Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal led U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan during his long military career. He was in charge of Joint Special Operations Command, the nation's premiere military counter-terrorism force. But, quoting Abraham Lincoln, McChrystal told "CBS This Morning" Monday the greatest threat to the U.S. isn't abroad.
"Describing what would destroy the United States, the greatest threat, he said there'd never be a foreign power who could do that. If we would die, it would be by national suicide," McChrystal said. "I think that's true."
The general said people learn responsibility through experience and the ability to serve.
"So what I think we need is the opportunity to bring young Americans together for a year of paid full-time service," McChrystal said. "And what it would produce is alumni of an experience that would change them for the rest of their lives."
McChrystal is advocating for a campaign that provides just that opportunity. "Serve America Together" offers one year of paid national service for young Americans 18 and older. They would help communities in critical areas like education, the environment, and disaster relief.
"It's a bipartisan idea. So it doesn't have to be Republican or Democratic. It can be from all of us," McChrystal said, describing a program that would make use of organizations already in place. "The Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year, Teach for America. All of these added with many other movements brought together to create opportunities."
Funding would come from a mix of the federal government, private philanthropy and other sources, according to McChrystal. He also said there would need to be good incentives for people to join.
"We have to create an environment where because it is not mandatory, it is socially accepted, culturally accepted, but also a young person who does it comes out of it better," McChrystal said. "Maybe we'll give them education credits, maybe we have a GI bill equivalent. You know, the idea of free college is great, but the reality is we value what we work or pay for."
McChrystal emphasized that people serving would need to be paid in order to make it an option for everyone.
"You don't want to be only people whose parents can afford to support them for a year," McChrystal said.