Thursday, September 01, 2005

NPR: Few shoulder the burden of war

I found this interesting article on NPR is widely-derided among conservatives as being the mouthpiece of some sort of left-wing cabal, but I've found that they run enough stories highlighting both sides of the political spectrum to at least please my own libertarian tastes.

But anyway -- back to the article, titled "The Inequity of Wartime Sacrifice," by NPR's Ron Elving:

[T]he main equity issue comes with active service. Today we rely on true volunteers to fill all the branches. Elected officeholders have chosen this course, and professional military officers greatly prefer to lead "people who want to be here." But the downside is that the burden falls on the few. And that sacrifice can be great, even for those who come home alive and whole.

So the chasm is greater and growing between those who fulfill their "service obligation" (as it once was called) and those who never even consider it.

This inequity finds its epitome in the high re-enlistment rates among regular Army and Marine troops in Iraq. Having done their part, these men and women volunteer anew and do their part a second and even a third time. The Pentagon has to be not only proud of this cohort but grateful as well, because fresh recruits for Iraq are getting harder to find. Once again, the idea of sacrifice shared by all has given way to super-sacrifice by the few.

Read the whole thing.

That the war in Iraq is being fought by so few Americans is troubling to me, particularly since there's so much flag- and yellow ribbon-waving going on "on the home front." Demonstrations of "troop support" are everywhere, particularly around places like Kentucky, where you can't swing a dead cow around without hitting a car plastered with "Support the Troops" magnets.

Magnets, ribbons, banners, and flags may ease the consciences of those who display them, but ultimately they're just superficial symbols that don't really benefit anyone except the person showing them off.

As recruiting numbers sputter into the end of the year, one wonders why the country's political leadership hasn't made some kind of plea to the American people -- a "call to arms." The reason it hasn't happened can't be because of fears of a Democratic party backlash; Democrats whine and complain about anything the staunchly-Republican administration does, not because of the merits or faults of any specific action, but because it was Republicans who thought it up.

Soldiers are lining up to re-enlist in Iraq. Others are re-enlisting back here in the states. I won't be among them when my window opens up, but I admire them for again making that commitment that so few Americans are willing to make, because for millions, the war in Iraq is best served as just one more "Reality TV" storyline.