Posts Tagged ‘World Affairs’

I’ve been wondering: if we still had the draft, would our soldiers still be in Iraq?

On July 1, 1973, after much debate, President Richard Nixon signed legislation creating the all volunteer military that we have today. Until then the majority of people who served in the armed forces (and there were millions and millions) in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam were draftees. So why did President Nixon decide that we needed to completely change the makeup of our armed forces? His explanation was that we were in a different world now: our nation was confronted by highly trained, professional armies of other nations that were certainly far more effective than ours. Hey, we lost in Viet Nam, remember? These foreign professionals (I wonder if he was referring to the Viet Cong here? Probably not, I guess. Actually, I’m not sure who he was referring to, come to think of it – maybe the Russians or the Chinese? He didn’t say; it was just “them”.) They were better trained, they were bigger, they were stronger, they were smarter, they were faster, and therefore, much more likely to be successful in armed engagements because they were – well, they were just superior, professional forces!

That Dick Nixon was a smart one, but, you know, not everybody trusted him, and in retrospect, I have to admit that they were sort of right about that. He was our only President to be impeached and then resign in disgrace. It was all about that Watergate thing and how the Republicans hired these burglars who got caught breaking in to the Democratic campaign headquarters, or something like that. Seems that Dick might have OK’d the whole thing in advance. Hey, is that so bad? Anyway, his successor, Gerald Ford, as his first act as President, pardoned Nixon for all his misdeeds and then Dick retired into obscurity. So that was all set straight. Today, Nixon is pretty much forgotten, but his legacy of an all-volunteer army lives on. Did you know they used to call him “Tricky Dick”? I wonder why people said that?

It is interesting to note that our current President, George Bush, has heartily endorsed Nixon’s all volunteer army. He wrote on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Nixon’s establishment of the new armed forces that, “For the last 30 years, we have been fortunate to have a military composed entirely of volunteers.” Yes, George, that sure has turned out to be a good idea hasn’t it?

The Iraq war is our first major war since Viet Nam, but the remarkable thing is how differently people have reacted to it on the home front. Remember the marches in the streets with hundreds of thousands of people protesting the Viet Nam war? Remember the slogan’s like “Hell no, we won’t go!” Remember all the people who burned their draft cards and all the people who fled to Canada to avoid fighting in the Viet Nam war? Remember all the news reports of the slaughter in the jungles, the daily reports of American dead, the photos of dying soldiers, and flag-draped coffins? It was a time of war and riots in the streets. Remember how the National Guard soldiers shot and killed those student protesters at Kent State University? It was pretty clear that a lot of Americans were very unhappy about the war, but they were even more unhappy about the prospect of being drafted to fight in a war that they thought was unjustified and immoral.

Good old Dick Nixon, he was an unrecognized genius. His solution has eliminated all the messy protests and gave future Presidents a well trained military force that can be used almost anywhere for any reason, and no one is going to complain about it. He decided that if we make it attractive enough, (you know, give soldiers good pay, good tuition benefits, free housing, free medical care, good schools for their families, exclusive stores where they can buy stuff at prices much less than any other U.S. citizen, a great retirement plan, and a lot more) we can get lots of people to join the military and have long, fruitful careers as “volunteer” soldiers, willing to fight when told without all the needless questioning of whether this was a moral war or not. After all, what does morality have to do with it anyway?

Dick’s plan is working just fine. We now have a well-trained, all-volunteer, military in Iraq. Nobody is protesting in the streets because no one is being dragged off to fight in a war they don’t believe in. The news of the war is carefully managed without all those upsetting photos of dying soldiers, napalm attacks, public executions of Viet Cong, burned babies, and funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and such. I mean, do we really want to see all that anyway? Isn’t there something else on TV, like a football game or something? I think I can see why the Bush-Cheney team likes this. Let’s face it we don’t object to the Iraq war because it really doesn’t involve us. Not only are the casualties of little interest, but so are the secret CIA rendition flights, the torture of prisoners, and the utter destruction of a country that had absolutely no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and absolutely no weapons of mass destruction. I could go on, but really – who cares?

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