Friday, January 29, 2010

Few Are Shouldering the Burden of War

Sunday, November 29, 2009 3:39 AM

President Barack Obama will deliver a speech Tuesday to outline his strategy going forward in Afghanistan ("Obama to expand Afghan war effort," Associated Press article, Wednesday Dispatch). Pundits say he will try to convince the American people of its merits, and Obama has said, "I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive."
Americans have not been supportive since the war began. The war has been fought by a small segment of the population in an all-voluntary military, drawn overwhelmingly from the third and fourth socioeconomic quintiles of our nation, while the first quintile, the wealthy, powerful and well-connected, has been AWOL. Our military is filled through recruiting and retention bonuses, which I do not begrudge, and lowered age, physical-fitness, education and moral standards. We pay for these wars in funds borrowed from the Chinese, while they invest in their infrastructure and secure natural resources around the world, while our infrastructure and manufacturing base crumble.
We pass the bill for this choice onto our children and grandchildren: an act of fiscal cowardice. A responsible national dialogue on Afghanistan should include the resumption of mandatory universal military service and a war surtax to pay the costs as they are incurred.
If we are unwilling to make these two issues a central element of the Afghanistan strategy, we will continue to be a nation of "chicken hawks" and intergenerational freeloaders unable to say, "All gave some; some gave all," but doomed to say, "Some gave all; most gave nothing, absolutely nothing."

DENNIS LAICH Retired Major General, United States Army

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