Thursday, July 28, 2005

What Kind of War is it When We All Don't Feel the Pain?

All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why by Thom Shanker ran on Sunday. From the article:

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.

"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology.

You'd think that with a war on that's up to this point sucked up over $200 billion dollars at a point in our fiscal history when we've actually cut taxes (we're spending more at a rate we didn't anticipate and still can't anticipate, but cutting back on the taxes that we use to finance that spending --- I'll never figure this out), that something would be asked of us, to help us share the pain in this endeavor. But that's the point, there's no pain to be felt, there's not much being asked of you and me, and for those with family members who've been killed or maimed in the war they're small potatoes and they don't count, at least not to the extent that the rest of us come close to feeling whatever they've had to go through and they sure as heck don't make enough of a political constituency to make any sort of blip on a congressperson's or senator's radar screen.

I read or hear people talking about a possible draft --- it's not going to happen, I'd bet money on it. The reason for that is first the military doesn't want it (it takes far too much to train new recruits that you only get to keep for four years vice the minimum of four you get with volunteers), and lastly, and more importantly, it would indeed force ALL Americans to look at what they have to sacrifice in support of misguided endeavors such as the one we're in now. Frankly that's likely a good thing, but politicians like Bush aren't about to go there; he doesn't want you to feel any pain at all.

Bush's answer to this sense of disproportionate sacrifice is to build a volunteer corps, to wit:

In an interview, Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, said that discussions had begun on a program to seek commitments from bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers and solid-waste disposal experts to deploy to conflict zones for months at a time on reconstruction assignments, to relieve pressure on the military.

When President Bush last addressed the issue of nationwide support for the war effort in a formal speech, he asked Americans to use the Fourth of July as a time to "find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field or helping the military family down the street."

In the speech, at Fort Bragg, N.C., on June 28, Mr. Bush mentioned a Defense Department Web site,, where people can learn about private-sector efforts to bolster the morale of the troops. He also urged those considering a career in the military to enlist because "there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces."

Well, gee, let's just roll out the volunteer wagon and scoop us up some lawyers, electricians, and solid-waste disposal experts (correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't most of those guys in the mob, or have I been watching too many episodes of the Sopranos?), ship them over to Iraq where they, too, can get pissed off about working elbow to elbow with contractors doing the same thing but who are being paid megabucks, on our collective tax dollar, for being there. I'd guess that they're just beating all those volunteers with sticks there's so many of them.

We're building up an extraordinary debt due to this "war", a debt that will more likely than not be passed down to our children, and the men and women actually fighting the war or in other ways making significant sacrifices (a supply clerk, who may never "see action", in Iraq is still in a dangerous environment and if they're a reservist they're away from home and their job, not an insignificant sacrifice) are legitimately starting to ask why in the world are they the only ones expected to give up something, and mind you in their cases it's very possibly their lives we're talking about here, to support this war on terror?

On some level you have to give people like Bush credit when they manage to take on huge endeavors that they don't ask the average Jane or John to worry about, in particular with having to pay for it. As I said, Bush doesn't want you to feel pain, he doesn't want to inconvenience your day-to-day life, he'd rather you make your pain and inconvenience an inheritance, something you can pass along to the next generation. That's Bush gets away with this is nothing shy of amazing, but that we let him, in all the ways that he's managing to do it, says a lot about us that's not very good to consider and sure and heck will be hard to explain to our kids and grandkids.


Blogger QuickSauce said...

Indeed, though I do have one bone to pick with Thom Shanker. When he mentions that "neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq," he's displaying both a selective memory and an ignorance of the power balance in Washington.

First, Democrats have been vocal about the issue of taxes and national sacrifice. In fact, Kerry's vote against the Defense appropriation bill of 2003 was made on exactly those grounds. He thought that some of those Bush tax cuts should be repealed to help pay for the War in Iraq. (Note how successfully he was pilloried for that vote.)

Second, and probably more importantly, Democrats have little power in Washington. How, exactly, they can press for a tax increase is beyond me. I'm sure most of them would like one, but when "pressing" for one won't accomplish one, but may accomplish an election defeat (which would only put a tax-cut extremist in their place), I can't blame them.

At any rate, the sentence reads like a moral equivalence gloss of the worst kind.

7:19 AM  
Blogger James said...

