I have been reading an interesting account
of how conscription was ended in the U.S., focusing on my father's role. Near the end of the process, President Nixon established a commission headed by Thomas Gates, a former secretary of defense. Martin Anderson recounts the following exchange between Nixon and Gates:
But Mr. President, I’m opposed to the whole idea of a volunteer force. You don’t want me as the chairmen.”
“Yes, I do Tom,” the president replied, “that’s exactly why I want you as the chairman. You have experience and integrity. If you change your mind and think we should end the draft, then I’ll know it’s a good idea.”
It struck me as an ingenious solution to the problem faced by someone who needs to make decisions on a variety of questions and does not have the time and energy to research all of them for himself. Instead of trying to appoint a neutral agent to give an unbiased opinion, appoint someone whose honesty and competence you trust who is on what you suspect is probably the wrong side of the question. If you are right, about both him and the question, he will change his mind. If he does not, you may well be wrong.
Assuming that Nixon's explanation of his choice is true, the incident is to his credit.
The commission, set up with people on both sides of the issue, ended by unanimously recommending the abolition of the draft.