Tuesday, December 8, 2009

U.S.troops out of sight and out of mind

We are sending another 30,000 troops into combat, young men and women who are our husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert notes:

The air is filled with obsessive self-satisfied rhetoric about supporting the troops, giving them everything they need and not letting them down. But that rhetoric is as hollow as a jazzman’s drum because the overwhelming majority of Americans have no desire at all to share in the sacrifices that the service members and their families are making. Most Americans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their precious time to do volunteer work that would aid the nation’s warriors and their families, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars.

To say that this is a national disgrace is to wallow in the shallowest understatement. The nation will always give lip-service to support for the troops, but for the most part Americans do not really care about the men and women we so blithely ship off to war, and the families they leave behind. ..

The reason it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to continue fighting year after year after year, is because so few Americans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II combined. If voters had to choose right now between instituting a draft or exiting Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two countries in a heartbeat.

I don’t think our current way of waging war, which is pretty easy-breezy for most citizens, is what the architects of America had in mind. Here’s George Washington’s view, for example: “It must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.”

What we are doing is indefensible and will ultimately exact a fearful price, and there will be absolutely no way for the U.S. to avoid paying it.

The column is linked.


Ancient Advocate said...

Michael: As an 80-year-old who spent his teen years during World War II in high school, I recall vividly how the entire population was involved in the War: my uncle who lived with us was drafted in 1940, my dad was air raid warden on our block, we contributed valuable pennies and dimes to War Stamps and Bonds. The draft got me during the Korean War (Navy) and by the time of Vietnam young men studied like all hell to keep their student deferments.

If this war is so valuable, we ALL must PAY for it, with a tax on high income, a war profits tax, and (regretfully) a draft. When young men (and in the 21st Century, women, too) are facing going into service, maybe our country won't let itself be dragged into such unnecessary (in my view) conflicts.

Michael Rosen said...

Ancient Advocate,

Thanks for sharing your experience.

My parents who would have been older than you had a very similar experience that is reflected in the letters that my dad sent home from the front.

Care packages were sent, people sat by their radios listening to the war unfold, taxes were raised, a draft started and women joined the industrial workforce. The entire nation mobilized to support "our boys."

Eve during Vietnam the nation had a draft which became a focus of anti-war organizing. If we had a draft today, we would have a much larger, more effective anti-war movement and probably would not be in Afghantistan or Iraq.