War no longer involves the nation as a whole

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A letter to the editor in The Dispatch last Saturday from a retired Army major general caught my eye. He proposes that before sending troops into combat we should bring back the draft and enact a special war tax. The general wants to make “limited liability patriots and chicken hawks think twice before committing American blood and treasure to another war in the Middle East.”

I share the general’s sentiment, but for a different reason: war doesn’t have an impact on the nation as a whole the way it should.  America doesn’t go to war anymore, only our military does. So far detached are the hardships of war to most of us, it’s as if we go to war by proxy. America may have been at war since 2001, but outside of the families of those service members who have been killed or wounded, war doesn’t touch our lives. And that bothers me.

When the nation goes to war, shouldn’t every able bodied citizen be involved in some way? In these days of bounty it’s hard to imagine, but in WWII the government rationed how much gasoline, sugar and other commodities you could buy and solicited the purchase of war bonds to finance the war. Everyone was touched daily by the war.

With Vietnam, we had the draft, which should have equally spread the pain of war across the country, except that someone came up with the idea of college deferments. Graduating from college was somehow more important than the nation’s needs. That left the nation’s burden being disproportionately shouldered by one sector of society, and it wasn’t the upper echelon.

While we mobilized very few reserve and National Guard units during the Vietnam conflict, things changed with the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. We mobilized a lot of reserve units.  Surely, when people in the local community had to leave their jobs for a tour overseas, the sting of war would be felt by more of us. But it didn’t turn out that way. Yes, we all shed a tear and say a prayer when someone comes back in a flag draped coffin, but overall, these wars haven’t really affect us. Not even financially. Income taxes were cut as we went to war.

Everybody thanks the military for the sacrifices its members make. Budweiser runs ads that inspire patriotism. Citizens meet returning service members at airports and applaud them. We thank services members for “keeping us safe.” Still, these efforts are small in comparison to the total effort. Our lives go unchanged.  We still go to work during the day and enjoy the weekend.

Our military is close to becoming a mercenary force that spares the rest of us from doing our fair share. I don’t know how to change things. A tax surcharge, as suggested by the major general? The draft? Compulsory service in some auxiliary component?  None of these things will ever happen because they require everybody to join in unison and make a sacrifice, and no politician has the courage to make that happen. It’s easier to just send the troops.


 Jack D’Aurora writes for


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