-economic origins might actually make him a more dangerous criminal (half a century ago when the United States were looking for almost anybody they could recruit for the Vietnam War, it was a supreme paradox that murderers were the only category rigidly excluded in a similar blindness to the core skill of the military profession).
Granados is a dangerous sign of the times because he enshrines in public office an extreme law and order approach which virtually advocates vigilante justice (thus he not only boasts about blazing away at robbers in his home in 1999 but loudly regrets not having killed them) — he injects more violence at a time when a trade unionist says that there will be blood in the Quilmes garbage collection dispute. Yet an even bigger danger is that in a polarized politics craving consensus, this violent figure paradoxically comes closest to offering that consensus — the former Ezeiza mayor straddles all strands of Peronism by appealing alike to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and his immediate boss Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli but also to Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front as a member of the generally rightist mayoral club forming its hard core (not to mention Carlos Menem when he was president in the last decade of the past century — both in the case of Menem and the Kirchner presidential couple, Granados successfully worked hard to deepen the political alliance with personal friendship).
The hard-liner thus emerges as a consensus figure who could reinforce the current tendency of the electorate to lean right on both crime and economic issues, no matter which presidential frontrunner finishes on top — a danger worth highlighting.