I don't know, Kerry may have mentioned "sacrifice" and that's to his credit likely, but frankly I never quite liked him and he got my vote simply because he wasn't the other guy. Besides, at this point he's water under the bridge. The democrats who are culpable are the ones who are now in the house and senate who voted for the tax cuts and the increased funding for this "war" we're in, and have never said much of anything about what the American people as a whole should be doing. There are plenty of them running around there in DC, and being in the minority never stopped anyone who felt strongly about an issue, and this issue is anathema to the majority of them as it's perceived to be something akin to the third rail of social security --- talk about making the American people feel "pain", at least the ones that can vote now --- and you're likely to not be seeing re-election on the next go around. So you're right, it may well be asking to be not elected, but at what point are politicians expected to look at the truth and how we deal with it and say that's more important than pandering to the voters, at least until they're in the majority in the house or senate when they can take cover behind everyone else? Don't know, but frankly I'd rather have the truth and some recommendations for solutions than the horse manure we're getting from both sides of the party spectrum --- like privatizing social security will help to fix the problem from the republicans, and we don't need to change anything from the democrats - both positions are no where near close to dealing with the problem.

11:16 AM  
Blogger QuickSauce said...

The democrats who are culpable are the ones who are now in the house and senate who voted for the tax cuts and the increased funding for this "war" we're in....

Are there really that many Dems that fit that description? I guess I wasn't aware of them.

And regarding the off topic SS debate: really, we need to do something now. I somehow doubt it. But that's another debate.

5:07 PM  
Blogger James said...

The majority of democrats went along with the tax cuts and the war, so there are enough dems that meet that description I would say.

As for social security, I honestly think you're wrong, very wrong. I normally try to not be that contrary, but it's a bad line of thinking to get into to think that this program won't have problems if they're not addressed sooner rather than later. If the funding for the program is not addressed now, for a much smaller percentage taxwise of whatever it would take, it'll be MUCH more expensive later to try and fix it and the majority of the people in the Baby Boom glut will be retired and they will not have to pay the extra tax bite that would go with any changes in the tax rate, people your age and younger will --- by putting this off those who most benefit from it put less into whatever it will take to keep it on an even keel and not doing it now would be, IMHO, very unfair and potentially result in very negative changes into the future for those starting to go into it for the coming years (less of them would be affected) and in the next few decades, and then for people your age.

5:21 PM  
Blogger QuickSauce said...

[SS comments edited out. It's not my forte. I'll just keep my mouth shut.]

Shanker must not have looked at the roll call votes regarding tax increases. As recently as June 17, 2004, Biden offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 "To provide funds for the security and stabilization of Iraq by suspending a portion of the reduction in the highest income tax rate for individual taxpayers."

The vote? 44 yeas and 53 nays. All but 1 of those yeas were from Democrats, and that other 1 was from Jeffords. I believe that would be an instance of the majority of Senate Dems "pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq."

38 voted against the first set of tax cuts in the spring of 2001. 46 voted against the cuts in the spring of 2003.

23 Dem Senators (admittedly just shy of a majority of the caucus)voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, and most of those who voted for it were under the delusion that Bush would use was as a last resort. That was naive, but it wasn't a vote clearly for the war.

So, I'm not sure where you and Shanker are getting the idea that a "majority of democrats went along with the tax cuts and the war."

7:54 AM  
Blogger James said...

Frankly I haven't the time to get into the full congressional record, unfortunately. I think we can agree, though, that tax cuts had to be passed by both houses. While the senate is a reflection of some of the dems, the nearly 200 of them in congress surely has something to say as well. That said, I wasn't aware of Biden's amendment and I have to agree that this adds a bit of piquancy to how the situation is seen on the whole.

A vote is yea or nay, and it does noone any good to at the end of the day when you're called to account for that vote to say, "I didn't think he'd use it that way." Well, you gave him latitude to use it that way by virtue of how you voted, you're a senator who should know how your vote can be used/misused, and that's that.

Now maybe the dems are not as egregiously in the wrong on this issue as Shanker makes them out to be, I'm surely in no position to know this with certainty, but my goal, as I think was Shanker's, wasn't so much to point a finger at dems who are supporting Bush and his asine endeavors, but rather to make the case that this is a war in name only, with sacrifices being disproportionally dumped on those having to do the fighting.

8:10 AM  
Blogger QuickSauce said...

Just an FYI. I completely understand if you don't have the time. But I thought I'd provide some House votes for your consideration.

Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (2001) - 240-154 (Rep: 211-0, Dem: 28-153)

Jobs and Growth Reconciliation Tax Act (2003) - 222-203 (Rep: 218-3, Dem: 4-199)

Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq - 296-133 (Rep: 215-6, Dem: 81-126)

8:41 AM  
Blogger James said...

I shall concede the point that the Dems are not egregiously on the wrong side of these issues.

8:47 AM  

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