Sunday, July 24, 2005
Differing views of the war: Today's New York Times has a piece under the heading "MILITARY MEMO" which expounds on the question in the headline "All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why."
The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.
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.
I've had similar conversations with people who share my last name. They decry the Bush tax cuts (which have helped the overall economy, and would have reduced the deficit even further if Washington politicians could get over their spending spree), they complain that there is no sacrifice required of much of the American population.
I've expressed wonderment as to why they would want to suffer, even if it is unneccessary. Gasoline rationing? I'm confident that Americans would do it if it was necessary, but are Humvees in Iraq running out of gas? Do we need to plant victory gardens? Or are we capable of producing enough food to feed ourselves and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines? To suffer just to suffer seems, well, stupid.
If you truly feel that higher taxes are needed to pay for the war, nothing is stopping you from cutting a check for an extra couple hundred dollars and mailing it off to the U.S. Treasury -- I'm pretty certain that they would cash it. Do you feel that you need to make a sacrifice? Well, there are organizations like Soldiers' Angels and the Wounded Warrior Project -- among many others that seek both time and money to help our troops. You can make a difference -- you don't need to wait for the government to make you "suffer" for it.
The Times article is chock full of anonymous quotes -- the logic being that to suggest that the rest of America sacrifice is a sure end to a military career.
"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.
Members of the military who discussed their sense of frustration did so only when promised anonymity, as comments viewed as critical of the civilian leadership could end their careers. The sentiments were expressed in more than two dozen interviews and casual conversations with enlisted personnel, noncommissioned officers, midlevel officers, and general or flag officers in Iraq and in the United States.
I've no doubt that some in the military feel this way. I also have no doubt that they are a minority. How can I be so sure? Because the military reports that although they will be unlikely to make their annual quota for new recruits, their retention numbers are running well above goals. What might explain the difference? How about the disparity between media coverage here at home and what soldiers and Marines see firsthand on the ground in Iraq?
On June 16, 2004, I [1st Lt. David M. Lucas] willingly said goodbye to my wife and parents in a parking lot at Fort Drum, N.Y., not knowing if I would ever see them again. I don't expect any kinds of praise for this or special thanks because that is my job, and I knowingly volunteered for it. I never would have done that if I did not believe that I was defending this great country of ours and all those in it.
Many people will think this is just defending the president, but I will tell you that I would never risk my life for somebody else's ideas if I did not hold them myself. That being said, I am a soldier, and I will do my duty to my country every time, no matter what the personal cost.
As I said before, there are two different wars being fought: the war in Iraq and the war being reported in the media. Very few times are the great things that are being done in Iraq reported on because they do not grab the headlines or the ratings that casualties do.
Which picture of the military is more accurate? Which picture is more representative of the attitudes of the majority of our servicemen and women? Who do you trust more, a New York Times reporter's anonymous sources, or men like Lt. Lucas and the hundreds of milbloggers? Who exactly is spreading propaganda?